Navigating Rising Onion Prices: 7 Alternatives to Help Cut Costs
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Onions have been a staple vegetable in Indian kitchens for a long time now. They are everyone’s favourite because they add exceptional taste, flavour, aroma, and depth to a long list of dishes. Onions are used in a variety of dishes and cuisines in Indian food and we can hardly conceive of a dish that doesn't incorporate these kitchen staples.

Now when the price of tomatoes has cooled down, the price of onions is fluctuating more and more. Because of this, onions have become less accessible in the Indian markets to normal people. This happens almost every year because of crop failure, excessive rain, or scarcity of water.

If you are finding yourself needing to cut down on the usage of onions due to the rising prices nowadays, you don’t need to worry. There are a number of alternatives which you can go for, that provide similar taste, flavours, and textures to your meals.

These are the 7 alternatives that can help you in maintaining the essence of your dishes while lessening your reliance on onions for a while:

1. Leeks: Leeks have a mild onion flavour and can easily pass as a substitute for onions in several recipes you want to make. They can be used in gravies, fritters, chinese snacks, and other snacks. You can slice them up thinly and fry or sauté them so as to release their delicate flavour into your dish.

They also work well for soups, stews, and sauces, by giving a subtle onion flavour without getting their flavour overpowered in the dish.

2. Shallots: Shallots are another great alternative of onions which are known for their sweet and nuanced essence. They have a slightly less strong taste than regular onions which makes them ideal for dressings, sauces, and vinaigrettes. 

You can use them by chopping them finely or mincing them to infuse their mild onion undertone into your dishes.

3. Scallions: Scallions possess a fresh and vibrant flavour that is not as intense like regular onions. The sharpness and overpowered flavour is not there in scallions. Both the white as well as green parts of the scallions are usable. Scallions are also known as Green Onions. 

They can be conveniently used in salads, stir-fried dishes, garnishes, and chinese snacks. You can also use them in scrambled eggs for a subtle and delicate onion flavour.

4. Garlic: Although garlic has a unique and distinct flavour profile from onions, it is a versatile substitute to be used in the place of onions. Garlic provides a strong complex flavour to any dish and enhances the taste and aroma of the dish.

They can be finely chopped, grinded into a paste, or minced to add depth and complexity too in many dishes like pasta, noodles, stir-fries, and sautéed vegetables. Just keep in mind that garlic tends to possess a more pronounced flavour and thus needs to be used in moderation so that the balance of the dish is maintained.

5. Celery: Celery provides a mild and earthy flavour to dishes that can easily serve as a backdrop for those dishes, which require onion-like complexity. It is not a very strong substitute like garlic which has a totally different flavour.

You can incorporate celery into your dishes by dicing and sautéing them to make a base for soups, sauces, and stews. Its texture and flavour can add a real depth to your kitchen creations.

6. Fennel: Fennel bulbs have a subtle anise-like flavour that can match the sweetness of onions. When cooked, fennel bulbs get soften and impart a mild aromatic quality to dishes. 

Fennel bulbs are specifically suitable for braised dishes, roasted meats, and sautéed vegetables.

7. Cumin Seeds: If you seek to add an onion-like aroma without having to add the actual ingredient, cumin seeds can also be a solution. 

You can roast or toast cumin seeds before you add them into your dishes such as rice, curries, lentils, or stews, so that a rich, warm flavour can be infused which are reminiscent of onions.

Tips for Successful Substitution

1. You should start the substitution by using smaller quantities of the alternative ingredient. You can gradually increase them as the flavour transition gets accustomed with the quality and flavour of your dishes.

2. You should always keep in mind the intended flavour profile of your dish. Some alternatives tend to work better in particular cuisines or types of recipes.

3. Texture is a crucial factor in any dish. Pay attention to the alternative ingredient’s texture and how it is going to impact the overall mouthfeel.

4. Learn to balance the substitutes with other ingredients to achieve a well rounded flavour. Ensure that it complements the other flavours in the dish.

5. Use herbs and spices such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, red chillies, coriander, turmeric, etc to enhance the overall flavour complexity of your dishes.

Onions are undoubtedly one of the most important elements of flavour in various dishes. But their seasonal rising prices may impact their daily use. So by including some alternatives of onions, you can still enjoy your dishes with a hint of the depth and intense flavour of onions. Try and discover a new range of flavours waiting to be explored.