Looking for the best substitutes for spring onions?
Spring onions have a lot of uses in a variety of cuisines but some people may prefer to not use them because of their perceived strong flavor. The good news is that you can easily substitute them with other leafy greens!
What are the best spring onion substitutes? We recommend using leeks, ramps, shallots, chives, and more to replicate the flavor and texture of spring onions. The best thing about these substitutes is that in most cases, all parts of the vegetable can be used in cooking – just like spring onions!
Read more to find out the best spring onion substitutes and how you can get the most out of them in different dishes!
What Are Spring Onions
Spring onions are an indispensable ingredient in many cuisines, especially Asian cuisine.
However, for people who have never used it or an unfamiliar with this vegetable, you might struggle to find a difference between spring onions and regular onions.
The truth is that spring onions are just regular onions that are harvested before they are allowed to mature. The seedlings are planted during late fall and are harvested during the next spring period, hence their name.
In other words, if left to mature, spring onions will grow to become a variety of onions—the same kind that you will commonly find in your kitchen!
So, why are these onions plucked at a young age?
Spring onions have a leafy stalk and when they are immature, they form small bulbs that pack the majority of the onion flavors.
These small bulbs can be cut into rings that can add a crispy and crunchy texture and flavor to any dish!
Also, spring onions are considered to be a more convenient option in numerous cuisines. Plus, since they are attached to their leafy stalk, you can use all of the plant matter of this root vegetable without any waste!
Even the green stalk has a mild oniony flavor that can be used in the same way as scallion!
Here are a few characteristics of spring onions!
Visually, spring onions differ from regular onions in two ways: they have an elongated stalk and they have a much smaller bulb at the base.
Keep in mind that the bulb is what matures and becomes the onion while the stalk is usually discarded. Spring onions have a very tightly packed bulb that has several layers.
Unlike onions, where you can easily separate the membrane and each layer, spring onions are usually required to be cut.
The leafy stalk at the top of the bulb is usually firm and can be chopped using a knife or even a scissor.
The neck of the plant, which is directly above the head of the bulb, is texturally different and offers a more pronounced onion flavor and crunchy texture!
Spring onions taste just like onions but with a mildly less intense flavor.
Sure, you can find several types of larger onions with the same qualities but in the case of spring onions, these bulbs will always have a less pronounced flavor than mature onions.
You can also expect a mild onion flavor from the leafy stalk which slightly intensifies near the bulb. The leafy green stalk can be processed in the same way but is best served when it is cooked using any heating method.
All in all, the entire plant is edible and will provide slightly different flavors depending on which part you use.
Spring onions are used in soups, stocks, stews, rice dishes, salads, garnishes, and more.
As mentioned, the best part about this plant is that nothing goes to waste!
You can use spring onions in almost any recipe that calls for regular onions so long as you don’t mind the varying textures and less intense flavor. Spring onions can be chopped, diced, and even be used whole in recipes!
Why Substitute Spring Onions?
For all their good qualities, spring onions may still not be the preferred choice for some people because of several reasons. For example, for people that dislike the flavor of onions, a comparable substitute may offer a better alternative.
In other cases, you may want to skip spring onions because of health reasons too.
While onion allergy is very rare, food sensitivity is far more common and the use of spring onions may cause gastric irritation and may not be agreeable for some individuals.
However, the most common reason why one would want to substitute spring onions is usually a lack of availability.
Even though spring onions are hugely popular all around the world and are ubiquitously grown, they can spoil very fast!
An average stalk of spring onion may only last about 2-3 days before it starts to go bad and while there are several methods for prolonging the shelf life of spring onions, people may find it easier to just substitute this leafy green.
Let’s talk about substitutes. A spring onion substitute should have two things:
- The same varying tender and crunchy texture.
- A distinct and slightly strong onion-like flavor.
Furthermore, the best substitute will be the one that will also add presentation points to your dish.
Remember, the use of spring onions can sometimes go beyond mere flavor and texture! Most chefs use spring onions raw and as a garnish to give their dishes some color along with a noticeable flavor and crunch.
The 7 Best Spring Onion Substitutes
Here are our top picks for the best spring onion substitutes:
This leafy green is at the top of our list because it belongs to the same Allium family that includes other superstars like chives, garlic, and onions.
This root vegetable bears a lot of resemblance to spring onions and will provide the same textural and flavor characteristics that we have discussed above.
Leeks have sheathed leaves that are erroneously referred to as stalks. However, in the context of texture and flavor, leeks are extremely comparable to spring onions, but with a few distinct differences.
Since the sheathes are densely packed from the top to the root, you will get more pieces of this vegetable if you chop it than spring onions.
In fact, due to their compact and dense leaves, leeks may provide a stronger overall flavor than spring onions which is why you must use them in moderation!
We recommend cutting and using all parts of the vegetable for the best experience.
For example, the top will provide a leafy texture and will add a lot of color to your dish.
The middle section is great for both an onion-based flavor and crunchy texture, while the bulb or the bottom of the plant will pack the most flavor and will add a far crunchier texture.
Chives are another distant cousin of onions that have long thin green stalks and small bulbs at the end.
