20 Best Pearl Onion Substitutes for All Recipes

Pearl onion is famous and well renowned for pickle making, but if you find it your nearest store at the crucial moment? 

No worry, that’s why I bring more than nineteen pearl onion substitutes which are similar to it from taste to texture. Give the same flavor to your recipe as you expect from the real pearl onion. But need some adjustment, so keep reading.

See At A Glance

What are pearl onions? What is the flavor of pearl onions?

Pearl Onions are baby onions, all the size of a marble or smaller. The name ‘pearl onion’ is actually British. These particular types of onions are also known as “boiling onions” in the USA. 

Pearl Onion is also known as a button, baby, or silverskin onion in the UK, and pearl onion is similar to a leek.

They’re usually white or red in color with a sweet, crunchy flavor that can be either sweet or mildly hot. Pearl onions are used for pickling and boiling, and fried as a side dish.

What type of onion is a pearl onion?

Pearl onions are a sub-variety of common yellow onions harvested at a smaller size, normally before the bulb has fully developed. 

They are sweeter than other types of onions because they contain less sulfur. Pearl onions are most commonly used in soups, stews, and casseroles.

You can buy pearl onions raw or cooked.

Pearl onions can be found either fresh or canned – the latter being very common in grocery stores around Christmas time. 

If you can’t find pre-peeled ones, you will need to peel them yourself. This is usually complicated by the small size of pearl onions, so be prepared to crush a lot of them before you get enough peeled. 

What is a good substitute for pearl onions? (20 Pearl Onion Alternatives)

1. Pearl Onions, a close relative of the leek

Leeks are a type of onion, but they have a milder taste and a more delicate texture. You can easily add leek in a recipe calling for pearl onion.

pearl onions a close relative to leek.

Leeks are often used in cooking as a flavor ingredient for soups, stews, casseroles, and other dishes such as quiches. 

Leek’s also eaten as vegetables alongside main courses. The combination of chopped leeks and potatoes is known as “mirepoix” and forms the base of many soups and sauces.

2. Use POTATO ONION instead of Pearl onion for Snack

Potato Onion is an onion that tastes like a potato and is similar to the shallot. When you cook with potato onion, they are not necessarily soft, and the texture will be crispy. You can use them as ingredients in cooking or side dishes (snack).

3. SCALLION -A Perfect Substitute for Pearl Onion 

Scallions are widely used as a substitute for pearl onion and are also called Green Onions or Spring Onions. One of the most common vegetables in Korea, you can often eat as a side dish with rice and other main dishes.

scallion is a perfect substitute for pearl onion.

The white portion is usually eaten along with the green part since it is milder to eat than the green part.

They add a nice crisp and refreshing taste to salads and can be used in many other dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and stews when eaten raw. 

Scallions are often used in Korean recipes such as kimchi or Naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles). They contain many essential vitamins and minerals. They also have some anti-inflammatory properties, which are good for your health.

Scallions will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Still, if you wrap them in a wet paper towel and seal them up in a plastic bag, they should last even longer.

Scallions can be used in all kinds of dishes and hot or cold. You can use them in drinks such as tea and cocktails, too. Green onions go well with seafood, beef, and pork.

4. SHALLOT – Use Alternative for Pearl Onions in Sauce

Shallot is an associate of the onion family, which is called Allium. Shallots are named after “shallot” or “eschalot,” referring to garlic. 

The shallot has a milder flavor than a regular onion, making it an excellent choice for raw use in salads and as a garnish. 

Two types of shallots are often used in cooking: green shoots shallots and dry. 

The green shoots shallots are the young plants that sprout to form bulbs, but they do not develop into large bulbs like onions. 

Dry shallots are harvested when the plant is fully mature with an enlarged bulb but before it falls naturally.

Shallots are used in many cuisines, including French, Indian and Chinese. Shallot has a flavor that is more subtle than an onion’s flavor. 

Shallot has a very strong flavor, making it a perfect substitute for pearl onion in sauces.

It not only has a different taste, but it also adds another texture to foods. If you can’t find pearl onion, use shallot replace pearl onion in your salad soup of any recipe you like.

The shallot has layers just like garlic, and the base of the shallot looks similar to cloves of garlic. The bulbs are usually about the size of a large grape, and they range in color from pink to white.

5. SWEET ONION Best Replacement for Pearl Onion for Pickle 

Sweet Onion is also called ” Bermuda onion,” ” Evergreen Onion.” Sweet Onion is a kind of onion with greenish-white color, bowl shape with hollow leaves. 

The taste of Sweet Onion is not as strong as normal onion. Sweet Onion is also called “Shallot” because of its similar taste. You can substitute sweet onion for pearl onion in frying, dressing, pickling, etc.

