5 Of The Best Spanish Onion Substitutes To Try Today

A type of yellow onion, hence its common store name “yellow onions,” the Spanish onion is found in most grocery stores and supermarkets.

This may shock you but these onions are named after the country where they were first cultivated, Spain – surprise!

Compared to other varieties of onions, Spanish onions are milder, meaning they are popular in all types of salads. Their skin is typically quite papery and thin, whilst its flesh has a pale yellow hue to it.

As well as being mild, these onions become sweet and tender once they have been cooked, making them perfect for countless dishes worldwide, such as French onion soup, or those that require a subtle onion flavor.

Not only are Spanish onions tasty, they are also believed to have medicinal properties. They are understood to help benefit heart health and improve blood sugar levels. Yep, they may be a kind of superfood!

5 Of The Best Spanish Onion Substitutes To Try Today

With so many great attributes, it’s no surprise that the Spanish onion is used for many culinary purposes. But, sometimes, it just isn’t available in the store (probably because it sold out).

Not only this, but these onions can also be quite expensive. Therefore, many of us need to look elsewhere for alternatives.

If you have tried looking for Spanish onions at your local grocery store, only to come up empty-handed, there is no need to worry. Luckily, there are plenty of substitutes that can be used in place of Spanish onions in your cooking. 

In today’s post, we’ll explore some of the best options for replacing Spanish onions, so you can continue to make your favorite dishes without having to search high and low for a specific type of onion.

What Is A Spanish Onion?

A Spanish onion, also known as a yellow or brown onion, is a type of onion that is larger and sweeter than most other varieties of onions.

It has a yellow-brown papery skin that is easy to peel and a white flesh that is juicy and tender.

When it comes to taste, Spanish onions are typically milder and sweeter than other onions, which makes them a popular choice for many recipes.

They are often used in dishes such as stews, soups, sauces, and salads, and are also a popular choice for caramelizing due to their sweetness. 

Moreover, because of their large size, Spanish onions are often used in recipes that call for chopped onions, but they can also be enjoyed as a side dish. 

Many parts of the world grow Spanish onions, but they are especially associated with Spain, hence the name “Spanish onion.” 

When on the search for these onions, try and find those that are firm and heavy.

They should have dry, crisp outer layers. If the onion is soft or sports brown spots on its skin, it’s a sign that it has started to decay, so you should avoid it.

Once bought, you can usually store Spanish onions for two weeks, as long as they are in a cool, dry place. 

Sometimes, however, you may find it challenging to find Spanish onions in the store. Whether you can’t find any or want to try something different, the following Spanish onion substitutes should fulfill most recipes nicely. 

Spanish Onion Alternatives 

1. Sweet Onions 

Our first Spanish onion substitute today is the versatile and irresistible sweet onion. With their juicy, plump texture and sweet, delicate flavor, sweet onions can be both savory and sweet.

Therefore, they work well in a variety of dishes, much like Spanish onions. 

Sweet onions can be used in sauces, soups, and salads, or as a stand alone side dish when grilled or roasted. They are also a popular topping on pizzas and burgers.

This is thanks to their mild taste. In fact, although Spanish onions are mild, sweet onions are far milder which is why many prefer these to their Spanish counterparts. 

Of course, as the name suggests, these onions are far sweeter than Spanish onions, too. That is why you should consider the sweetness of your dish before choosing them as a Spanish onion substitute.

If your dish is savory, you may need to add some extra salt to balance their sweetness. 

Sweet onions also have a softer texture, meaning they may not always be the best option for frying or cooking. But, they are versatile and can even be used on desserts, including cakes and pies. 

2. White Onions

White onions are one of the most popular Spanish onion alternatives as they are easy to find in the grocery store, and more often than not, you may already have some in the kitchen. 

A staple in many dishes, white onions come in two varieties:

  • European white onion
  • American white onion 

The European kind is milder than the American variety which has a sharper, spicier flavor. Both, though, are versatile and inexpensive, hence their popularity.

Moreover, they can be stored for long periods in the kitchen or pantry so you can use them when needed. 

White onions are a type of allium, like leeks, garlic, and chives. They have a papery skin like Spanish onions that is easy to peel with a crispy, white flesh.

Compared to other onions, like yellow onions, the white variety is more pungent with a sharper flavor, so expect some tears when peeling them!

You’ll often see these onions in Mexican recipes, such as guacamole, salsas, and enchiladas.

