11 Best Pearl Onion Substitutes for All Your Cuisines!

Pearl Onion Substitute

Pearl onions are baby onions that are smaller in size and attributed as a pearl because of their shine. But these onions are not always white like pearls; instead, one can find red or brown pearl onions. 

These onions are consumed in multiple ways. For instance, Pearl onions are generally used in salads, stews, pasta, cocktails, and several other recipes (more on that later).

There are a couple of pearl onion substitutes that taste very similar. Suppose you run out of stock or cannot find pearl onions in your local market. In that case, try the following pearl onion alternatives and enjoy the results.

Pearl Onions – A Sneak Peek into the Life of Baby Onions

  • Origin and Existence:

Pearl onions initially originated from Europe during the 1500s. We can hardly find any clue for these onions before that period. Initially, they were grown as a commercial crop. Now they are commonly cultivated in home gardens of Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. 

The tiny onions are also called buttonbaby onions, and silver-skin onions. The pearl onions taste mild and sweet. That is why they often form a serving as pickled onions, caramelized pearl onions, and cocktails.

  • Appearance 

Pearl onions are little marble-sized onions offered loose or in netted bags and have a diameter of 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches. 

Pearl onions with white skin are the most popular, but gold- and red-skinned types are also available.

  • Pearl Onion Uses

We can use pearl onion to flavor stews, gratins, casseroles, and braises. They may be added to roasted meats and vegetables as a hearty side dish, caramelized and served alone, or used to savor soups and stocks. Further, they can be used in salads, as a garnish for cocktails, or as an appetizer plate.

  • Health Benefits

We always have a dish at dinner that has onions in it. And; that is a good thing. These onions will save you from cardiovascular disorders, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. 

The mildly sweet flavor makes pearl onions less acidic than other onion families. People use pearl onions to fight fungal infections, chest infections, disorders, and digestive infections.

  • Peeling Process 

Before using pearl onions, they must always be peeled, which might be difficult. The simplest method is to boil the onions for one to two minutes, drain them and put them in ice water. Cut off the onion roots, then pinch the onion to release the skins.

  • Purchasing and Storage

Look for pearl onions with dried outer skins. Any onions with brown, soft areas or symptoms of sprouting should be avoided. Pearl onions can be stored loosely in a cold, dry, dark place with sufficient ventilation for about a month. It’s not necessary to wrap them.

3 Finger-Licking Good Pearl Onion Recipes

Well, Pearl onions are used in various versatile recipes. And each recipe demands a different cooking or making procedure. A few top recipes of Pearl onions that are my favorite are enlisted here. You can try whichever recipe fascinates you.

  1. Creamed Pearl Onion: The combined flavor of baby onions, parmesan cheese, and butter is enough to make anyone a big fan of this simple cuisine.
  2. Caramelized Pearl Onion: Another simple yet delicious side meal. It is a perfect dessert for your sweet tooth. A mixture of butter, wine, sugar, olive oil, and pearl onions. A sweet delight too.
  3. Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onion: Okay, last but not least is these Balsamic-glazed Pearl Onions. The recipe demands either pearl onions or frozen pearl onion substitutes plus balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and sugar. 

The list of mouth-watering pearl onion recipes such as pearl onion casserole or pearl onion soups is quite long. But, what’s the point of discussing these cuisines if you don’t have pearl onions or the know-how of its proper substitutes. 

Therefore, without any further delay, let’s check out the best Pearl Onion Substitutes so that you can try these recipes even without pearl onions.

Best 11 Pearl Onion Substitutes Right from Your Kitchen

The pearl onions are different from their other species. Their unique flavor separates them from other pungent or spicy onion families. These onions are usually used as a side meal or to suffice the sweet-savory cravings. The canned onions or pickled onions are these baby onions that are either marinated or preserved through a bit of spice. If you want pearl onion substitutes for any possible reason, try these below-mentioned substitutes. This might ease your selection.

1. Frozen Pearl Onions – The Preserved Version

Pearl Onion Substitute - Frozen Pearl Onions – The Preserved Version

The best possible way out can be frozen pearl onions whenever one runs out of fresh ones. Many marts and superstores sell such frozen veggies that include frozen onions too. 

These frozen pearl onions come already peeled. It makes the cooking part fun. No defrosting; toss the frozen onions for cooking straight into the pan, and you are done. The stews and soups that need a softer texture can also be made using frozen pearl onions. 

Moreover, one can easily make creamed pearl onion casserole using frozen pearl onions instead of fresh ones. However, defrosting them for salads or pasta at room temperature is necessary.


2. Leeks – A Close Relative

Pearl Onion Substitute - Leeks

The leafy green sheaths from leeks are the edible portions. These are also called stems and stalks. 

The reason leeks are close relative to baby onions is their milder, sweet oniony flavor. The leeks belong to the same cultivar as to which pearl onions belong. Both share the primary taste, although they appear different. 

As the pearl onions and leeks share the same family and close flavor, that is why; you can replace them without hesitation.


