I love onions; however, someone that I cook for does not. Absolutely hates them and can tell whenever they are in the dish.

That said, so many recipes call for onion to be added. What can I use instead that would have a similar but less intense/noticeable effect?

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    Can they actually tell based on taste? Confession: I have an extremely picky friend who claims to dislike the taste, not just the texture. I made something with onions, pureed so they weren't detectable except by taste, told her there were no onions in it, and she liked it.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:24
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    My advice is to forget you ever knew that person. What would life be like without onions. Miserable and bland! Good luck with this!
    – Brian
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 22:14
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    Related: Why shallots over onions?, Substitute for onions and garlic, and What can I use to flavor savory chicken stuffing instead of onion? It really would help to know the kind of recipe as well; "so many recipes" is pretty broad and not every substitution is appropriate in every recipe.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 22:48
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    Why do they not like onions? Is it the texture, the bite, or the flavor? The reason I ask is that if they like the flavor but not the texture, you can substitute with onion powder.
    – milesmeow
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 5:54
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    As a now deleted non-answer has pointed out, you really need to know why someone is avoiding onions. It might be a taste or texture thing, but there are also people who are allergic to onions, so 'hiding them' and/or not telling them they're in there could be a very bad thing to do. (they didn't cite their claim that 5% of the population is alergic; I'm going to guess it's highly localize if accurate ... but I know someone with an allium allergy, and they have a harder time than anyone else I know when going out to eat)
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 1:02

7 Answers 7


Leeks can provide some of the same flavors as onions, but the flavors are lower intensity than onions.

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    +1 especially since they look a bit different too.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:43
  • +1 And in some dishes (long slow cooked stews, soups etc) they dissolve anyway
    – Wudang
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 12:38

With the exception of dishes with "onion" in their names, more often than not you can omit onion as an ingredient. My advice would be to first try leaving the onion out entirely, see how the dish is. If it is missing something, then experiment with:

  1. Onion powder: see how much you can get away with before your audience notices.
  2. Garlic: add more to compensate.
  3. Shallots and other onion-like vegetation: give it a try to see how that goes over.

It is going to require some experiment and trial & (lots of) error on your part, but you should be able to strike a nice balance in a few attempts.

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    With respect to onion powder: if that works, you could probably get away with some sort of puree/mash/paste of cooked onions.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:59
  • As a passionate onion hater myself, I can absolutely stand behind this advice. Very few dishes call for onion as an integral ingredient. I usually either omit the onion altogether or dice it so fine that after cooking it is virtually undetectable. Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 21:24

In India, some Brahmin caste cooks and Jains aren't allowed to use onions or garlic in their cooking, and so they substitute Asafoetida spice instead.

  • Indeed. You generally have to make sure the asafoetida is well cooked to reduce pungent notes, but it comes out a lot like garlic or onion.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 13:46
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    I think you're confusing between Jain's and Brahmins. Most Brahmins tend to eat onions and garlic.
    – notthetup
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 14:04
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    Orthodox Brahmins, like Jains, don't eat onions & garlic and conservative Brahmins don't eat them during festivals.
    – mvp
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 14:44

I can't stand onions due to texture issues unless very finely chopped, but I find that shallots have similar effects on the flavor of many foods.


In addition to the other suggestions such as shallots, garlic, or green onions, another avenue to explore would be using a sweet yellow onion instead of a white onion or purple onion. Their flavor is a bit milder and may be more palatable compared to a white onion, though if texture is the primary problem, grinding the onion up in a food processor until it is finely chopped may be a better choice.


You may cut the stem of some vegetables in thin slice (e.g. reddish, Chinese vegetables with long rod-like stem). They feel like onion when you chew them but taste like normal green.


While cooking instead of onion you can use cabbage. It has almost the same taste, try it.

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    The taste is nowhere the same, except for the sulfurous stench present in both overcooked cabbage and raw onions.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 8:45
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    While the taste might not be the same as onion, the texture is similar. Especially if you're cooking it.
    – notthetup
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 14:05

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