Top 9 Pearl Onions Substitutes For Your Cooking

You may need a pearl onions substitute when a recipe you are making requires it as an ingredient, because pearl onions could be difficult to find in many regions.

At the same time they are often used in soups, stews, meat dishes, and even salads thanks to their mild flavor, crunchy texture and inherent sweetness. 

You can get a large variety of onions with different flavors, sizes, and textures. In many foods these may be used interchangeably, but you really cannot use large onions instead of pearl onions in many dishes.

You need a kind of onion that has a similar flavor and can hold its shape to some extent. 

Pearl Onions Substitutes

9 Pearl Onions Substitutes You Can Use


With a sweet flavor that is mild, it is fairly close to pearl onions, However, shallots are not as sweet as pearl onions and, in some dishes, you may need to tweak the sweet and savory balance by adding some sugar and perhaps some vinegar. They also have some garlic notes that can enhance the flavor of your dish. 

What is good about using shallots instead of pearl onions is that they have a similar size, in that they are both small. So they are easier to replace.

You will need to peel the shallots before using in the recipe. You can add them whole to the dish, at the same time and quantity as called for in the recipe you are using. 

2. White Onions

White onions have a sharp but sweet flavor.. You have to select ones that are small if you want to use them instead of pearl onions in a dish. If you use small ones, you can even peel off the first few layers to make them smaller, if you want to use them whole. The top layers can be chopped and used in another dish. 

You can use them in salads, in curries and in other dishes, raw or cooked. White onions can add a zing to any dish. 

3. Frozen Pearl Onions

You can buy frozen pearl onions in most supermarkets. These are easy to use as they are already peeled, since it can be difficult to peel fresh pearl onions. You can use them in any dish that calls for pearl onions. 

If you use pearl onions on a regular basis in your foods, it is a good idea to stock a couple of packets in your freezer so that you never run out. 

4. Bottled Or Canned Cocktail Onions

These are actually small onions that are in a briny solution. They may be pickled or colored with turmeric and paprika. You simply have to open the can or bottle and use them.

No peeling or other preparation is required. They have a milder flavor than pearl onions because they are in brine. 

If you are using them in a cooked dish, add them towards the end of the cooking process as they are already ready to use. You can use them in salads and sandwiches for an onion flavor as well. Cocktail onions also pair well with cheese. 

5. Boiling Onions

This is a variety of white onions that are small and white in color. You use these onions whole in a dish. They are mild and sweet, so are a good replacement for pearl onions. You can usually get boiling onions in supermarkets and grocery shops everywhere. 

Use them in soup, stews, braised dishes, gratinees, and salads. Use them whole as opposed to chopping or slicing them. 

6. Scallions Or Green Onions

These are the same variety of onions that may be labeled differently. Scallions have a green and long top and the bulb part is not a true oval or round shaped bulb, but just a little plumper than the green part. These onions can be eaten raw or cooked and you can use both the green and white parts.

They are quite sharp in taste with a bite to them. The green part can be eaten raw or requires very little cooking, adding crunch and color to your salads, pastas, stir fries and other foods. They require minimal cooking.

Read more:

10 Substitutes For Scallions to Make Appetizing Meals 

12 Substitutes for Green Onion to Freshen Up Your Recipes

7. Spring Onions

Unlike green onions, spring onions have a bulbous shape at the end. The smaller varieties of these onions can be a great replacement for pearl onions. They have a somewhat strong flavor and sweet taste. 

Like the green onions, you can use both the green and white parts of the onion. You can remove the bulb and use it instead of pearl onions. The stalks can be chopped separately and used as a garnish in many foods like soups, salads, or stir fries or add a bite to your sandwiches. 

8. Cippolini

Cippolini is an onion variety that is smaller than regular onions and somewhat flat in shape. It can be peeled and used whole or chopped. It is sweet and can be easily used to replace pearl onions in foods.

Use them in meat and fish dishes, in sauces and condiments, soups and stews. You can eat them raw, pickled, caramelized, cooked, or grilled as an accompaniment to many dishes. 

9. Leeks

Leeks are another variety of onions, They are long and don’t have a bulb at the end. What’s more, you eat only the bottom part and some of the light green part, but the top dark green stalks would need to be cooked a great deal to be edible. 

They have a mild, sweet and onion flavor that is earthy. Leeks need to be washed and cleaned very well before using as dirt can get trapped in the stalks and ends. 


Can you substitute regular onions for pearl onions?

If you do not have pearl onions, but only regular onions, you can peel and use them. However, you do need to chop, slice, or mince them according to what the recipe says, since you cannot use them whole in most dishes. 

What is the flavor of pearl onions?

Pearl onions are sweet and less pungent than regular onions. They are crunchy with a firm texture. 

Final Words

If the recipe you are making calls for pearl onions and you don’t have any, you can use frozen or canned pearl onions instead. However, if you don’t have any of these, you can use any other kind of onions that you have handy.

You will need to adjust the quantity according to the taste of the dish, because you may need to use less or more of the equivalent onions depending on their sweetness or sharpness. 

Boiling onions, shallots, and cippolini have similar flavors as pearl onions, so are a good pearl onions substitute. But you can use other onion options instead, since onions come in a large variety.

You may need to chop or slice larger onions if you are using them instead of whole pearl onions so that they get properly cooked and their flavor intensifies. Most onions caramelize over high heat with or without oil, so be careful when cooking, unless you want them browned.