These leafy greens are known more for their mild garlicky and oniony flavored stalks than anything else. They are commonly used as a garnish and can also substitute spring onions in almost every recipe.
Chives don’t offer a lot of texture since the green stalk on this vegetable is mostly tender, but it can be used to add a distinct color and presentation to several recipes.
Another great reason for using chives is that they don’t provide as strong a flavor as onions or even spring onions.
This means that you don’t have to worry about bad “onion breath” when eating these vegetables.
They are packed with nutrition and can be used whole or chopped into pieces. For the best experience, we recommend using chives at the end of the recipe for the most flavor and texture!
Shallots may not have the iconic green stalk-like spring onions but they are a very close substitute for them because of their mild flavor and crunchy texture.
Shallots are rarely used raw because they may overpower the overall flavor of any recipe, especially the ones that call for spring onions.
However, sautéing these vegetables breaks down the compounds responsible for that strong oniony flavor.
A light sauté will result in a mildly sweet and slightly oniony flavor that can be used extensively in several different recipes.
Want more? Just combine shallots with the green stalk of chives or the leaves of leeks for an even closer replacement.
If you don’t have any reservations regarding the flavor of onions then you can easily substitute spring onions with regular onions, especially when you don’t have them at hand!
Remember, spring onions are just onions that have been plucked before maturity.
So, by replacing spring onions with onions you may be able to get more or less the same flavor. However, you may want to be wary of the texture and intensity of the onions.
For the best experience, we recommend going for either larger white or red onions.
Make sure that you submerge the onions in either plain or salt water before using them.
This will significantly lessen their intensity and you will get the most out of their crunchy texture too! If you have chives or leeks at home then you may use a combination of each for the desired flavor and presentation.
Remember, onions should only be used sparingly in a dish that calls for spring onions.
This is because even though they both belong to the same Allium family, they will have largely different flavors and characteristics no matter how careful you are in using them.
5. Wild Garlic
Wild garlic can easily substitute spring onions in Chinese cuisine. The leafy stalks of wild garlic resemble the texture and more importantly, the flavor of spring onions.
Although wild garlic has larger leaves, you can chop them to fit the requirement of any recipe that calls for spring onions.
This plant has dense leaves on top with a bulb at the bottom. The size of the bulb will depend on the maturity of this plant but typically, you can use any type of wild garlic to replace the leafy and oniony flavor of spring onions.
For the best experience, sauté the greens and the bulb of this vegetable before serving it.
Although it can also be consumed raw, the best way to get more or less the same flavor as spring onions would be to render this vegetable via heat.
6. Red/Green Onions
These vegetables share all of the characteristics of spring onions—except that they are red or green and have a smaller bulb at the end!
Green onions, also known as scallions, are available in red or green color. These plants are usually younger than spring onions but can be used in the same way. They have a slightly more tender stalk than spring onions too.
Red spring onions are seasonal and are available from February to June. They pack the same oniony flavor and can be used as a direct replacement for regular spring onions.
Due to them not having a developed onion bulb (even when compared to spring onions) they have a milder flavor and a crunchier texture.
You can use red spring onions in the same quantity as spring onions—just make sure that you use all of the vegetable for the best experience and flavor!
Ramps may not be an exact replacement for spring onions but they come extremely close.
They pack the same, if not more intense oniony flavor and all of the parts in this vegetable can be used in any recipe that calls for spring onions.
They have a similar leafy body with noticeably larger leaves and a thin stalk that leads down to a slender bulb.
Be careful when using ramps as a substitute because they can pack an intense garlicky and oniony flavor, especially when compared to spring onions.
You can get even more out of their flavor and texture if you pickle them in vinegar!
Next time you are out of spring onions, we highly recommend that you try these guys for more or less the same great taste and crunch.
Spring onions have a lot of close relatives that can substitute them. Now that you know how to use each substitute, here are some related questions!
Are there any non-vegetable substitutes for spring onions?
Yes. The best non-vegetable substitute for green onions would be onion powder. The powder packs a concentrated flavor of onions and can be used in several recipes.
Whether you use it as a garnish or to flavor meat or vegetable recipes, onion powder can be an excellent and less intense substitute.
You can also alternatively look for onion seasonings that also contain garlic powder.
These mixes are used as flavor enhancers in many recipes and can also be used as an excellent addition to fried items, especially French fries!
Are scallions, green onions, and spring onions the same?
All of these vegetables are very easy to find around the world and can be used interchangeably.
However, spring onions tend to have a much more developed bulb than green onions which are also referred to as scallions.
Scallions/Green onions are younger than spring onions and may have a less intense flavor but both of them can be used interchangeably.
It is also important to note that in many countries, the words “spring onion” “scallions” and “green onions” can be used to refer to anything with a green stalk and a slightly developed bulb at the end.
But if you want to get a bit technical, then you should go with the exact vegetable mentioned in the recipe.
Are spring onion stalks difficult to cook?
Spring onions have a slightly denser stalk, especially when you compare them to scallions/green onions but they can easily be cooked.
They can be sautéed, boiled, steamed, fried, or baked! In most countries, the whole vegetable is used while in the US, some might prefer to discard the green stalk.
In the end, it comes down to your preferences!
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