So, for your next Mexican meal night, swap out those Spanish onions and try white onions instead. We’re sure you’ll love them! 

3. Yellow Onions

Because Spanish onions are often labeled as “yellow onions” in grocery stores, it is no surprise that yellow onions are another great alternative to Spanish onions for many dishes. After all, they share many similar characteristics and flavors.

Firstly, yellow onions have a similar shape and size to Spanish onions, and both varieties have a papery outer layer that can be easily peeled away.

This makes them equally easy to prepare and use in a variety of recipes. In terms of flavor, yellow onions have a slightly sweeter taste than Spanish onions, but still possess the characteristic pungency and tanginess of onions.

This makes them a good choice for dishes that require a milder onion flavor, such as soups, stews, and sautés.

Then, there are the similarities in texture. Yellow onions also have a firm texture as Spanish onions, with a crisp flesh that softens when cooked.

This makes them ideal for recipes where the onions need to hold their shape and texture, such as in salads or roasted vegetable dishes.

If we had to choose only one Spanish onion substitute, yellow onions would probably be top of the list. They are a versatile and flavorful alternative to Spanish onions, and can be used interchangeably in many recipes.

Whether you’re making a classic French onion soup or a spicy salsa, yellow onions are sure to add a delicious burst of flavor and texture to your dish.

4. Walla Walla Onions

Ever heard of Walla Walla onions? Well, if you haven’t, it’s time to enlighten you on how good they are as Spanish onion substitutes, especially if you’re looking for a sweeter flavor profile.

Walla Walla onions are a type of sweet onion that are grown primarily in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington state, USA. Like Spanish onions, they have a round shape and a papery outer layer that can be peeled easily. 

In terms of flavor, Walla Walla onions are much sweeter than Spanish onions, with a mild, almost honey-like taste.

This sweetness is essentially due to their lower sulfur content, and it is this which gives onions their characteristic pungency.

This makes Walla Walla onions a great choice for recipes where you want a milder onion flavor, such as in salads, sandwiches, and various raw preparations like salsas and dips.

These onions also have a slightly softer texture than Spanish onions, which can be an advantage in some dishes. For example, they are amazing in caramelized onion recipes, where their natural sweetness can really shine through.

A delicious and versatile alternative to Spanish onions, Walla Walla onions can be a little hard to come by in the store, but the search is worth it, especially when you want a sweeter onion flavor.

Not only do they work well in a variety of recipes, but Walla Walla onions can be used interchangeably with other onion varieties, too.

5. Vidalia Onions

You may not have heard of Vidalia onions either, but these are another good alternative to Spanish onions, particularly for dishes that require a milder, sweeter flavor.

Vidalia onions are a type of sweet onion from the Vidalia region of Georgia, USA. Their shape is somewhat like Spanish onions and they also boast an easy to peel, thin skin.

Whilst similar in many ways, Vidalia onions are much sweeter and milder than their Spanish cousin. Like Walla Walla onions, Vidalia onions also have a low sulfur content that gives them a subtle, almost buttery taste.

This makes them a great choice for recipes where you want a sweet onion flavor without the robust nature that many other onion varieties possess.

In terms of texture, Vidalia onions are typically softer than Spanish onions, giving them an advantage in certain dishes.

They are particularly great for salads and sandwiches, as well as in cooked dishes where you desire a milder onion flavor.

Delicious and versatile, Vidalia onions are an excellent alternative to Spanish onions, especially when you want a sweeter, milder onion flavor.

However, it’s worth noting that Vidalia onions are only available seasonally (typically from April to August), so they may not be readily available year-round.

In Summary

Onions can transform the blandest of dishes into something exceedingly flavorful. Luckily, there are so many varieties of onions to choose from, so there’s nearly always a substitute for one.

When it comes to Spanish onions, our five alternatives above are great options. Just consider whether your dish is savory or sweet before deciding on a substitute to ensure the onion you’re choosing suits your dish.

Thanks for reading!

5 Of The Best Spanish Onion Substitutes To Try Today

Recipe by AubreyCourse: Substitutes


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Sometimes, it’s hard to find the ingredient you need at home and in-store. Check out our guide on the best Spanish Onion substitutes to try at home today.


  • Sweet Onions 

  • White Onions

  • Yellow Onions

  • Walla Walla Onions

  • Vidalia Onions


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

https://youtu.be/dZ_ELl7lTZYVideo can’t be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: Onions – What's the Difference? (https://youtu.be/dZ_ELl7lTZY)
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