7+ Great Substitutes For Brown Onions

Brown Onions are a popular root vegetable used in cooking to provide great flavors to recipes. They are very similar to garlic, leek, chive, and scallion, as they are all root vegetables. In this article, we’ll explore the best brown onion substitute options and ideas for any recipe or situation.

Cooking with onions is prevalent in many cuisines due to their intense aroma, which elevates the taste of a dish. Onions are very versatile and can be cooked like regular vegetables. It can be boiled, baked, or served as a side like onion rings. 

They also feature in pies and quiches where they are roasted, grilled, or sautéed. Onions are not just a vegetable but double as a condiment that adds flavor to any recipe. Although their taste may not be overpowering, their presence in any dish will be noticed and appreciated.

There are many reasons you might want or need to substitute brown onions for something to add a similar flavor and aroma to your dish. Here are some of the easiest and most effective alternatives you can use in any dish.

Brown Onion Substitute: Best Options

1. Shallot

Shallot is a close vegetable relative of onions. It finds its origin in Central or Southwest Asia and is used frequently as a condiment in Asian cuisine. They are a versatile ingredient as they can be chopped, dried, or fried. Storing fresh shallots is easy as they last up to six months in cool, dry areas.

This root vegetable is an excellent substitute for onions as they taste pretty similar. Although shallot has a milder flavor. When thinly chopped or sliced, they are excellent in recipes with a thick consistency like soups, risotto, or used raw in salads because of their mild flavor. Due to their small size, one would need more shallots in place of one onion.

2. Scallions (Green Onions)

Scallions are also known as spring or green onions. These vegetables are pretty close to onions, chive, shallot, and garlic. The leaves can be cooked or used raw as garnishes in salads. Scallions feature heavily in Asian recipes and Eastern sauces. 

If you’re looking for a mild oniony taste with bright colors in your dish, scallions are your best substitute. They are also available all year round, so they can easily be gotten in place of onions.

3. Red Onions

Red Onions are an ideal substitute for brown onions or other types of onion in sandwiches, burgers, and salads. They also taste amazing when grilled or fried.

Red Onions taste spicy-to-mild in flavor with a subtle sweetness. The flavor of red onions is a lot milder when cooked.

4. White Onions

White Onions have a strong flavor that can be described as sharp. They’re not the sweetest onion, but make an ideal substitute for brown onions in fajitas and similar Mexican recipes.

You can replace brown onions with white onions to flavor soups, stir-fry dishes, sauces, and even stews.

5. Leek

The edible part of a leek bundle is the leaf sheaths erroneously called the stem. The leek is very crunchy in its raw form, so it is most often cooked. It has a gentle umami flavor quite similar to an onion. Leeks can be prepared in different ways for different recipes. They can be boiled, fried, chopped into thick slices, or used raw in salads.

Leeks can be easily used as a substitute for onion with their mild flavor and garlic notes. It is a sophisticated vegetable that would work great for your recipes. A large leek can be used in place of a medium onion.

6. Fennel

Fennel is a perennial heard native to the Mediterranean but now found in many parts of the world. It is very flavorful when used in cooking. This herb can be used in different ways: the bulb can be sauteed, stewed, braised, or consumed raw, while the leaves add flavor to sauces and soups. 

This flavorful vegetable doesn’t taste like an onion when uncooked but can comfortably substitute when cooked. It adds complex flavor to meals making them irresistible. Fennel is an outstanding alternative for people with onion allergies. That’s because it’s not a close relative to onions like chives, shallots, scallions, etc. 

7. Onion Powder and Flakes

Onion powder is ground onion that has been dehydrated. It is used as a seasoning and can be gotten from the grocery store. This seasoning can be sprinkled atop dishes, used in cooking, or as a meat rub. Onion flakes, on the hand, are chopped fresh onions that have been dehydrated. It is also a grocery store staple and is a handy ingredient in your kitchen.

These derivatives of onions are great substitutes as they are dried-out onions. They retain the same flavor as the fresh root vegetable and can be used in many recipes.


No matter what recipe or dish you have in mind there are always plenty of available options you can choose as a brown onion substitute. Give one of the above alternatives a go and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make an easy swap!