Thanks for coming by to find out what are shallots, those half-garlic, half-onion aromatics.
So, what are shallots, anyway?
Shallots are oblong vegetables in the onion family with a fragile brown skin.
The white flesh is milder than the white or yellow onion, but a bit stronger than the green onion, with hints of garlic.
You can slice, chop, or mince shallots and eat them raw, or saute them on medium heat until golden and fragrant, it’s all up to you.
Although you can replace shallots for onions, some people prefer shallots due to their sweeter, milder taste.
But one thing is for sure, though.
Shallots do a bang-up job building the taste in any dish, especially if you saute it with oil and other condiments.
While some people prefer to eat shallots raw, shallots are mostly cooked in many dishes.
Moreover, it’s also used for roasting because the heat contributes to better caramelization.
So if you’re wondering what makes those dishes extra special, shallots play a considerable role in giving your hearty meals an oomph.
Shallots are a lovely addition in dishes, sauces, vinaigrettes, and every dish you can think of.
The thing is most people often interchangeably use shallots and onions.
Remember that there is a nuance between the two.
So continue reading as we help clear the common question, “What are shallots?”
Shallots have a long history in French cuisine.
Did you know that crusaders traveled from the Middle East to Europe and introduced shallots?
When shallots were introduced in France, they became a huge part of French cooking.
And although shallots are widely-embraced worldwide, it’s still closely associated with classic French cuisine.
Shallots are considered a “building block” in various dishes, and for a good reason.
Shallots belong to the Amaryllidaceae family. In more technical terms, shallots are called “alliums,” which means “garlic” in Latin.
Also known as the Amaryllis family, this family of herbaceous plants consists of bulbous flowering plants such as onions, garlic, and leeks.
Shallots have a more delicate taste, which doesn’t overpower the rest of the ingredients.
That said, expect your dishes to be less bold when using shallots as one of the “foundations” of your recipe.
Additionally, shallots are harvested the same way as the other flowering root vegetables.
Once the crown of the vegetable surfaces on the dirt, this means they can be harvested.
Picking out good shallots means you’ll have to look for one that’s firm and heavy for its size.
Remember to avoid picking out shallots with very soft, discolored or bruised spots.
What do shallots taste like?
The taste of shallots differs and will depend on several factors.
For instance, it will depend on whether you fry, roast, pickle, or prepare it raw.
Shallots have a less dominating taste than onions, which will not overpower your dishes.
However, they are also milder than onion, with a garlicky note.
How you cook or prepare the shallots will impact the taste.
For example, if you eat shallots raw, you’ll find that they will have a similar taste to red onions.
Also, shallots have a crunchy texture when eaten raw.
Once you roast or heat shallots, this process breaks down the vegetable’s structure and gives off a caramelized, sweet taste.
On the other hand, fried shallots will have a sweeter and saltier taste.
Meanwhile, pickled ones will depend on the brining solution you use.
But it will make for a crispier bite.
Is shallot an onion?
In a nutshell, shallots aren’t onions.
However, they belong to the family of onions.
While many people use shallots and onions interchangeably, there are some nuances between the two.
So in case you won’t find labels in the vegetable grocery sections, here’s how to tell both apart.
Shallots typically grow in clusters.
You’ll see that shallots don’t have that perfect bulb shape compared to onions.
They are primarily oblong-shaped, while onions are mostly round.
When peeled, you’ll see that shallots contain cloves instead of rings, like those of an onion.
As for the color, onions can range from opaque white to purple.
On the flip side, shallots can come in red, gray, or brown on the outside. Both have smooth, papery skin.
How to cook with shallots
When cooking with shallots, expect a sweeter taste than onions, which doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients in your dish.
Try our great rice side dish that uses sliced shallows, Rice & Fruit Salad. We find it’s an excellent side dish for fish.
You can cook with shallots in many ways. Some of the common ones are:
To prepare shallots for cooking, slice both ends of the vegetable. Then peel off the paper-like skin to reveal the cloves.
You can slice the shallots into thin pieces or chop them finely or coarsely, depending on how you want to cook them.
Then you can sauté the shallots with olive oil or butter and garlic.
This can be your base for quiche, casseroles, sauces, and soups.
However, for braising or roasting, you may leave the shallots as it is, with or without the skin.
If you prefer to leave the shallots raw in dishes or salad dressings, you can cut them coarsely or finely with the skin off.
They are great substitutes for chives, also.
