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What you can use instead of onion

Q: “I was recently diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Making changes to my diet was not difficult with the help of a nutritionist, and I have found substituting foods relatively easy. Except for onions. Onions are one of the main contributors to my symptoms and they are in so many recipes! What can I use as an onion substitute?”


A: I have recently discovered, like you, that although I love the flavour of onions, they do not love me back. But as with many IBS sufferers, I have found that a small amount of onion is OK — say the amount I might get from half an onion used in a recipe to serve 4 — but a lot of onion is no good, for example, French onion soup is a no-go. So it could be a matter of figuring out how much onion, if any, you are able to tolerate before you get symptoms. If you find that little to no onion is the only thing that works for you, try these tips:

  • The green parts of spring onions are often tolerated by IBS sufferers. I use these now in place of regular onions in most of my cooking.
  • Garlic-flavoured oil is a useful ingredient to use in cooking – it’s not the same as onion but it does give a related flavour.
  • Onion powder gives a reasonable onion flavour with very little actual onion.
  • To replicate the texture of onion, try using diced celery, green capsicum or fennel.

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