Sweet Onion has a creamy texture, making you feel comfortable when eating.

Sweet Onion is usually used in salad dressing, sauce making, and pickling. In Asia, people generally use Sweet Onion for cooking soup to get a milder flavor from the onion. You can try it, though.

6. TREE ONION for Those Can’t Take Onion Smell

Tree Onion is a vegetable that looks like onion but tastes sweet and crispy. It grows on top of the tree in summer and fall but does not die when winter comes.

You can add Tree Onion either in a salad, eat raw, deep-fried, or used for cooking soup and spaghetti. Also, applied it as a garnish for some dishes such as sashimi. 

Compared with normal onion, Tree Onion doesn’t irritate the throat, so Tree Onion is ideal for some people who do not like a strong onion smell.

7. VIDALIA ONION – Alternative to Pearl Onion for Baking

Vidalia Onion is a type of onion known for its mild taste and sweet flavor. It is named after the Vidalia, Georgia growing region where it was developed, making it one of the most famous onions in the USA.

The Vidalia Onion has brownish-red skin with white flesh. It is about 6 centimeters in diameter and has a roundish shape. 

Vidalia Onion is known for its high sugar content, giving it its sweet flavor, making it an excellent choice for cooking and baking.

Vidalia onions have a milder flavor than yellow or white onions. They have a lower sulfur content while providing more vitamin C and calcium. 

Vidalia Onions are a great choice for salads, sauces, and sandwiches. Vidalia onions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.


The small pearl-sized White Onions are usually harvested before the onions have fully matured, so they’re still frozen when we receive them. 

These Frozen Pearl Onions have a great sharp onion taste and can substitute for fresh pearl onions in any recipe. 

We use them all the time to make our cream of onion soup. They’re also great for pickling onions and perfect for making your own frozen pearl onions!

Frozen white pearl onions are good to replace in any recipe that calls for fresh white onions. 

You can also make your own frozen chopped or whole onions by blanching them for one minute first, then placing them in an ice bath for a few minutes before freezing.


Dried Pearl Onions are pickled onions that can be used as a spice or an ingredient.

They typically come pitted and dried yet still have their papery skin attached. They look like marbles with the skins on, and when cooked, they turn soft and translucent. 

You can use them whole or sliced for various dishes like stir-fries, salads, roasted dishes, or braised dishes. 

Dried Pearl Onion is most often seen in French cooking and Italian recipes like Osso Bucco. Diced or sliced pearl onions can be added before serving.

If you’re using them to garnish– add in at the last 5 minutes of cooking a dish, they should be added towards the end of cooking time, or they tend to become overly soft and lose their shape.

Roasted Vegetables-Add in at the beginning with chopped veggies, meats, herbs, and liquids. Cook until tender, then cool and freeze in small batches for future use.

Sauteed Vegetables add towards the end of cooking time to retain flavor, color, and shape. Add chopped veggies, meats, herbs, and spices before sauteeing vegetables to saute them all at once.


Pickled Pearl Onion is a pickle or brine onion-like any other. Still, the size of pearl onions makes them particularly useful in recipes where small pieces of vegetables are desired. 

They’re great for use as an ingredient in potato salad since they lend themselves nicely to cutting into slices, chunks, or cubes. 

We like to simply eat them on a deli sandwich, while the California Avocado Commission uses Pickled Pearl Onion for their famous California Guacamole Recipe. 

In England, these pickles are called “Bread and Butter Onions.”


Italian Cipollini is an Italian vegetable known as Cipolla Rossa di Firenze or red onion. They are spherical in shape and have brown outer skin with red flesh. 

It is mostly used in its raw form but can be cooked into dishes that require longer cooking times to retain its crunchy texture. 

Italian Cipollini is quite similar in taste to Bermuda Onion but sweeter in flavor and less pungent than their yellow counterparts.


Celery is a wonderful vegetable that can be used in many different ways. It has a nice flavor and contains hardly any calories. 

Celery was first grown as a medicine plant. Still, later it became popular as a food, probably because of its rejuvenating properties. 

Celery is often served as an appetizer or as part of a gratin or casserole. It can also be used to make celery soup.


Fennel herb is the dried fruit of Foeniculum vulgare, a hardy perennial which looks like a tall, feathery carrot plant. 

You probably know this herb best for its seeds, whose pleasant licorice-like flavor lends itself to both baked goods and sausage making. 

But did you even know that the stalks and bulbs of this plant are truly edible? However, before you go digging up your garden, keep in mind that the Fennel bulb is too strong-tasting to eat raw. 

It’s usually used as an aromatic vegetable in cooking or salad green.

