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The 6 Outstanding Substitute For Spanish Onion In Cooking

Spanish onions taste good in cooked dishes but better in raw dishes. They are often added to uncooked veggie dishes, side dishes, and toppings. You can eat both the green variety and bulbs of this type of onion.

Note that the longer you cook Spanish onions, the more they will lose their crunch. Aside from eating them raw, it is better to add them to gently grilled and sauteed dishes. You can also use them in cold dips or crushed and added to warm soups.

The best Spanish onion substitutes include the following:

  1. Sweet Onions
  2. Walla Walla Onions
  3. Vidalia Onions
  4. Yellow Onions
  5. White Onions
  6. Red Onions

How do you retain the sweetness and crunch when using the alternatives for Spanish onions, and how different is one kind of onion from the other? 

6 Best Spanish Onion Substitute 

Substitute For Spanish Onion

Just when you thought that all onions are the same, you’d come across a recipe calling for Spanish onion. First of all, there are many kinds of onions.

Still, when talking about the substitutes you can use for Spanish onion, forget about green onion, shallots, and leek in the meantime and focus on onions that taste sweeter.

Before proceeding, let us be clear that technically, the leek is not an onion, but it has that onion-like flavor since it’s an allium. It may taste like a regular onion, but it’s not overpowering.

Going back to Spanish onions, they smell and look like white or yellow onions. But they taste sweet, which is why they are often eaten raw. They are also crunchy since they contain high amounts of water. They have a milder aromatic effect than the typical onions, but they stand out for the sweeter flavor.

Unlike the more common onions, Spanish onions are planted in low soil leading to the bulb’s starchy content becoming more pronounced. In contrast, the usual intense flavor of the common onions becomes less prevalent. However, it still has the classic aroma of the regular onions, but only milder. 

Another thing that you should not get confused with is that Spanish onion is not the same as yellow onion. However, many groceries put yellow onion instead of Spanish onion on labels and tags, hence the confusion.

On a lighter note, you can take the cue and pick a yellow onion each time you need a Spanish onion but couldn’t get your hands on one. What’s the craze about Spanish onions, and why do recipes even bother taking note of which type of onion to use? 

With too much information already said about Spanish onions, this article will cover the best substitutes you can use when you can’t find them. Read on!

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Sweet Onions


They have thinner skin and appear larger than many other kinds of onions. They are sweeter than yellow onions, and some can be eaten like an apple due to their sweet taste. You will find several sweet onion varieties in groceries, including Maui, Texas, Walla Walla, and Vidalia.

While they taste sweeter than yellow onions, sweet onions are less pungent. They also spoil faster than other onions, so you have to keep them refrigerated. Sweet onions make excellent onion rings, tossed into salads, roasted, or added to sandwiches. 

You can also lightly grill these onions with a bit of olive oil and seasonings. They don’t give off the aroma of yellow onions, and they break down quickly, so you can’t heat them for a long time.

Sweet onions make great substitutes for Spanish onions in many dishes since they taste alike with more crisp when bitten. They also retain their form better when cooked but do not subject them to heat for too long. 

In making the substitution, it is okay to follow the 1:1 ratio. 

Walla Walla Onions

This is among the many varieties of sweet onions, and they make an excellent alternative to Spanish onions. They taste almost the same, but this type of onion holds more moisture. 

However, they don’t hold their form well when heated for long, making them more appropriate in raw dishes. You can use the sweetness of this onion in making dips and sauces.

The taste of Walla Walla is closer to regular sweet onions but still makes excellent substitutes for Spanish onions. It is recommended to follow the 1:1 ratio when doing so. Walla Walla will boost the taste of dishes, including casseroles, tortillas, and rice.

Vidalia Onions


This is another variety of sweet onions with the same aroma as Spanish onion but thicker skin. Vidalia is quite popular, the reason why many people think about this variety when referring to sweet onions.

Despite being sweeter than Spanish onions, you can use the 1:1 ratio when making the substitution. They will make a good alternative to many dishes, including cold recipes and raw dishes.

Yellow Onions

Yellow onions are considered the gold standard onion. They are common and among the cheapest of their kind. Typically, when a recipe calls for an onion, many people automatically choose to use yellow onions. 

