10 Awesome Substitutes For Pearl Onions You Can Try (+PHOTOS)

Substitutes For Pearl Onions

Cooking with pearl onions can be a game-changer – those tiny, flavorful veggies can add a burst of savory goodness to any dish. But what if you can’t find pearl onions at your grocery store? Don’t worry, there are plenty of substitutes for pearl onions you can try that will still give you that addictive onion taste.

Whether you’re sautéing, roasting, or pickling, there’s no shortage of awesome substitutes to try – so don’t be afraid to get creative!

In this blog post, we’ll give you all the tips and ideas you need so that even the most discerning palates will be impressed with your cooking! You’ll also learn how experimenting with other onion varieties can add depth of flavor to everyday dishes such as stews and braises. Ready? Let’s dive into finding a tasty replacement for pearl onions.

What Does a Pearl Onion Taste Like?

Pearl onions have a very delicate flavor – not overly sweet, but still tasty and incredibly addictive. Its subtlety is what makes them so enjoyable; you can really appreciate the gentle onion taste, without it overpowering your senses or being too heavy.

Some people describe them as having a slight bitterness, but overall they’re pretty mild and sweet. No matter the occasion, pearl onions will add the perfect hint of sweet goodness to any dish, making them a dependable go-to ingredient in any kitchen!

10 Awesome Substitutes For Pearl Onions

We’ve put together a list of 10 awesome substitutes that you can use in your next dish. So get creative and start exploring the amazing world of vegetable substitutes for pearl onions!

1. Frozen Pearl Onions

Frozen pearl onions - Substitutes for Pearl Onions
Image Source: seriouseats.com

Frozen pearl onions make for a great substitute for the fresh kind! Frozen pearl onions are just as tasty and much easier to use than fresh options. Plus, you don’t have to worry about them spoiling before you use them all up.

Frozen pearl onions also still hold their shape when cooked and offer a juicy burst of flavor when added to dishes like risotto or potato gratin.

Attentive cooks know that there’s really no substitute for the taste and texture of fresh ingredients — but for those nights when time is limited, frozen pearl onions are an accessible solution that turns boring dinners into exciting meals.

Best of all, they require minimal effort to prepare – simply defrost and add away! So anytime you’re in need of some pearl onion zest, reach for the frozen variety. It’s just as delicious as the fresh stuff without the fuss!

2. White Onions

White Onions - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Often used in French cuisine, pearl onions are a popular ingredient that adds sweetness and character to dishes. But if you don’t have any on hand, white onions can make a great substitute for pearl onions! Not only can they be used intact in dishes like stews or casseroles, but slicing them into thin wedges creates an onion that cooks up similar to the delicate pearl onion.

They are readily available and much easier to prep, as the papery skin of a white onion can easily be peeled away with your fingers, whereas pearl onions require more time-consuming peeling techniques.

Despite the difference in appearance, using white onions still gives you a soft, sweet onion flavor that will truly bring any dish to life. The subtle hints of garlic and sulfur that come with white onions create an interesting depth of flavor.

Additionally, since they lack sharpness and bitterness, both kids and adults alike find this type of onion very palatable when included in dishes.

3. Shallots

Shallots - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Shallots make a great substitute for pearl onions anytime you need something a little bit sweeter that packs more flavor. While both are small, sweet onions, shallots offer a bit more of a kick compared to the subtle garlic taste of pearl onions.

The shallot has a subtle spiciness that makes it one of those special ingredients to have in the pantry. Sautéing shallots with butter gives an extra richness to vegetables or proteins, or use it as part of a base of aromatics when making soups, sauces and gravies.

You can also roast them for simple side dishes or as toppings on pizza or salads and sandwiches. But one must be careful not to overuse shallots (as they have a much stronger flavor), or else they might overpower the rest of the dish.

Give your kitchen creations some extra personality by swapping out traditional onions for flavorful shallots!

4. Cocktail Onions

While pearl onions are a great choice for adding flavor and texture to a wide variety of dishes, it can be time-consuming and tricky to peel them.

Cocktail onions offer the same level of flavor without the amount of effort needed to prepare them! With their mini-size and thin skins, they are ready to go in minutes.

They provide a pop of color and unmatched sweetness when added to salads, cheese boards, pizzas, or any type of soup. Even better, cocktail onions hold their shape much better when cooked compared to regular pearl onions, so anything from casseroles to stir fries will benefit from the extra dash of flavor that these crunchy little bites add.

Try using cocktail onions in your next dish – you won’t regret it!

5. Cipollini Onions

Cipollini - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Cipollini onions, nicknamed ‘Cips’, have quickly become the new eco-conscious chef’s best friend in the kitchen. Beloved for their small size and sweet flavor, Cips provide a replacement for pearl onions that are much less wasteful.

With minimal to no peeling required, Cipollinis are also a lot easier to prepare than most other types of onions. They can be roasted, sautéed or even eaten raw if cooked properly – like any other onion variety – to bring out their subtle sweetness.

Cipollini are often used to add color and texture to salads, relish trays and pizzas, but they can also be enjoyed as a flavorful accompaniment to meats and soups. All in all, this convenient alternative is soon bound to take the culinary world by storm!

6. Green Onions

Green onions - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Green onions are an easy-to-use substitute for their traditional onion counterpart. Not only are green onions easier to chop up and add to your dish of choice but feel confident that you’ll end up with an equally tasty result few people can tell the difference! but they provide a wonderful taste and unique texture that white pearl onions just can’t match.

