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The 5 Best Substitutes for Yellow Onions

Have you ever been in a pinch and realized that the recipe you’re following calls for yellow onion, but all you have is white?

Most culinary experts will tell you that there are subtle differences between different types of onions that make them interchangeable, but not equal.

If you’re looking to swap out Yellow Onion for an alternative, there are five common substitutes you can choose from.

When it comes to using yellow onions, they are most commonly used within raw dishes like salads or relishes or as a topping on burgers and sandwiches.

Additionally, they make a great addition to stews and soups when the dish could use a hint of sweetness without adding sugar.

What is Yellow Onion?

Yellow onion is a cooking staple, indispensable for most dishes and recipes.

With its tangy yet sweet flavor, it is one of the go-to ingredients for many chefs and home cooks.

But what exactly is it? Let’s find out below.

The yellow onion (Allium cepa) has a rough, hairy skin on the outside which gradually gets thicker from the center towards the outer edges.

In terms of flavor, this type of onion has an intense yet sweet flavor that makes it perfect for use in both cooked and raw dishes.

The yellow onion also releases a strong smell which quickly dissipates once cooked or chopped.

This odor typically indicates an intensely flavorful onion when consummated – though heirloom varieties tend to have the more subtle aromas and flavors.

Teamed with its rich yellow hue, this onion is highly versatile in any dish and instantly recognizable by chefs or household cooks alike.

When preparing to use a yellow onion, you should look for ones that are firm but not too hard.

Similarly, try to avoid getting mushy yellow onions as those are past their prime and won’t have much flavor or longevity in storage.

In addition, avoid picking up onions with any signs of browning patches or spots as those indicate that they are starting to weaken in quality.

Finally if you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can opt for organic options as those tend to boast higher levels of antioxidants due to their lack of chemical processing utilised during growing stages.

Now that you know more about these amazing alliums let’s talk about how you can use them.

Firstly, one just needs a sharp knife – such as a chef’s knife – to make sure your cutting work goes smoothly; this will also limit any fats chances of injuring yourself accidently while prepping them up.

Yellow onions are primarily used diced but they can be cooked whole depending on your preference; just remember less cooking time if opting to cook them whole since their thick skin will take longer than their chopped counterparts in order to soften enough ready for consumption.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Yellow Onions

Though there is no perfect replacement for yellow onions due to their unique flavor profile, there are some substitutes you can try depending on what you’re cooking.

Here are the five best substitutes for yellow onions:

1 – White Onions

White onions are a great substitute for yellow onions and the most common choice for use in Mexican, Italian and other Latin American cooking.

They are not as sweet as yellow onions but have a stronger, spicier flavor when cooked.

White onions can be used in salads, soups and stews as well as onion rings and other fried dishes.

When raw, white onions have a very mild flavor but become more pungent when cooked.

Their crunchy texture holds up better than that of yellow onions during cooking and they add more color to dishes than yellow onions do.

2 – Red Onions

Red onions have a vivid purple coloring and a deep flavor.

They may be stronger and more pungent than yellow onions, so to achieve the desired flavor balance, the amount of red onions may need to be adjusted accordingly.

The onions are known for their health benefits due to its high concentration of antioxidants.

While these red onions also work well for cooking, they do not caramelize as well as yellow onions; thus may not be ideal for certain recipes.

Red onion can be used in both raw and cooked forms such as in salads, burgers, sandwiches and other dishes that require small amounts of raw onion or slight milder or sweet flavor when cooked.

3 – Sweet Onions

Sweet onions are the go-to substitute for yellow onions, as they have a similarly mild flavor.

Their large size and thick skins make them excellent for grilling, roasting and braising.

Sweet onions tend to be more expensive than yellow onions, but their higher sugar content also means they won’t have quite as strong of a flavor as yellow onions.

While Vidalia and Walla Walla sweet onions are some of the most widely available sweet varieties, you can also find shallot-onions or Texas 1015s that make great substitutes when you don’t have yellow onions on hand.

4 – Scallions

Scallions, also known as green onions, are an ideal substitution for yellow onions in many dishes.

They have a mild flavor and possess a crisp texture.

Thus, they do not overpower your dish like yellow onions would.

Scallions are characterized by their long, slender stalks and have a white base with rounded green tips.

Due to its onion-like flavor, you can use scallions in stir-fries or as toppings on meals using fish or poultry.

You can also raw them or use them to make salads.

Scallions pair well with other aromatics like garlic and ginger.

5 – Shallots

Shallots are most similar to yellow onions in flavor and texture, but have a milder, more delicate taste.

They are milder than other onions, but have a slightly sweeter taste than yellow onions.

It can be used in both cooked and raw dishes, they can also be caramelized just like the yellow onion.

When cooked they produce a soft, buttery texture.

Shallots are usually smaller than yellow onions and can be separated into cloves or sections like garlic.

These sections can then be minced or chopped to get the desired texture for your dish.

They add great flavor to omelets, pasta sauces, salads and any other dish that you would normally use a yellow onion in.


In conclusion, yellow onions have a strong flavor and may be too strong for certain recipes, such as salads and side dishes.

While yellow onions are hard to replace in recipes that need the flavor and aroma they provide, there are a few substitutes that can offer similar results.

No matter which substitute you choose, make sure it fits the needs of your recipe so you can create delicious dishes that everyone can enjoy.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Yellow Onions

The 5 Best Substitutes for Yellow Onions
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • White Onions
  • Red Onions
  • Sweet Onions
  • Scallions
  • Shallots


  1. Choose your preferred substitute from the list of options.
  2. Organize all of your ingredients.
  3. Use the proper substitute to cook your recipes.

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