Types of shallots
Three of the most common types of shallots are the Jersey shallot or pink shallot, the Echalion or banana shallot, and the French shallot or gray shallot.
Here are the differences between the three:
- Jersey shallots have a red or pinkish skin color and look the most similar to an onion. This is also the most popular type of shallots.
- Echalion shallots are a combination of onions and shallots and have brown skin.
- French shallots have gray skin and a pale purple color inside.
What do shallots look like?
Unlike an onion that looks more like a perfect round root vegetable, a shallot carries more of an elongated, oblong or oval shape.
Sometimes the tough stems are long and get removed when processing them.
Shallots are also smaller, with the same paper-like purple or brown skin as an onion.
However, once you peel the skin off, you’ll see that the shallots will sometimes come in clusters, similar to that of a garlic head, and the inside has a reddish color.
In American grocery stores, shallots often come in protective plastic cases because their skin is papery and fragile.
When you cut into a shallot crosswise, you can see the purple rings inside the white flesh.
Can you eat shallots raw?
Shallots are a perfect alternative for onions if you want to eat them raw.
Because shallots don’t have that overwhelming taste compared to onions, it’s an excellent vegetable for salad dressings and dish toppings.
Moreover, they also have a very delicate flavor when eaten raw.
That’s almost a perfect melt-in-your-mouth sensation!
Tips on storing shallots
Since shallots are relatively more expensive than onions, remember to store them properly, so you don’t waste this ingredient.
First, you must choose shallots that are firm with no soft spots or sprouting on their crown.
Otherwise, it’s best to consume the shallots immediately to avoid a bitter taste.
Overall, shallots should be stored in a cool and dry place. However, these are the common ways to store them:
Storing whole shallots in the pantry
Choose a place to store shallots with about 60 to 70 percent humidity to prevent molds.
Then, choose a cool and dry storage place between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, grab a paper bag and punch holes an inch apart from each other.
Make sure only half of the paper bag has perforation, allowing the air to circulate and preventing mold.
You may also store your shallots in a mesh bag.
This method will let you store shallots for up to a year as long as air can circulate and the area is dry.
Storing whole shallots in the refrigerator
If your pantry has high humidity, it’s better to store shallots in the refrigerator.
You only need to place the shallots in the crisper bin, and you no longer need to cover them.
You may store the shallots for up to a month.
Storing minced, sliced, or chopped shallots in the freezer
If you have minced, sliced, or chopped shallots, it’s best to put them in an air-tight container or a zippie, then store in the freezer.
Cut shallots can be stored for up to a year.
Shallot vs scallion
One of the primary differences between shallots and scallions is their appearance.
Scallions are typically long, thin tubes of green vegetables that are hollow inside.
You’ll see that scallions have a white color at the bottom that gradually blends in with the green tube.
You’ll also see an evident root at the bottom of the scallion (aka green onions).
On the other hand, shallots have an oval or elongated shape and are clustered together like garlic.
They come in brown or red skin and are opaque white with a purplish hue toward the center.
Shallot vs onion
Compared to an onion, a shallot is less intense in smell.
Moreover, shallots are also sweeter than its counterpart.
In terms of appearance, shallots look similar to an onion.
However, they are generally smaller and more elongated and appear in clusters.
Onions, however, have a perfectly round shape and come in white or purple, with rings on the inside.
Shallots will have a milder taste than an onion’s more pungent taste when cooked.
The bottom line
Using shallots as your primary base for any dish you’re cooking is an excellent alternative if you don’t have onions or prefer a more delicate taste and less pungent smell.
Also, if you’re looking for something fresh and crisp, try integrating shallots in your salad, dips, and sauces next time.
Want shallots but just can’t find them at the store? We have a list of shallot substitutes for you right here.
And now that we’ve answered the common question, “what are shallots,” you no longer have to second-guess if you’re buying shallots or onions next time you’re out doing groceries.
What Are Shallots: Best FAQ
Shallots are vegetables in the onion family with a thin brown skin. The flesh tastes like a combination of garlic and onion.
- Use shallots like green onion, sliced on top of salads or soup.
- Use shallots like garlic, sauteed until brown and fragrant and stirred into side dishes that call for garlic.
- Use shallots like white onion, chopped fine.
- Use shallots as a substitute for chives.
- Remove skin and cut off the ends of your shallot.
- Slice thin or chop your shallots fine.
- Use raw or saute them on medium heat until golden and fragrant.
- Pull out your recipe and add shallots to enhance your dish with a mild garlicky onion flavor.