I am an allium lover with a strong allergy to all alliums. It is technically a sensitivity, as it isn't an instant reaction, but spending an hour in the bathroom because of one stray piece of red onion warrants a scarier word then "sensitivity". For those not familiar with plant taxonomy, alliums are the plant family that holds garlic, onions, chives, and leeks.

My allergy is progressively getting stronger and I can no longer lie to myself. I need a good substitute for that fantastic allium taste. Right now I can still eat garlic in reasonable amounts (thank god), but red onions are out, and everything else from white onions to leeks is somewhere in between. Any and all preparations of allium trigger the allergy, so no onion powder.

I am desperately looking for a non-allium onion substitute. My hope and dream is something that tastes like onion but isn't an allium. I would accept any strongly flavoured class of plants to switch addictions to.

  • related: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/2596/67 (possible duplicate, although that one didn't say all aliums were an issue)
    – Joe
    Jun 12, 2014 at 18:15
  • Sorry, I missed that one in my search. I shall have to be more thourough in the future.
    – user25399
    Jun 12, 2014 at 18:28
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    With a wife who has dealt with a true honest, deathly allergy to onions, please distinguish between an allergy and a severe intolerance or sensitivity. My wife's reactions in the past have included instant hospital trips to emergency because of a minor cross contamination. I'm not saying you do or don't have an allergy, but as there is a difference, it'd be helpful if you didn't use the terms interchangeably. People may need to take different precautions when dealing with someone with a severe allergy. Thanks...
    – talon8
    Jun 12, 2014 at 18:44
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    As far as the term to use, since @talon8 mentioned it, I tend to use "intolerance" for my own inability to stomach foods with any capsaicin (the stuff in chiili peppers) an any quantity - "intolerance" is a stronger word than sensitivity, for people who might not take it seriously... and some people are quite unhappy with the use of "allergy" for anything other than a histamine reaction - even if allergies span the list of severity in the same way, from mild to severe.
    – Megha
    Aug 29, 2016 at 3:43

5 Answers 5


The perfect solution to you - Use the Indian spice called "Asafoetida" or "Hing". It gives a taste which is very much like Onion and Garlic - In fact, stricter practitioners of Hinduism are not allowed to eat onion and garlic (as supposedly they cause mental agitation). Thus, traditional Hindu (Vedic) cooking uses Asafoetida as a subsitute for onion in Indian recipes which almost invariably call for the use of onions.

The spice gives off a slightly funky smell (I like it, but most people describe it as bad), but tastes great. It is easily available in powdered form in Indian grocery stores - and usually comes in small containters such as this:

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It has a VERY strong taste, so put a very small amount of it - about a 1/4 of a teaspoon for a dish that's meant or 4 people. Usually in Indian cooking it is quickly fried to get rid of the "raw" taste. I am not sure how well it tastes in salads, you'd have to experiment with it.

  • 3
    For the salad front, you might be able to cook it in the oil, then cool and use the oil to make a vinaigrette.
    – Joe
    Jun 12, 2014 at 18:14
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    @Joe salad tadka :) Aug 29, 2016 at 8:13

I'm highly allergic to onions - start coughing from the smell. I broke out in a rash head to toe plus symptoms of going into anaphylaxis two years ago, so carry an epipen and benedryl.

I use green peppers to substitute. Green peppers work well with making your own spaghetti sauce.

I use red peppers for the added sweetness when making sloppy joes from scratch.

Celery works well for tuna salad.

  • Welcome to Seasoned Advice SE. :)
    – elbrant
    Jan 24, 2019 at 6:24

Hi ive been cooking all my life and my soul mate hates onions and garlic, so she substitutes them for carrots. Surprisingly it does the job very well!

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    I could see the sweetness and texture similarities if cooked correctly ... what sort of dishes are you making?
    – Joe
    Jan 26, 2019 at 14:40
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    We make everything from quiche to stir fry, salads. Asian dishes and Italian pasta and soups of course Feb 1, 2019 at 12:21

Depending on where you are and whether you are interested in foraging, garlic mustard may be an option - not for onions and not for “bulk”, but for garlic.

It’s not a member of the alliums, but a brassica, so should be harmless.

Note that the aroma is heat-sensitive, so it should not be cooked. Use it raw instead.

As with all foraging, use proper caution. Make sure you can identify the plant (the scent is very distinctive) and don’t pick plants from possibly contaminated areas.


Try Bear Garlic. It is a green grass-like herb that tastes and smells great like alliums.

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    But while it tastes nice, it is an allium: A. ursinum. Your suggestion will likely trigger a reaction as well.
    – Stephie
    Mar 15, 2019 at 9:16

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