They give off a spicy and complex flavor, and these onions are known to be hardy. They are pungent due to the higher levels of sulfur they contain than the other onion varieties. This is why it can be difficult to eat them raw, and they are also the kind that makes you easily shed a tear when cutting.

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However, yellow onions have a long shelf life even when kept at room temperature. They taste good in anything sauteed and dishes that cook for a long while on low heat, such as stews, sauces, risotto, stocks, and French onion soup. 

On the other hand, yellow onions may not be your best option when whipping up raw dishes that do not require heating. Despite having a stronger flavor than Spanish onions, it is reduced, and yellow onions become sweet when stir-fried or sauteed. 

This makes this onion variety an ideal substitute for making sauces, cooked soups, and caramelizing dishes. You can also pre-cook or grill them before adding them to salads and tortillas.

White Onions/Pearl Onions

They are the least common among the main kinds of onion. You can cook them like how you would yellow onions. They are clean, crisp, and have a sharper flavor than yellow onions.

They taste good when cooked or raw. They have a shorter shelf life than yellow onions, but you don’t have to keep them in the fridge. 

White onions taste good when used in potato salads, chili, added raw in salads, pasta salads, white sauces, and a variety of Mexican dishes. They make a versatile choice as a substitute for Spanish onions. But they have a stronger flavor that won’t be too overwhelming when cooked. 

You can follow the 1:1 ratio when making the substitution, but expect the sweetness to be milder. If you prefer a sweeter taste, you may like to consider baby onions also known as pearl onions.

White onions can hold their shape better when cooked, making them appropriate in warm dishes, various side dish recipes, caramelized onions, and onion rings. 

You can fry, grill, or cook them even in ways you can’t typically do with Spanish onions.

Red Onions

Red onions or purple onions are spicy, aromatic, and available for most of the year. It is best to buy them in the summer months when the available red onions are milder and taste less sweet than the usual onions, such as white or yellow ones.

Red onions taste better when raw than heated. However, if you find the flavor too sharp, you can soak them in water for up to an hour before using it. They make an ideal addition to salsa, pickles, burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

You only have to choose the kinds of salads where you will include red onions. They have an aromatic and strong flavor that might overwhelm the other ingredients in the dish.

But you can use them as a substitute for Spanish onions as garnishing for tortillas and hot dogs. Make sure that you don’t mind the strong “onion†flavor of red onions when making the substitution.

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Since they have a stronger flavor than Spanish onions, it is recommended to use half of the required amount when using red onions as an alternative.

Substitute For Spanish Onion Related FAQs

What is the main difference between a regular onion and a Spanish onion?

Spanish onions are sweeter and have a longer shelf life than white, yellow, or any other regular onions. They have white or yellow skin with a fine grain and are the size of a softball. They are typically eaten raw due to their mild and surprisingly sweet flavor. 

Spanish onions are versatile and can be added to many dishes. However, they don’t keep very well. While they look almost the same as yellow onions, the two varieties are not the same. 

What are the differences between yellow onions and Spanish onions?

Yellow onions are more common and considered regular onions. They have a longer shelf life but a stronger flavor, making them more ideal in cooked dishes than raw.

Many home gardeners like growing Spanish onions because they are easy to maintain and produce a lot of fruits. Despite looking almost the same as yellow onions, Spanish onions can grow larger than their usual size.

Onions may be called different names depending on their varieties, but they can be typically substituted for one another. You only have to adjust the cooking time, or amount used depending on the taste or how they react to heat.

Make sure that you buy fresh onions when you shop. Go for the types that feel firm and heavy in your hands to check.

It is best to avoid onions that emit a strong onion odor even before peeling and the kinds that feel too soft to touch. They are among the common indicators that onions are no longer fresh.

Can I use sweet onion as a substitute for Spanish onion?

Yes, certainly. You can use sweet onion as a substitute, especially when you are after the sweet flavor that the Spanish onion can give to any dish.

For this kind of sweetness, you can use sweet onions and white onions. To tone down the intense flavor, you can caramelize or briefly cook the onions before adding them to the dish.

What is the closest onion variety to a Spanish onion?

Walla Walla onions, a variety of sweet onions, hold more moisture in the flesh and taste almost the same as Spanish onions. You can add them to raw dishes, but they also taste good when briefly cooked.