Fried rice is exactly what it sounds like– precooked rice that has been fried. It can be found as a menu item at almost any restaurant offering Asian cuisine and usually has carrots, peas, scrambled egg, a protein of some sort, and green onions. However, if you’re making it at home and find yourself lacking in the green onion department, fear not, for there are substitutes for green onions in fried rice!
Substitutes for green onions in fried rice include shallots, leeks, yellow onions, red onions, chives, ramps, and garlic scapes.
What Do Green Onions Taste Like?
Green onion plants have two distinct parts with two distinct flavors. The long green stalk of a green onion has a less-assertive, grassy flavor. The white bulb at the bottom of a green onion has the classic spicy, pungent flavor one usually associates with onions. However, this bulb is less potent than a white, yellow, or red onion and can be pleasant when eaten raw.
Shallots and green onions are in the same family but don’t quite look related. Green onions have a long green stalk, while shallots bear a stronger resemblance to small red onions. There are some other key differences to be aware of when swapping green onions for shallots:
- Shallots have a more mildly sulfuric, sweeter flavor when compared to other members of the allium family, like green onions.
- Shallots have a consistent flavor throughout, whereas the bulb and stalk of green onions each possess a different flavor.
- Shallots stand up better to caramelization, whereas green onions tend to burn when cooked for too long.
Shallots as a substitute for green onions in fried rice will still deliver an oniony punch, but less so than the stalks of a green onion, and without the grassy notes.
Leeks and green onions bear a striking resemblance to one another and can both be used in fried rice, though they are not interchangeable in all recipes. Some things to keep in mind when using leeks as a substitute for green onions in fried rice:
- Leeks are larger and slightly tougher, requiring a longer cook time.
- Leeks have a sweet and mild garlicky flavor.
- Only the inner leaves of leeks are used when cooking, while the outer leaves are discarded.
Leeks hold up very well to frying and have a flavor similar to green onions, albeit slightly less oniony. Still, leeks make an excellent substitute for green onions in fried rice.
3. Yellow Onions
Yellow onions are the most pungent of all the other members of the onion family; they demand a tissue along with a cutting board when prepared, as they will make you “cry”. Other notable characteristics of yellow onions include:
- Yellow onions, though they have an assertive aroma, become very sweet when caramelized.
- Like leeks, yellow onions require a slightly longer cooking time in order to “mellow” them out.
Yellow onions will withstand the high temperatures required to make fried rice, but they will have a dramatic influence on the flavor, as they become noticeably sweet when cooked.
4. Red Onions
Red onions are usually considered a “salad onion”; still spicy and robust when raw, but in a way that adds a pleasant brightness to a dish. So if you’re using red onions in your fried rice, you should know:
- Red onions have an assertive flavor and should be used in less abundance than one would green onions, to risk overpowering your dish.
- Cooking red onions will make their flavor dramatically milder.
Red onions have a very upfront kick; use them in moderation as a substitute for green onions in fried rice. However, they will mellow out once cooked.
Chives are from the same family as the other onions discussed in this article, aliums. However, the fact that chives do not have edible bulbs set them apart from the rest of the group. Some additional information to know about chives:
- Chives are much smaller than green onions, and for this reason, they are typically used as a garnish.
- Chives have the onion flavor of all the aliums and will need to be used in abundance to be a true substitute for green onions.
- Chives, unlike onion bulbs, can not be caramelized.
Chives have a very similar flavor to green onions, making them a reasonable substitute for green onions in fried rice. However, due to their small size and milder flavor, they may need to be used in larger quantities than green onions.
Ramps are a wild spring onion, sometimes referred to as wild leeks or wild garlic. They are not seen as commonly as other onions on this list, so if looking to use them in your cooking you’ll need some information on these wild aliums:
- Ramps have long green edible stalks like green onions, though instead of being a tube shape, they appear as a flat leaf.
- Ramps pack a peppery punch, and the intense flavors don’t stop there. They also have a strong flavor that is often described as a cross between garlic and an onion.
- Ramps leaves, like chives, will not carmelize. The bulbs, however, will.
All parts of the ramp are edible, save for the roots. If using ramps as a substitute for green onions in fried rice, it may be wise to add the leaves and bulbs separately, as the bulbs can handle sustained heat for longer without getting crispy or burnt. However, if you would like some added texture to your fried rice, you can achieve this by adding the ramp leaves at the same time as the bulbs and allowing them to get crispy.
7. Garlic Scapes
If you’ve ever had a bulb of garlic start sprouting a long green tendril, then you’ve seen a garlic shoot! If you haven’t, not to worry; here’s what you need to know:
- Garlic scapes are thin and delicate.
- Garlic scapes have a mildly onion flavor with a slightly sweet finish.
- Garlic scapes taste unmistakenly like garlic, though less spicy than a fresh clove of garlic.
Similar to chives, garlic capes are tender and will crisp instead of caramelize when fried. Therefore, they are an interesting substitute for green onions in fried rice as they also bring a robust garlic flavor.
Several different substitutes for green onions in fried rice exist; the substitution you choose ultimately depends on the flavor profile and texture you prefer. If you want sweet, caramelized onions then you should choose shallots, leeks, yellow onions, or red onions for your fried rice. If you’re looking for a mellow onion flavor with a little extra texture, then chives, ramps, and garlic scapes will all hit that mark. Whatever your preference, there is an option that will satisfy!