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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?
The best green onion substitutes are other onion family members: leeks, shallots, red, yellow, or white onions, garlic, green garlic, ramps, or chives. In a pinch, parsley, and celery can also work. Use dried onion powder if you have no fresh onions.
About Green Onions
Green onions, also called scallions or spring onions, are onions harvested before the bulb has formed. Used in many cuisines, they’re good raw or cooked. The white, bulb portion has a sweet, mild onion flavor and the green stems are more intense.
Recipes can call for a part of the green onion or the whole thing—one whole chopped, medium green onion yields two to three tablespoons.
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
Dried green onions offer the same flavor as fresh green onions. Either add them to a dish as is or soak the dried onions in hot water for a few minutes to rehydrate them. But these won’t work when fresh green onion’s crunch – or appearance – is required.
Chives As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: salads, egg dishes, sandwiches, garnish
- Substitute ratio: 1 tablespoon green onion = 2 tablespoons chives
Unlike onions, chives do not have a bulb but make a good substitute for the green parts of scallions.
Since chives are milder and sweeter than green onions, you’ll need to use more chives than you would green onions. Fresh chives make an attractive garnish as well.
Shallots As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: stir-fries, soups, stews, noodles, fried rice
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1/2 shallot
Shallots are small onions with a narrow, oval shape and a sweet, tangy flavor. They’ll work well as a substitute for the bulb portion of green onions. However, their flavor is more powerful, so use half the amount of shallots you would use of green onion bulb.
Raw shallots won’t give you the mild flavor of green onions so use sparingly if shallots are used as a topping. If you need a garnish, fry sliced shallots, drain then sprinkle them on top of your dish.
Leeks As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, tacos
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 baby leek or 1/3 large leek
Leeks range in size from small, “baby” versions to large varieties over a foot long. You can use the green stalks and the larger white bulb of any variety leek together or separately as needed. Both versions have a less delicate texture than scallions, so you’ll need to cook leeks longer.
Before using, remove the tough base and the heavier dark green leaves. And make sure to clean thoroughly since leek stalks can harbor dirt.
Red Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, salads, tacos, potato dishes
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 2/3 red onion
In terms of flavor, red onion is more potent than green onion, so you need to use less. However, because of their sweetness and crunch, red onions work better than yellow or white onions for cooking or as a garnish/topping.
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 a garnish on potatoes, tacos, or in a salad. Finely chop or add extra cooking time to soften if you’re cooking red onions.
Yellow Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: sauces, soups, stews, frittata
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 tablespoon chopped yellow onion
Most of us have some yellow onions lurking in the veg drawer, so these are probably the most practical substitutes, but their flavor is nowhere near as subtle as green onions. Use yellow onion judiciously in cooked dishes. And, like red onions, finely chop or cook longer.
White Onions As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: soups, stews, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ½ – 1 tablespoon chopped white onion
With a “harsher” flavor than yellow or red onions, white onions work best in cooked dishes. Use less than other types of onions and finely chop them so they’ll cook down and become less pungent.
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, but it still tastes like garlic – which may or may not work with your dish, so choose this substitute if you don’t mind giving up the onion flavor for garlic.
Ramps As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: stews, soups, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = ½ stalk of ramps
Ramps (also called wood or wild leeks) are an unusual substitute for green onions. You’ll sometimes find them at organic stores or farmers’ markets in the Spring. Or you can forage for them in the wild.
Ramps are similar to garlic in texture and flavor but much more pungent than green onion; use sparingly and only in cooked dishes since they don’t make a good raw garnish. You can use them to replace both garlic and onions in a recipe.
Garlic As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: dips, stews, soups, casseroles
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 clove of garlic
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 to replace the missing onion. If raw garlic is to your taste, you can use it for a garnish or topping.
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 pantry staple and can add the onion flavor – but not the texture. Remember that onion powder or flakes are concentrated, so use less/follow our ratio above.
Celery As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, stir-fries
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 celery stick
Celery is a good substitute if you need the texture of green onion but don’t want the onion taste. Add other spices or herbs to replace the onion flavor if desired.
Both the stalk and leaves are edible, so celery works as garnish and adds 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.
Parsley As A Green Onion Substitute
- Best for: dressings, salads, sandwiches, soups
- Substitute ratio: 1 green onion = 1 small bunch parsley
Parsley is a versatile ingredient with a mild and fresh flavor but without any trace of onion flavor. Use fresh parsley as a garnish. If you want to use it in cooked dishes, add it near the end since it disintegrates quickly.
Green onions or scallions are versatile vegetables that add piquancy to salads, 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 are a good substitute if you’re not an onion fan but want some texture in your dish.