Their crispness bring out the full flavor in your meal and allow you to test out creative ideas with them.

Plus, when using fresh green onions from the grocery store or farmer’s market you won’t have to deal with tough outer layers – one less task on your long list of food prep!

If you want something new with a burst of flavor, reach the next time for some green onions as a stand-in for pearl onions.

7. Leeks

Leeks - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Leeks are a great way to get the onion flavor in recipes without having to devote time to peeling, slicing, and dicing pearl onions.

Leeks cheaper and easier to buy, but they also provide a milder onion flavor that doesn’t overpower the other ingredients like pearl onions can.

Adding leeks to soups or stews gives a delicious sweetness and depth of flavor in a fraction of the time needed for prepping pearl onions. Leeks can work just as well and are often much easier to source and prepare.

Just make sure that you cut off all the green parts, leaving yourself with just the white bulb-like portions which can then be used whole or chopped further, depending on the dish.

Since leeks are less sweet than pearl onions, but have a similar texture when cooked, they will provide a great alternative without sacrificing flavor.

8. Celery

Celery - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Who knew celery could make such an excellent substitute for pearl onions?! It’s hard to believe that these two vegetables can be interchangeable, but that’s precisely what makes this tip so clever and helpful.

Whether you’re making an exquisite French onion soup, a savory stir fry, or even a traditional beef stew––swapping out pearl onions for celery is as easy as 1-2-3!

Not only does it provide the same sweetness and crunch to dishes with minimal effort, but using celery instead of pearl onions also adds a satisfying crunchy texture.

Celery also has more vitamins and minerals than pearl onions, including vitamin K and electrolytes like potassium and calcium. Not only does celery make an excellent substitute for pearl onions, but it can also offer extra nutritional benefits that your family will appreciate.

9. Carrots

Carrots - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Carrots are an incredibly versatile veggie. They can be roasted, juiced, diced, boiled, and even mashed! But one of the tastiest and most interesting preparations is to use carrots as a substitute for pearl onions.

Achieving an onion-like flavor with carrots may sound odd but when slowly sautéed in a bit of butter they take on that classic sweetness associated with the root vegetable family.

With the right spices and herbs added during cooking (think thyme and rosemary), you can create a dish that has all the comfort of classic pearl onions but with a twist!

Plus, they’re full of health benefits so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing on those either! It might sound counterintuitive at first, but give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.

10. Fennel Bulb

Fennel bulb - Substitutes for Pearl Onions

Using a fennel bulb as a substitute for pearl onions opens up a new and unique flavor profile to any dish. While both offer an oniony-licorice taste, the fennel bulb is sweeter and more delicate.

It’s shapely appearance also adds a beautiful brightness to whatever you decide to cook with it. If you’re accustomed to sautéing pearl onions for your favorite recipe, try swapping in some fresh-cut fennel instead, to experience its subtle flavor.

Fennel bulbs are a versatile vegetables that can easily be incorporated into meals of all kinds. Make it an easy swap by using the same measurement – two fennel bulbs generally equal one cup of pearl onions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between pearl onions and regular onions?

Pearl onions are a type of onion that is smaller in size and has white skin. They are often pickled or used in salads. Regular onions are larger in size, have brown skin, and are used in cooking.

Are pearl onions the same as boiling onions?

They are similar but not the same. They are a small variety of onions that are often peeled and used in recipes that call for boiled onions. Pearl onions can also be eaten raw, but they are a little bit more tart than other varieties of onion.

Are pearl onions just small onions?

Yes, pearl onions are just small onions. They’re named “pearl” onions because of their resemblance to pearls. They’re typically about 1/2 inch in diameter, whereas regular onions tend to be around 2-3 inches in diameter. Pearl onions are often used in pickling or sauteing because of their small size.

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10 Comments

  • Jodie Kay

    Whoa, caperberries as a substitute? That’s new! 🧐

  • Rebecca Baker

    I found the article quite insightful as it provided a variety of options to replace pearl onions. The idea of using leeks or cipollini onions is particularly intriguing. Both have distinct flavors that could add a unique touch to dishes. However, I wonder about the impact these substitutes would have on the nutritional values of the dishes. Would they maintain similar health benefits or would there be significant changes?

  • Gracie Crawford

    Shallots work just fine in my stew! 👍

  • Ellie Perkins

    No substitute can match the sweet, delicate flavor of pearl onions. They’re irreplaceable in my book. 🤷‍♂️

  • Jodie Humphries

    Cocktail onions? Interesting! 🤔

  • Amelia Bird

    Looks like I’m off to the store for some cipollini onions. Who knew cooking could be such an adventure? 🥘😄

  • Harriet Collier

    As a professional chef, I find this guide extremely helpful. It’s always good to know your options, especially when certain ingredients are out of season or unavailable. From white onions to shallots and leeks, each substitute brings its own unique flavor profile to the table, making it possible to experiment and create something new and exciting. Kudos to the author for this comprehensive list.

  • Ella Talbot

    Leeks all the way! 🙌

  • Matilda Schofield

    Nice read, but nothing beats the real deal. 😋

  • Abby Bull

    These substitutes are okay for texture, but none of them capture the unique flavor of pearl onions. Maybe we should stick to the original ingredient? 🤔

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