Green onions add a fresh, green bite and a vitamin punch to many dishes. They’re fantastic in a salad, a taco, or a stir fry. But what do you do when your recipe calls for green onions, and there aren’t any available? What is the best substitute for green onion?
The best green onion substitutes are other members of the onion family: spring onions, shallots, red, yellow, or white onions, garlic, green garlic, ramps, or leeks. Herbs like chives and parsley, and celery are handy substitutes. Use dried onion powder if you have no fresh onions.
Green onions are an excellent vegetable to keep on hand, whether in the fridge or garden (they’re surprisingly easy to grow). Used in cuisines from Japanese to Indian and Mexican to Vietnamese, I love eating them raw and cooked. But what can you use instead, when you’ve run out?
The Best Substitutes for Green Onion
Green onions are also called scallions, which are actually green onions that are harvested when smaller. Whether called green onions or scallions, these alliums are a delicious vegetable related to onions and garlic but with a milder, grassier flavor.
An advantage of green onions is that you can eat both the white bulb, which is slightly more pungent and the green leaves, which have a crisp, bright flavor. One medium green onion, therefore, gives you two to three tablespoons of finely chopped goodness.
Because green onions are so versatile, you can consider using a variety of substitutes in different dishes, whether as a side vegetable, a garnish, or a primary ingredient.
Dried Green Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, sauces, potato dishes
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 2 teaspoons dried green onions
If you’re a fan of green onions and can’t always find them fresh, then dried or powdered green onions are an excellent substitute – and they have a long shelf life.
Dried green onion offers you the same flavor as fresh green onions, but you can use a smaller amount because they’re dried. Either add them to a dish as is or soak the dried onions in hot water for a few minutes to rehydrate them.
This substitute is best used in cooked dishes and is not suitable as a garnish as they don’t have the bright green color and the sharp bite of fresh scallions.
Spring Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: stir-fries, salads, frittata, fried rice, noodles, sandwiches
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 spring onion
Green onions, scallions, and spring onions are very similar, but there is a difference. Green onions and scallions come from a small-bulbed plant, while the spring onion is simply an immature onion harvested early and therefore has a more rounded bulb.
Although both white and purple spring onions have a more robust oniony flavor than green onions, they make a perfect substitute, as you can also use both the bulb and leaves in dishes.
Use spring onions as a one-for-one substitute for green onions and, in the same way, either raw or cooked.
Chives As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: salads, egg dishes, sandwiches, garnish
- Substitute ratio: 1 tablespoon green onion = 2 tablespoons chives
Chives are a beautiful vivid green herb that tastes like and has tender leaves like a delicate green onion.
Unlike onions, chives do not have a bulb and are a good substitute for the green parts of scallions only.
Chives are milder and sweeter than green onions and will add a subtle flavor to a dish, so you’ll need to use more chives than you would green onions. This herb wilts quickly, so it is best used as a fresh element or garnish, added at the end of cooking.
Chives also don’t last as long as green onions do, so you need to use fresh chives immediately, or else they will lose their crisp flavor.
Shallots As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: stir-fries, soups, stews, noodles, fried rice
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1/2 shallot
Another possible substitute for green onions, especially when you want a more intense onion flavor, is shallots. Because their flavor is more powerful, use half the amount of shallots you would green onions.
Shallots are a small type of onion with a narrow oval shape and a sweet, tangy flavor closer to a green onion than a powerful white onion.
Diced shallots fry up and caramelize beautifully, adding fragrance and warmth to cooked dishes. In texture, shallots are more like red onions than green onions, so they will need to cook a little longer.
Raw shallots can be pretty harsh, so avoid using shallots in salads or as an uncooked topping.
Leeks As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, tacos
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 baby leek/1/3 large leek
Another member of the onion family that you can use as a substitute for green onion is the leek, which ranges from tender baby leeks to large, oniony specimens.
Baby leeks are the best substitute for green onions, as you can use the white base and the leaves. However, you’ll need to remove the tough base and the heavier dark green leaves for larger leeks before eating.
Leeks are best used when they are cooked and are particularly delicious roasted. Slice the pale green and white stalk finely and fry it as a cooked replacement for green onion. The flavor is less zesty than green onions but adds a rich, mellow savoriness to dishes.
The texture is less delicate, though, so you’ll need to cook leeks longer than you would green onions. They do cook down softly but have more crunch.
A challenge when using leeks is cleaning them properly. The stalk’s layers can get filled with grit and dirt, so you need to wash leeks thoroughly before cooking.