14. WHITE ONION- Mild Replace for Pearl Onion into Dipping Sauce

White onion is a fragrant vegetable. It may be used to make various meals such as kimchi, fermented foods, and dipping sauce.

In particular, it has been mostly used as the main ingredient for white kimchi and Hongcho Kimchi(Red chili pepper paste).

15. Try COCKTAIL ONION For Your Next Cocktail Garnish 

Cocktail onion is the small, round variety of onions that’s very popular as a cocktail garnish. The tiny onions can be served alongside gourmet dishes such as beef tenderloin and sea scallops. 

Cocktail onions are usually pickled or infused with vinegar, although raw varieties are also available for those on special diets.

Cocktail onions have a milder flavor than large raw onions, so don’t overpower the drink with their taste.


Boling Onion is a well-known snack in South Korea. It’s fried, onion strings found all over the internet were popular for years. 

But recently, Boling Onion has been used as a topping for ramen and other foods.


Canned Pearl Onions are onions harvested at a young age and then preserved in a usually salty liquid. You can consume directly from the can or cook with it.

The liquid they come in varies from water to oil-based solutions. Still, the end result usually tastes saltier than fresh onions due to preservatives needed to extend shelf life. 

They can be found canned in grocery stores near other canned vegetables.

18. FRESH CHIVES – Pearl Onion Alternate for Soup

Fresh Chives are small, thin green stems used as a flavoring in foods. The long green stems are hollow with rigid edges. They may be up to 45 cm(18in) in length and resemble thin grass blades. 

These fresh chives are mainly used for garnishing purposes. It has a pungent, onion-like taste. They are used in various cuisines worldwide and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), also known as Chinese leeks, are widely used as a herb in Asian cooking. Fresh Chives is even one of the main ingredients in some garlic soups. The leaves have an onion or garlic flavor but can be harder to find fresh outside of specialty produce markets.

19. CARROTS- Easy Pearl Onion Substitutes

Carrots can be used instead of pearl onion in cooking. There are many reasons why you should consider making use of this substitution. 

If you have ever tasted onion or haven’t but know that your friends and family can’t stand the taste, then it was time to give carrot ago. 

It has the same texture as a pearl onion does when cooked, which is great because not only can it be used in place of onion, but even when the onion is called for in recipes, the carrot will work just as well.


Spring onion each year and harvest them before they can make a bulb. They are used as you would use pearl onions in cooking, stews, omelets, or anywhere where a small onion is used. 

The plants will need to be harvested in the fall when they have gone dormant, or about 2-3 months after flowering. They have an unbeatable mild but distinct flavor!

Can I substitute fresh pearl onions for frozen?

Yes, you can substitute fresh pearl onions for frozen! Pearl onions are a close cousin to the more common onion. They’re both parts of the same family of vegetables called the Allium family. 

Pearl onions are a staple of many classic French recipes. They’re equally delicious in various other cuisines, from soups to salads to main courses.

The only difference that fresh pearl onions have from frozen ones is that fresh ones don’t require thawing before using them. 

In fact, no matter how you get your hands on them, the only important thing is that they end up in the pan before they get a chance to go bad.

How To Substitute: When it comes to substitutions like this one, there are three things to think about: (1) flavor and texture; (2) how long it takes to cook; and (3) how the dish is served.

Flavor and Texture: Fresh pearl onions and frozen pearl onions taste identical. However, if you normally use fresh vegetables in your cooking, you may be able to detect a faint difference. 

However, both types of pearl onions will bring a similar texture to whatever dish you add them to. 

The only real difference is that fresh pearl onions are roughly the same size as smaller frozen pearl onions. At the same time, there are times when you can get larger pieces of frozen onion.

Time to Cook: There’s an extra step involved in cooking with fresh pearl or cippolini onions. Since they aren’t pre-chopped, you need to peel them before using them. 

Having said that, you don’t have to do it immediately before cooking; the best way to prepare the onions is to chop them and then let them sit in a bowl of ice water for about five minutes. 

This will make the peels easier to remove later on without wasting too much time. Once peeled, you can cook pearl onions the same way as any other type of onion.

Substitute for pearl onions in beef bourguignon

Pearl Onions are closely related to leeks, scallions, and garlic. Some varieties can be eaten raw with salads or pate. 

Other types must be cooked before eating. The most familiar type used in cookery is the white onion, known for its mild flavor and high moisture content. However, the red onion is the sweetest of all onions.

When boiling or braising pearl onions, it’s important to add a pinch of baking soda to the water. This will make it more effortless to remove the skin afterward and prevent breaking when cooking.

Use a big container with plenty of space for them to float around in.

The onions are paired with pearl barley, mushrooms, and leeks for a rich flavor in this particular recipe. 

