Among one of the most commonly found ingredients in practically any spice drawer, onion powder is the ground and toasted form of onion vegetables that has undergone some level of dehydration and subsequent processing in order to reduce its volatility and improve its relative shelf-life length.
Onion powder is known to present a somewhat more subdued flavoring than its fresher counterpart, though it none the less imparts the signature allium-vegetable family pungency that complements savory dishes so well, with the added benefit of being easily distributable due to its powdered form.
The best onion-based ingredient substitutes for onion powder are onion jam, onion salt, and onion puree. The best seasoning substitutes for onion powder are garlic powder and celery seed. The best vegetable substitutes for onion powder are onions, shallots, and garlic.
Why Should Onion Powder be Substituted?
Onion powder may require substitution as an ingredient in a recipe due to a variety of reasons, such as the presence of an allium species family intolerance in the meal’s consumers, of which will also exclude a large majority of the other substitute ingredients listed on this article due to their biochemical similarities.
Other reasons for possible substitution of onion powder may be due to the fact that onion powder is oftentimes cut with volume adding ingredients such as flour or cornstarch which may react poorly to certain cooking conditions, clumping up or caking depending on the particular temperature and moisture levels.
Even in the case of simple personal preference, substituting onion powder for a similarly tasting ingredient should not be very difficult, with certain individuals often choosing to supplant onions with such things like garlic or fennel due to their personal dislike of the vegetable.
The most likely reason for substituting onion powder, however, is likely due to a lack of availability, with the chef requiring an immediately available substitution as they realize that onion powder is no longer available in their spice cabinet.
It is fortunate, then, that many of the substitute ingredients listed here are likely already present in any chef’s refrigerator or pantry.
Alternate Onion Based Ingredients
In the event that a simple lack of availability is the primary reason for onion powder’s substitution in a recipe, simply using an alternate form of onion product should be a perfectly suitable substitute ingredient, replicating both the flavor and aroma of onion perfectly due to the fact that it is quite literally also made from onions.
Usually used as a spread for toast or other baked goods, onion jam otherwise known as caramelized onion spread is the heated and treated form of diced onion usually taking on a dark brown to black hue due to the Maillard reaction, also imparting a slightly sweeter and more cloying taste that is not normally found in onion powder, though this is generally seen as a bonus.
The primary drawback to utilizing onion jam instead of onion powder is the difference in physical form, with onion jam being nearly gelatinous and as such may be difficult to incorporate into a stew or sauce without significant physical agitation, unlike onion powder which may spread simply by adding it to a fluid.
Usually consisting of onion powder, salt and certain other binding ingredients like cornstarch or flour, onion salt may also be used as a potential onion powder substitute in cases where onion powder itself is not available but onion salt can be found.
It is important to subsequently reduce the relative additional salt added to the food if using onion salt as an onion powder substitute, as it is entirely possible for a chef to accidentally oversalt their food by utilizing this particular ingredient.
A gelatinous to slurry textured mixture with widely differing ingredients in its recipe, onion puree usually presents a distinctly pungent and aromatic flavor that is considered somewhat stronger and more characteristic than that of onion powder, making onion puree the last possible substitute to use for onion powder in a recipe.
However, a benefit to substituting onion powder with onion puree is the versatility in its use, with onion puree being capable of incorporation into practically any recipe, even in cases of marinades or baked goods.
Seasoning Substitutes for Onion Powder
Being primarily utilized as a form of seasoning, onion powder’s place in any spice mix or recipe ingredient list may be difficult to entirely replace, especially in concern to its mild yet aromatic and somewhat savory flavor profile.
Certain other forms of seasoning may help replicate portions of this taste profile, however, and as such may in part act as a potential substitute, especially if combined with other ingredients that can help make up for the disparity between seasoning flavors.
A close cousin of the onion, garlic and its subsequent seasoning form of garlic powder both present a distinct pungency that is usually found in the allium family – the taxonomic classification of the onion plant, of which its members all share similar taste profiles and aromatic flavors.
Garlic powder may in fact be used in a one to one ratio wherein every teaspoon of garlic powder is equivalent to one teaspoon of onion powder, though the somewhat more savory and slightly less sweet taste of garlic powder may require some level of adjustment be made.
A primary downside to using commercially available garlic powder is its use of flour, cornstarch or other filler ingredients in order to pad out its volume, both reducing the taste similarity between garlic powder and onion powder as well as alter its function in a recipe somewhat.
Whether in its ground or whole seed form, celery seed is capable of imparting a similar pungency and aroma to a recipe’s flavor profile as onion powder itself, though with a distinctly more bitter and astringent aftertaste that some individuals may find off-putting or unpleasant.
As such, it is best to use celery seed as a one to two ratio substitute wherein every teaspoon of celery seed is equivalent to two teaspoons of onion powder.
This is done so as to prevent the aftertaste of celery and its subsequent celery seed seasoning from overpowering or otherwise unbalancing the intended flavor profile of a recipe wherein onion powder is normally used.
Vegetable Substitutes for Onion Powder
In instances where only the flavor of onion powder itself must be substituted with no regards as to the physical consistency or form of the substitute, it is best to use fresh produce that present the finest and most distinct flavors possible – namely, vegetables and fruits, especially of the allium family.
Quite literally the most obvious substitute for onion powder, onions in their whole and raw form are excellent for not only replicating the flavors of onion powder but even to surpass it, imparting a stronger and sharper flavor with far more complex notes in the main body that cannot otherwise be found in its dehydrated seasoning form.
This is, of course, unsuitable if the primary reason for substituting onion powder is due to an intolerance, allergy, ethical or religious beliefs concerning the consuming of onions, or any other sort of circumstance necessitating that onions not be eaten.
A close cousin to the onion, shallots are small and elongated members of the allium family oftentimes characterized as a mixture between garlic and onions, presenting the sweetness of an onion with the mature flavor profile of garlic itself.
Shallots may work as an excellent substitute for onion powder in practically a one to one ratio, as the pungency and aroma of shallots is said to be quite subtle in comparison to other onion variants, making shallots quite similar to onion powder in taste and odor.
Another possible substitute to onion powder that is part of the allium family, garlic can act as a suitable replacement for the onion based seasoning in instances wherein its less sweet and more mature body of flavor will not be noticed due to the presence of other sweet ingredients or the presence of acidic fluids, such as in tomato based dishes.
By extension – garlic can also be used alongside other ingredients listed in this article that do not possess the same aromatic or pungent characteristics normally found in onion powder so as to make up the difference between the substitutes, with garlic acting as a scaffolding on which the other substitute ingredient may build upon.
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