Despite their small size and mild taste, green onions have become an important ingredient in countless recipes all over the world.
This is probably due to their versatility and tongue-friendly flavor, which makes them a popular addition to raw and cooked dishes alike.
When you’re out of green onions, or they’re simply not in season, you’re going to need a good substitute for green onions. We selected a few among our personal favorites, so keep reading!
The best substitutes for green onion
Green onions go by different names, including spring onions and scallions.
There is some confusion around these young bulbs because, in some parts of the United States, they’re often called shallots, which are a completely different kind of onion.
Shallots and scallions have in common a small bulb, but while scallions are the young version of any type of onion (since they’re harvested before they’re fully grown), shallots do remain small even when mature.
The name ‘spring onion’, on the other hand, comes from the time of the year in which you can find the best green onions in the supermarkets, which usually covers both spring and summer months.
Cooking with green onions offers great versatility because you can use both the white and the green part.
The white bulbs are commonly used as you would any other type of onion. You can chop them or slice them thin and use them in your stir-fries, marinades, sauces, but you can also use them raw in salads like you would do with celery.
The green shoots are mostly used as a garnish, but they can also be added to recipes to add that delicious yet mild onion taste with a touch of grassy flavor.
They are a popular ingredient in the famous Gyeran Mari (egg rolls), a colorful and delicious Korean recipe that all children love.
When you want to use green onions in recipes, but you’re currently out of it or you’d rather try out something different, you have plenty of options for a good substitution.
As a general rule, all types of onions are a good replacement for one another, as long as you adjust the quantity based on their specific flavor profile.
Nonetheless, in this guide, we’ll go through every type of onion in full detail, and make sure to read our list to the end because there is also more than one substitution for green onions that might surprise you.
1. White onions
We’re starting off with white onions because they’re probably the most obvious replacement that comes to mind when you think about the white bulbs of green onions.
If you’re wondering, green onions aren’t specifically young white onions, but if you need something that tastes and looks like the bulb of scallions, white onions are probably the best choice for your dish.
You can use white onions as a substitute for green onion in every recipe that calls for chopped scallions, but also salsa, sandwiches, and salads.
Since scallion bulbs are quite small, a medium-sized white onion can replace around 8-9 green onions bulbs.
2. Yellow onions
Yellow onions are the so-called staple onion. Usually, when a recipe calls for onion without any specification about the type, it’s a subtext that you should use yellow onions. Yep, they’re that famous.
These onions are the perfect ingredient to be caramelized, and they bring a hint of sweetness to your dish.
Although they can replace both the white and green parts of scallions, they’re better used as a substitute for the white bulbs.
3. Red onions
Red onions have a high sugar content and are considered the sweetest variety of onions. They also have a somewhat peppery taste, which makes their flavor profile all the more intriguing.
You can use red onions as a green onion alternative, but it’s recommended to proceed with caution. Start with a small quantity of red onion and build your dish from there.
Red onions lose some of their intensity when cooked, while they’re perfect to add a subtle flavor in salads and sandwiches.
4. Sweet onions
Sweet onions closely resemble yellow onions but have a sweeter taste. They’re often used to make onion rings because they’re perfect for frying and caramelizing.
You can throw them in a pan with a little olive oil on low heat until they release their sweet fragrance, then add chopped zucchini or another fruit or vegetable of your choice to make a delicious side dish or filling.
Sweet onions are incredibly versatile and make a good green onion substitute, for both the stems and the bulbs. Be careful with the quantity though, since the average sweet onion is larger than other types of onion.
Chives are technically an herb and not a vegetable, but they’re so similar to green onions that sometimes it’s hard not to confuse the two.
They have a rather sweet flavor and are a lot milder than green onions. In fact, they’re used to add a subtle something to dishes, rather than being used as the main ingredient as you would with scallions.
Nonetheless, chives can replace green onions in both cooked and raw recipes, as long as you’re careful not to overcook them because they cook a lot faster than onions.
