What Are Shallots?

Shallots are one of my absolute favorite members of the onions family, and an ingredient that I like to have in the kitchen at all times. If you want to get technical, shallots are “alliums” which is actually the Latin word for “garlic”. So, siblings of shallots include garlic, leeks, chives, and white, red and yellow onions.

There are two basic types of shallots: traditional French shallots (considered by many to be the “true” shallot, pictured above), and seed-grown shallots. Shallots can be grown either in a traditional (“French”) way with multiple bulbs on a single plant, or from a seed. The former has a hard end where it was separated from the bulbous plant and has a softer texture when cooked, while the latter has a “whisker-like” end that served as the roots of the singular bulb and has a firmer texture.

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Shallots are extra special in that they are a bit sweeter than regular onions, and offer a wonderful, but not overwhelming, onion flavor to whatever they touch. They are incredible for sautéing, stir-frying, and can also be braised or roasted in chunks or whole. They can also be added raw into all sorts of dishes, from salads to dressings. I almost never make a vinaigrette without them (or at least some member of the onion family).

What Do Shallots Look Like?

Shallots look like small yellow onions, usually with a deep golden brown/reddish papery skin. “Regular” (seed-grown) shallots are fairly round and bulbous, often with two lobes attached by the root. Sometimes they are large and sometimes smaller, with the smaller ones being “younger” and usually milder in taste. Most common in the United States are the “Jersey” shallots which have the deeper pink-copper color.

French shallots, most common (as one might expect) in France, though available in the U.S. and elsewhere, may have a slightly grayish tone to the skin, and are more elongated in shape.

Below, French shallots are on the left, and “regular” shallots are on the right.

How to Cook with Shallots

Where Can I Find Shallots?

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Shallots are usually available in most grocery stores and farmers markets, wherever onions are sold.

How Do I Pick the Best Shallots?

Select shallots as you would any onion: pick the nice firm bulbs with bright, taut skin. Avoid those with damage or bruises. If you want a bolder shallot taste, go for the large ones and if you are looking for a milder flavor, the small shallots are the way to go.

Once you start cooking with shallots, your kitchen will never be the same. Learn how to buy, prepare, and cook shallots.

What do Shallots Taste Like?

Some people think shallots taste milder than onions in general, but I find them to be fairly comparable, and by that I also mean that the intensity varies from shallot to shallot. Yes, in general the smaller ones are milder, but every shallot has its own personality, so give it a taste to see how strong it is, and make adjustments to the amount used as you see fit.

When cooked, shallots become slightly sweet and quite lush. “Melting” is a term used with shallots because when they are cooked, they become very soft and their flavor melds beautifully into dishes.

How Do I Prepare Shallots?

Shallots can be prepared a number of ways, similar to onions so accordingly, step one is removing the skin. Slice the ends off the shallot and peel the skin off. Depending on your intended use for the shallot, they are then usually thinly sliced or chopped, coarsely or finely. Sometimes they are left whole for roasting or braising.

How Do I Cook Shallots?

Shallots are as versatile as any of its sibling onions. Sliced or chopped raw, they often are added to various vinaigrettes and marinades, salsas, and salads.

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Shallots can also be sliced or chopped and sauteed with olive oil/butter and garlic as a base for soups, sauces, casseroles, sautes, and quiches.

Roasting small peeled shallots as part of a sheet of roasted vegetables is really nice. Another way you might see shallots served are sliced and all crisped up in hot oil, then used to top everything from burgers, stews, salads or anything else!

When are Shallots In Season?

Although shallots reach their peak growing time in late spring/early summer, shallots are generally available in stores year round.

How Do I Store Shallots?

Shallots can be stored in a cool, dry place and will keep for about a month. Alternatively, they can also be placed uncovered in the refrigerator and last about the same amount of time. If you press on the outside of the shallots and it gives, it’s getting past its prime. Once you peel, slice or chop a shallot, the raw shallot should be placed in an air-tight container and can stay fresh in your fridge for about 5 days.

Are Shallots Nutritious?

Not only are shallots delicious, but they are very nutritious as well (though usually they are used in small quantities, so keep in mind that you’re not getting a while lot of shallot). Shallots are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They contain flavonoids, an antioxidant that has immune-boosting properties and helps buffer the body against cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

7 Recipes with Shallots

Here are some recipes that use shallots.

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