3. Red Onions – Pronounced Pungent

Pearl Onion Substitute - Red Onions

The red onions are medium-sized, and their color is pretty different yet presentable. These onions leave a shade of color on your salads; therefore, their pinkish-purple color makes them suitable for garnishing. 

Raw Red Onions are not a suitable replacement for pearl onions. They certainly change the flavor profile if you eat or add them raw to your cuisines. 

They can only replace baby onions if they are sautéed. Then they get a little milder and sweet with a touch of zest or zing and maybe spiciness. 


4. Brown Onions – Surprising, right?

Pearl Onion Substitute - Brown Onions

The regular onions you find in every market are these brown onions. Wondering how these piquant onions can replace sweeter onions?  

Actually, the brown onions have a hidden side that gets revealed if you sauté them. Their flavor completely transits from spicy, intense, or savory, and harsh to completely milder and sweet. And they become an accurate option for pearl onion substitutes

Although brown onions may vary from large to medium ranges, they also have a tear-dropping ability. 


5. Supasweet Onions – Name says it all!

Pearl Onion Substitute - Supasweet Onions

Supasweet onions can be your choice if you are acid-allergic or often avoid oniony pungent flavor. As the name suggests, Supasweet Onions are famous due to their mild and sweet aromatic flavors and textures. 

If your stomach is sensitive to the acidic side of onions, then; you can replace all onion requiring recipes with this attractive option.


6. Scallions – How Can We Forget the Green Onions!

Pearl Onion Substitute- Scallions

Scallions are green onions. These onions are mostly young ones grown without giving the bulb proper time to develop in diameter. The scallions are often used as red pearl onion substitutes in garnishing as they are milder in taste.  

The white portion of scallions is consumed just like the regular onions. Still, its green portion is also not a waste. But this leftover can be used in dips and sauces or even in a few salads. 

However, it is not one of the excellent pearl onion substitutes in salads, as it can infuse a pinch of spiciness into the recipes.


7. Cipollini – Italy Based Onions

Pearl Onion Substitute - Cipollini

Cipollini is the queen of many Italian cuisines. But this onion is not just confined to Italian cuisines only. 

In several recipes, the Cipollini onions work as a proper replacement for pearl onions. For instance, caramelized recipes, pickles, and canned onion recipes. 

As a matter of fact, Cipollini is an excellent alternative for caramelized pearl onion recipe.


8. Canned Onions – Baby Onions in a Jar!

Pearl Onion Substitute - Canned Onions

If your local stores run out of pearl onions, even then, they must have these canned onions in store. The only difference is that they are not in netted bags or loose bags; instead, these onions are packed in cans. And the other significant difference is that they come in several marinades. 

But that’s; not a problem. These marinades can sometimes work well for your salads dressing and add extra flavor. Besides, if you want to use the onions only, then strain them underwater, and they are done!


9. Shallots – Elongated Family

Pearl Onion Substitute - Shallots

The Shallots are not onions but more than onions. Shallots are more of an alternate for pearl onions, especially in salads. One can easily guess the taste and texture of onion by biting a shallot. 

Their purple color makes them appealing for all onion-requiring recipes. The taste of shallots is a combination of spiciness, tanginess, and sweetness. They bring out an oniony aroma and do not even disturb the flavor profile of your dish. 


10. Cocktail Onions – Ah, Juicy!

Pearl Onion Substitute - Cocktail Onions

Again, the name tells the story behind it. Cocktail Onions can be your choice if your dish requires extra sweet juicy flavor or in case you need white pearl onion substitute

These cocktail onions are initially made to garnish or add a full stop to any cocktail glass. These onions taste much sweeter than canned ones because of their seasoning. 

It’s pretty much hard to use them after straining for stew or any other cooking procedure. They best suit on top of the cocktail.


11. Boiling Onions – Best for Everything!

Boiling Onions - Pearl Onion Substitute

These onions are all in one replacement. Boiling onions are smaller than all the other onions except pearl onions. These onions are not very hard and need only 30 seconds or less to loosen their outer peel. 

The Boiling onions are suitable for every recipe that needs pearl onions. The size of boiling onions is pretty much similar to pearl onions. And the flavor of boiling onions is more sweet than spicy or oniony, exactly like pearl onions. 



Can I grow pearl onions at home?
You can grow pearl onions by seeding them indoors for almost six weeks before transplanting them outdoors in soil ground.
Do you have to cook pearl onions?
Pearl onions are hard to peel. That’s why we need to boil them for 30 seconds first. And then they peel off easily. They are minute in size, which makes whole onion consumption easier. But pearl onions taste better once roasted or sautéed.
Are Shallots and pearl onions the same?
Shallots and pearl onions are pretty much the same in taste. The shallots are elongated with minimal diameters, and pearl onions are smaller. They are not the same but are very much similar.
Is Spanish onion the same as sweet onions?
Spanish onions have a sweeter taste than sweet onions. So, you only replace them with sweet onions if you want to add a sugarier texture to your dish.
What are little round onions called?
Baby onions, pearl, silver skin, and buttons are the names of little round onions ranging from 3/4th to ½ inch.

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