Red Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, salads, tacos, potato dishes
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 2/3 red onion
Red onions are another suitable substitute for green onions, as they are sweeter and milder than yellow and white ones.
In terms of flavor, red onion is more potent than green onion, so you need to use less. However, because of its sweetness and fresh crunch, you can use red onion raw to replace green onion.
A helpful hint is to soak the red onion for 10 minutes in cold water to take the edge of the bite before using them raw. Rinse the chopped onion, then use it as green onion for garnish on potatoes, tacos, or in a salad.
The texture of red onions is similar to the traditional yellow onion, so they will need a longer cooking time than green onions to achieve the same tenderness and aroma.
Yellow Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: sauces, soups, stews, frittata
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ¼ yellow onion
Most of us have some yellow onions lurking in the veg drawer, so these are probably the most practical substitutes.
Yellow onions are mild and sweet, similar to shallots in taste, so they are a good substitute for green onions. However, their flavor is more robust than green onion, so they are ideal for cooking and caramelize perfectly.
You can use yellow onions raw at a push, but you’ll have to soak them as described for red onions – a cold water bath can do wonders.
White Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ¼ white onion
Almost as common as their yellow cousins, white onions form the basis of many dishes.
However, white onions have a far more burning flavor than green ones and are less delicate in texture, so you need to use far less white than green ones.
Also, you can only use white onion as a replacement in cooked dishes, where you chop the onion finely and give it a chance to cook down.
Green Garlic As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: salads, dressings, potato dishes
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 small bunch of green garlic
Green onion and green garlic are both immature versions of a plant. Green garlic refers only to leaves rather than the bulb of the young garlic plant.
Green garlic has a similar texture to green onion and is much less cloying than garlic cloves, so it can be a helpful substitute. However, the flavor is garlicky rather than oniony, which may not be a good match with all dishes.
Use chopped green garlic as you would green onion, either raw or cooked.
Ramps As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: stews, soups, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ½ stalk of ramps
An unusual substitute for green onions is ramps (also called wood or wild leeks) which you’ll sometimes find at organic stores or farmers’ markets – unless you go foraging and pick them wild yourself.
Ramps are similar to garlic in flavor and much more pungent than green onion, so they are best used only in cooked dishes and then only sparingly. You can use them to replace both garlic and onions in a recipe.
Scallions and ramps are similar in texture, so you can chop ramps and fry them gently as you would green onion.
This wild vegetable is not suitable for use in salads or garnish because of its strong taste.
Garlic As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: dips, stews, soups, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 clove of garlic
If your dish needs a bit of heat or spice, garlic can be an option as a substitute.
Garlic doesn’t mimic green onion in either flavor or texture, but you can add minced garlic to the first stages of any cooked dish, and it will create some interest and a glorious aroma.
Raw garlic is only suitable in small quantities in dips and not as a garnish.
Garlic is probably a last-resort green onion substitute.
Onion Powder As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, casseroles, sauces
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ½ teaspoon onion powder
Onion powder or dried onion flakes are a store cupboard standby when you’ve run out of fresh onions. You can turn to this stalwart as a green onion substitute if all you’re looking for is a savory flavor for a dish.
However, onion powder is much stronger than green onion. It can’t be used as raw green onion would – it’s only for adding to cooked dishes and won’t impart a fresh, herbaceousness.
Celery As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, stir-fries
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 celery stick
Celery, beloved of dieters everywhere, may sound like an unusual replacement for green onions. However, consider using this vegetable if you’re looking to liven up a salad or sandwich with some crunchy green.
Both the stalk and celery leaves are edible, and while they won’t impart the tang that green onion does, they look pretty as garnish and add depth to soups and stews. Slice the stalk finely and fry as you would onions or chop the leaves and sprinkle over pasta or soup.
Celery is a good option for people who don’t like onions or children who prefer milder flavors.
Parsley As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: dressings, salads, sandwiches, soups
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 small bunch parsley
Although chives are the best herb to substitute for green onions, parsley is also a good choice, especially if your dish needs brightening up.
Parsley is a versatile ingredient and goes with most other foods – you can use it in pasta, salad, chicken, or meat dishes. The flavor is mild but fresh, and the herb offers a nutritional vitamin C and iron boost.
Use fresh parsley as a garnish or add to cooked dishes at the end of cooking to avoid wilting or becoming slimy.
Green onions or scallions are versatile vegetables that add piquancy to salads and dressings, and cooked dishes. If you don’t have green onions, use chives, spring onions, shallots, leeks, or red onions to get a similar flavor. Celery and parsley will add a similar crunch and greenness to a dish.