Top 5 Green Onion Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Green onion substitutes are quite easy to find, particularly among plants and herbs that are closely related. Knowing the best green onion substitutes will ensure that your dish never lacks that special hint of flavor. 

Green Onion Substitutes

Green onions are young onion shoots that have small green stalks and small bulbs. They are much milder than fully matured onions and are often used as a raw topping on salads and dips. Green onions also add a refreshing crunch and color to entrees, casseroles, and soups.

Green onions are found in most grocery store produce sections. Sometimes you can find them labeled under scallions or spring onions. However, if your favorite grocer happens to be out, there are a few substitutions like chives, leeks, ramps, shallots, and onions that can save your dish.

Chives

For garnishes and raw dishes, use fresh chives to substitute for green onions. Chives are thin and small like green onions but without the white bulb section. They are not quite as crunchy as green onions, but the taste is extremely similar. However, make sure to use fresh chives, not dried ones, which can taste much different in a dish.

Leeks

Leeks look very similar to green onions, but the stalks are much wider and leaf-like. However, they taste similar to full-strength onions and might overpower a recipe if you use too much. They are a good substitute only if you are using them in a cooked dish, where the flavors will be able to mellow and the stalks will soften.

Ramps

Ramps are wild leeks that are popularly foraged in the spring. They grow wild throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Eastern United States, and many people consider the first ramps of the season to be a delicacy. Ramps have a very strong flavor of not only onion but also garlic. They should be used sparingly and to taste. They are not appropriate as a garnish but will work well in a cooked recipe or sauce.

A bunch of wild leeks isolated on a white background

Shallots

Shallots are smaller onions that have a milder, sweeter flavor. When being used in place of green onions, a small amount of minced shallot will not overwhelm the recipe. However, they should only be used as a substitution in cooked dishes. When used raw, they are very pungent.

Onions

White or yellow onions can work as a final resort, but mince them very finely, and use with discretion. The bite of raw yellow or white onion can easily overpower a dish if too much is used. Red onions are sweeter and more mellow, and if you are using them for a garnish on tacos or in salsa, they are a better choice.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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