A glass of red wine appears, while butter and beef stock add even more richness to the sauce. 

If you don’t like pearl onions or they’re not available in your area, you can use chopped shallots or even onions in their place. 

They won’t be exactly the same, but you’ll still get a hearty beef dish without all of the fuss.

Servings: 6

Braise Time: 60 min.


1. 1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2. 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained

3. 2 cups beef stock

4. 4 cups water, more if needed

5. 3 cups red wine, divided use

6. 3/4 pound crimini mushrooms, large ones quartered or halved

7. 5 leeks white part only sliced in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

8. 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste if necessary

9. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste if necessary

Instructions for beef bourguignon with pearl onion, mushrooms, and leeks :

1. Warmth 1 tablespoon of the butter in a heavy pot or Dutch oven with 5 quarts or larger over medium heat. Add the beef and sear on all sides until it is well browned, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

2. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pot, then add the onions and simmer, occasionally stirring, for about 20 minutes, or until soft and golden.

If they start to get, dark add a little water and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

3. Carefully pour off browned butter from the pot, leaving any browned onions and juices behind. 

Return pot to stove over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and oil, then saute barley until it starts to get golden, about 5 minutes.

4. Add half of the beef and any accumulated juices, 3/4 cup of red wine, stock, and water to the pot, stirring well. 

Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until barley is tender but has some chew to it, about 30 minutes more. If necessary, add more water as it cooks to keep it soupy.

5. Add another 1/2 cup of red wine and 2 tablespoons butter, stirring until melted. Stir in mushrooms, leeks, salt, and pepper, adding more water if necessary to keep the mixture soupy. 

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, if preferred. Simmer for another 20 minutes on low heat or until the soft vegetables. As it cooks, you may require to add extra liquid.

6. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of red wine and beef, simmering for about 5 minutes just to heat through, then remove from heat. 

Spoon over mashed potatoes, polenta, noodles, or garlic bread if desired.

Pearl onions substitute coq au vin

Coq au vin is a famous French dish prepared on the stovetop or in the oven.

In this version, pearl onions are used to substitute white button mushrooms, usually included in coq au vin. 

It’s also fun to serve this dish with a big spoon – you get to dig deep into the dish and get all the juice.

This recipe makes a tasty sauce served with noodles or boiled new potatoes. We recommend using a bottle of red wine from France for this dish, but feel free to experiment with different types of wine from around the world!

The pearl onions can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen and stored at the same temperature as your freezer.

My Favourite Pearl Onions Replacement for My Cooking

Although I use all of them depending on my mood, these are most preferable to other

  • · Leeks
  • · Scallion
  • · Boiling Potato
  • · Sweet potato
  • · Vidalis Potato
  • · Dried pearl potato
  • · Frozen pearl potato
  • · Italian Cipollini
  • · Celery
  • · White onion
  • Carrots

FAQs Related to Pearl Onions & Its Alternatives

Q1. Can I substitute cocktail onions for pearl onions?

You can use cocktail onions, but make sure they are fresh and not overly salty. 

If they are salty, soak them for 15 minutes in a bowl of ice water with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar added before using.

Q2. Can I substitute shallots for pearl onions?

Shallots and pearl onions are almost the same; they taste different. 

While shallots can be substituted for pearl onions in some recipes, we cannot say what would be a good replacement percentage because there is no real substitution that would work exactly as both ingredients contribute different flavors to a recipe. 

Pearl onions are also typically used as a side dish, where shallots are usually added during the cooking process of many dishes.

Q3. Can you substitute pearl onions for onions?

Yes, you can substitute pearl onions for onions in a recipe. While you can’t use any old onion as a substitute for pearl onions, the small white variety is similar to regular yellow and red cooking onions.

Q4. Are pearl onions the same as shallots?

Yes. Pearl onions are a specific variety of shallot. The terms “shallot” and “pearl onion” are used interchangeably to refer to any small, round type of Allium cepa.

Q5. How many pearl onions are in a pound?

There are 16 pearl onions in a pound.

Q6. Are red pearl onions the same as red onions?

The terms “red onions” and “red pearl onions” are often used interchangeably, but this is not always the case. 

Red onion usually refers to a large variety of onions with red skin that may vary in pungency level. 

The red color can be attributed to anthocyanins, which are only found in certain onions, and are not always red. 

Red pearl onions are a smaller version of the common white boiling onion with a purplish tint/skin that may have an even stronger flavor than red onions.

Q7. Can I use boiler onions instead of pearl onions?

Boiler onions are bigger than pearl onions, so don’t use these instead. It’s best to stick with the smaller pearls unless you have other substitutions for the recipe.

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