Dhaka Courier

Are there any substitutes for the onion?

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As a spice, the humble Onion has indispensable contribution in Bengali cuisine and recipes. However, due to unprecedented price hike of Onion in recent days, masses of Bangladesh are facing hard times to afford this spice for cooking everyday meals. In this situation, the question arises: is there any substitute for onions in cooking without compromising the taste and flavour?

Best Substitutes for onion in Bengali recipes:

You can use Onion powder or Onion Flakes instead of raw Onions. If you want to cook without Onion, then let’s check out some smart substitutes of Onion in cooking Bengali cuisines.

Chives

Chives are one of the best substitutes of Onion. It can create an Oniony flavor in the recipe with a bonus hint of garlic. Chives look similar to green onions. Through the lens of genetics, Chives plants belong to the broad Onion family. Chives plants bear glass blades like thinner stalks with tiny bulbs.

What most amazed us about Chives is that the whole plant – including upper portion of the Chive Stalks, green glower, and leaves – can be used for cooking. Chives plants are enriched with diverse vitamins and nutrients including Vitamin C, B1, B2, niacin, carotene, and some other mineral contents.

In 2017, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) invented ‘Chieve1’, a high yielding variety of ‘Chive’ crop widely found in China, Mongolia and Siberia. Scientists expect that this local variety can grow in Bangladesh round the year.

Garlic

Garlic is a popular spice widely used in recipes with Onion. Garlic works as a great substitute when we omit Onion from certain Bengali recipes. However, to replace the Oniony flavor you may have to add a little more Garlic paste depending on the type of cuisine you wanna cook. Garlic is rich in zinc, iron, Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, and C), folate, sodium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and phosphorous.

Thinly Diced Vegetables

While cooking Bengali recipes, Onion plays a great role in condensing the gravy. You can use chopped vegetables like carrots and tomatoes to substitute this thickening effect of Onion in gravies, different curries, soups, salads, etc.

You can also apply diced Bell Pepper in cooking as gravy thickener. Thinly chopped Cabbage can also replace the flavor of Onions in some dishes. Furthermore, Grated veggies like Bottle Gourd, Ridge Gourd or Snake Gourd can substitute Onion in a variety of dishes, including curries, soups, gravies, desserts, etc.

Cumin or Melon Seeds

Melon and cumin seeds could be another smart substitute of Onion. Create a mixture of freshly ground Melon seeds, Cumin seeds, Yogurt, Coconut Paste or milk. This fusion can perform great to thicken the gravy of any curry. You also use Cashews, but it is more expensive than Onion.

Ginger

Fresh ginger can stand as a smart substitute to Onion for many Bengali recipes. It may perform better if used with garlic paste. Ginger is rich in Vitamin B3, B6, and C, Phosphorus, Iron, Folate, Magnesium, Zinc, Riboflavin, Potassium and Niacin.

Fennel (Mouri)

Dried Fennel seeds are one of the most common spices used in Bengali recipes. In the country, Fennel seeds are popular as ‘Mouri’.  Fennel has an anise resembling flavor. You can use all parts – foliage, bulb, plant and seeds – of this aromatic herb in the process of cooking and food preparation. Bearing medicinal properties, Fennel seeds are enriched with manganese, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Celery or Celery Roots

Onion is used in the preparation of various recipes for rendering aromatic flavor. When you don’t have Onion in your kitchen don’t panic! You can put chopped Celery to your gravies, curies, sauces and soups to imitate the Oniony flavor. Celery is rich in diverse vitamins and minerals including Vitamins (A, C, and K), Folate, and Potassium.

Asafetida (Hing)

This spice is highly popular in Indian recipes for its pungent flavor. Depending on the quantity, it takes only one or two pinch of Asafetida or Hing to prepare a dish, in general. However, this spice is not widely available in Bangladesh.

Bottom Line

Undoubtedly, it is hard to find an exact alternative to Onion, as it plays a versatile role in creating flavour, taste and texture in Bengali cuisine. However, Chives can be a potential substitute for Onion, if produced in the country. In this article, we have discussed some other Spices and vegetables, as smart alternatives to Onion. If you are a little creative with recipes, you can replace the taste and flavour of Onion with these spices and vegetables available in the country. Thus we can combat the ongoing crisis without breaking the bank. q

  • Are there any substitutes for the onion?
  • Rifat Tabassam
  • Vol 36
  • Issue 25
  • DhakaCourier

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