6. Green garlic
Green garlic is the young version of garlic, just as green onions are the young version of onion.
This type of garlic is harvested when the plant is still immature, and it’s composed of the green stalks that grow above the ground, while the common garlic, or garlic salt, we use in the kitchen is taken from the bulbs.
Green garlic is a good green onion replacement in terms of texture, not so much in terms of flavor. As you can imagine, it will taste a lot more like garlic than onion, so it might not be the best choice for all the recipes that call for an onion flavor profile.
As we’ve already mentioned, garlic and onions have different flavor profiles, but we felt like including it in this list because both garlic and green onions are used for the same reason: adding an additional layer of flavor to your dishes.
Garlic and green onions can actually be used in the same recipe, as they work very well together. When you need to replace green onions with garlic, make sure to pick the right recipe.
Remember to adjust the amount of garlic, because its flavor can be quite overpowering. And whatever you do, never ever serve raw garlic in place of raw green onions.
Leeks are probably the less known and less appreciated members of the onion family. Many people don’t even know that leeks are actually an onion variety.
You can use leeks as a direct substitute for green onions, however, in the case of leeks, you need to cut off the green stalks.
The light green and white parts of this vegetable can be your special ingredient in many recipes, as they are perfect for sautéing, frying, and roasting. You can use them in sauces, but also raw in tacos or salads.
When used raw, remember to slice them thinly, because they have quite the overpowering flavor. Another thing to remember about leeks is to wash them properly because they’re full of dirt.
Ramps are like a jolly card because they are hard to find in stores but when you do, you got your hands on a fine green onions substitute, that can also work as a garlic substitute.
This vegetable is often called wild leeks, because it grows better in the wild rather than cultivated, which is also the reason why they’re hard to find in most stores.
The flavor profile of ramps is closer to garlic than it is to onion, however, if you want to elevate your dish in the same way you would do with green onions, ramps are the perfect replacement for the job.
We recommend not using ramps raw, but only in recipes that require cooking.
10. Green bell peppers
The most hated or most loved bell pepper brother: the green pepper. Unlike red or yellow bell pepper, the green pepper has an almost completely different flavor profile, that’s why people usually either love it or hate it.
However, it’s exactly this peculiar mix of bitterness and grass-like flavor which resembles green onions a little that makes green bell pepper a great alternative to scallions.
Mostly, you will use green bell peppers to replace green onions because you’re in need of the same crunch and color of scallions.
But you might also find that green bell peppers are quite versatile in cooking: you can cook them in a pan, roast them, grill them or even eat them raw.
Granted, oregano has nothing in common with green onions. It’s not even a vegetable, but an herb, and is used as a spice.
Although it is hard to say that scallions and oregano share some similarities in terms of flavor, oregano tastes grassy and earthy, and it’s very pungent, so it’s perfect to add a final touch to your dishes.
12. Dried green onions
When everything else fails, you can turn your back on the fresh product and go for the dried one instead.
Dried green onions can be bought online or in any well-stocked grocery store. You might lose something in terms of flavor, but you will gain a lot in terms of shelf life.
Sprinkle dried green onions over your potato wedges, eggs, bruschetta, and anything that would benefit from a mild-flavored topping. You can also use them in soups, stews, meat, or slow cooker recipes.
How to choose a green onion substitute
Green onions aren’t hard to replace, and most of the best substitutes are easily found in your local grocery stores.
When looking for an alternative to green onions, you should remain within the onion family: white onions, yellow onions, red onions, sweet onions, and leeks can all replace scallions directly in most recipes.
Chives are also quite similar to green onions, despite having a milder flavor profile. Keep in mind that their cooking time is much shorter than green onions.
If you’re up for a different taste that still enhances your dish the way you wish for, you can use garlic, green garlic, ramps, oregano, or green bell peppers – this last one is perfect for a good crunch.
When you don’t have time to experiment, you can’t go wrong with the dried version of green onions, easy to find and ready to be sprinkled on all of your delicious dishes.