Need chopped onion for a recipe? If you don’t have any onions on hand (or you're cooking for someone who's allergic to them), there’s probably something in your pantry that you can use instead. Here’s what you need to know to make a good substitution.
Using Onion Powder or Onion Flakes
You can substitute chopped onions with either onion powder or onion flakes using the following equivalences:
Small Onion = 1/3 cup chopped = 1 tsp. onion powder = 1 tbsp. dried onion flakes
Medium Onion = 1 cup chopped = 1 tbsp. onion powder = 3 tbsp. dried onion flakes
Large Onion = 1 1/2 cups chopped = 1.5 tbsp. onion powder = 4.5 tbsp. dried onion flakes
Effects of Substitutions
These substitutes will give you the onion flavor that you’re after, but they will change the texture of your recipe, and they may also affect how many servings you get out of your recipe—dried onions just take up less space than chopped onions. If either of these is a concern, consider adding another ingredient to replace the lost texture and to bring the recipe back up to its intended volumes.
For example, if the recipe calls for one medium chopped onion, add a tablespoon of onion powder plus a cup of chopped carrots or celery.
Many recipes call for sautéing the onions in hot oil before the other ingredients are added. Just skip this step, and add the onion powder or dried onion flakes when you add the rest of the spices.
If you’re allergic to onions, or you’re cooking for someone who is, leave the onions out, or consider replacing them with something with a similar bulk. Chopped bell peppers, carrots, and celery are all options. They won't taste the same, obviously, but they'll at least replace some of the flavor and volume that the onions were intended to contribute to the dish, so your recipe still makes the same number of servings. Just choose the vegetable, or combination of vegetables, that seems to work best with the recipe that you're preparing, and you should be reasonably pleased with the results.
If you're concerned that your dish will taste bland without the onions, consider adding a bit of extra spice to the recipe to ramp up the flavor. Just chose one that you think will compliment the other flavors in the dish. Cumin, for example, would be an option to consider, if you're working on a Mexican recipe.
Avoid Running out of Onions
Chopped onions freeze well. Prep a bunch and tuck them in the freezer, so you can grab a handful whenever you need them. There's no need to thaw them first. Just measure out as many as you need for your recipe, and add them to your dish. They'll thaw as they cook. One cup of chopped, frozen onions is the equivalent of one medium onion.
If you prefer to work with raw onions, make sure you store them properly. This will ensure that they don't sprout before you get a chance to use them.