The scallion is a slender young green onion that has a stalk with a mild onion and garlic flavor. Its leaves offer a grassy, fresh taste. They’re a versatile vegetable, delicious added to salads, soups, stir-fries, or as a filling in dumplings. Scallions also add color and a pop of flavor when chopped finely and used as a garnish on eggs or tofu.
If you can’t or won’t use scallions in a dish then you’ll need an alternative ingredient to finish that recipe. We’re about to run through a selection of excellent substitutes for scallion that have similar flavor profiles. They’re mostly from the same family of vegetables as the scallion - the allium family. Let’s get started!
7 scallion alternatives
The best option will depend on which part of the scallion you’re looking to replace; the stalk or the leaves. Keep this in mind when making your choice from the below list.
“Replace the scallion greens”
If you need to replace scallions as a garnish then chives are a great option. They’re a little milder so you may want to add extra, but your best option is to taste test and add more based on personal preference. Chives won’t add the same crunch as scallions, but they provide a lovely burst of color and extra flavor. Sprinkle the herbaceous greenery onto soup, scrambled eggs, salads, or incorporate into herb butter and dips.
When preparing chives remember that they bruise easily, so the best way to cut them up is with sharp scissors. You can store the chives as a bunch wrapped in a damp towel. They keep fresh longest in the vegetable crisper of the fridge.
Tip: If you want an extra boost of flavor use garlic chives (Chinese chives) as they provide a more intense garlic taste.
2. Spring onions
“To up the flavor hit”
Many people don’t realize that spring onions are not the same as scallions. However, they are very similar, which makes them an excellent replacement ingredient. Spring onions look very similar to scallions, but they have a small bulb at the base of the plant.
Although the flavors of these two vegetables are similar, the spring onion has developed further in the ground and has a stronger flavor. The greens are the closest alternative you’ll find for replacing scallion greens. They can be used in the same recipes as scallions, but they’ll taste stronger so be prepared. Look for spring onions that still appear young – the older the leaves get, the tougher their texture.
You can cook the bulb section in stir-fries, frittata, ragout, and other savory cooked dishes the way you would scallions. They have plenty of bite, which sweetens and pacifies once sautéed in thick pieces.
“Replace the scallion whites”
Leeks, which look like over-sized scallions, do a decent job of replacing them in any recipe thanks to their clean savory taste. Use the white part, not the leaves which are tough when raw and have an unpleasant texture cooked. Instead, you’re best to discard the leaves and focus on the flavorsome stalk.
The leek isn’t a good option for slicing finely and adding to a garnish. To release the sweetness and tone back its sting, they should be cooked. Sautéing, frying, boiling, or slow cooking are all suitable methods to cook this vegetable.
“to sweeten the flavor profile”
Shallots are a mild and sweet-tasting vegetable with a subtle hint of garlic. In salads, they can be sliced thinly and added for some extra bite. Their sweetness is enhanced once cooked and roasting them until caramelized or adding to stews and soups are all great choices.
The shallot has more of a brown onion flavor so we would not recommend using it raw as a garnish on any meal.
“to enhance the garlic flavor in food”
Scapes are the delicate-flavored green shoots of a garlic plant and are best described as a cross between garlic and scallions. Although mild, they have a more pronounced garlic flavor than scallions. You can chop them finely and mix into butter, sauté briefly and sprinkle onto pizza, or add to a stir-fry at the end of cooking.
The biggest challenge is finding them in-store. If they’re not in season then you’re best to move on to another option on this list.
6. Brown onions
“if you’re in a pinch”
Brown onions have a much more pungent bite to them when compared to scallions. They can be used as a last resort in cooked food. If you’re cooking a stir-fry then add the onions early so they have time to develop milder flavor. This is a different approach than scallions, which should be added at the end.
Avoid using brown onions chopped in raw food unless you’re happy with an overpowering flavor in whatever you add it to. Some people love them raw, in which case, the brown onion is perfect as a substitute.
Related reading: Check out our guide to the common types of onions and how to prepare them.
“A flavor-packed substitute but hard to source”
Ramps are a smaller, more delicate version of the scallion, with a more pungently garlic taste. On the flavor scale, they’re stronger than scallions but milder than onions or garlic. For those that enjoy loads of flavor in their food, ramps can be used raw. To take the edge off their bite, consider cooking briefly to soften the blow.
The biggest challenge with using ramps is that they’re another vegetable that are hard to find. Unless you live near a well-stocked farmers market, you may need to look into growing them yourself.
- As a general rule, when you choose a substitute look to replace leaves with leaves and bulbs with bulbs.
- The scallion has one of the sweetest flavor profiles of all the onions varieties.
Scallions, or green onions, are an excellent vegetable for adding a combination of onion and garlic to a dish, without it being too overpowering. If you need a substitute then chives, spring onions, leeks, or shallots are all good options. Scapes and ramps will also work well in some meals, but they can be a challenge to source. Brown onions aren’t ideal, but they may be suitable in some recipes if you’re in a pinch. Of course, you could simply choose to leave the scallions out and not replace them?
Do you have another backup option if you have no scallions? Please let us know in the comments below.