A member of the onion family, the shallot actually tastes like an onion and garlic had a sweet, mild-flavored baby. Often confused with scallions, shallots are quite different. The shallot is an oblong-shaped bulb with copper-colored papery skin. Underneath you will find white or purple-tinted flesh divided into garlic-like cloves, which is ideal when a recipe calls for just a small amount of onion or shallot. You can pull away one clove and keep the rest for later use. Featured in French cooking, the shallot may have the reputation of being a fancy aromatic but it is readily available, easy to use, and delicious in a variety of recipes.
Shallots can be found in most major grocery stores, usually grouped with the onions and garlic. They are a useful and long-lasting pantry staple to have on hand, especially since they can replace garlic, onions, or even scallions in a pinch.
Shallot Cooking Tips
- To prepare a shallot for cooking, cut the ends off of the shallot and peel away the skin. Then separate the cloves and then chop the shallot according to the recipe (finely, medium chop, etc.).
- Unlike onions, shallots are delicious raw and work well in salads, sandwiches, and vinaigrettes. A mandoline will help you thinly slice shallots.
- Shallots work particularly well in dishes using white wine, butter, and cream. They are a staple in French cuisine.
- Although shallots caramelize like onions, it is important to saute them gently. Browning shallots over high heat is likely to turn them bitter, much like garlic.
- When caramelized properly, shallots will result in a sweet, candy-like treat that can be eaten as is or included in a wide variety of recipes.
- Roast shallots in their skins until soft. Then peel, puree, and use as a flavoring for soups or sauces.
- Top mashed potatoes, green beans, and even steak with lightly fried, crispy shallots.
- Shallots can also be pickled and are a great topping for rich dishes like chili.
- Shallots do not cause bad breath like garlic or onions and are more easily digestible.
- Onions and scallions may be substituted for shallots, but expect a stronger onion flavor. Leeks will have a more similar taste to shallots.
- Refrigeration is not recommended for shallots as cold temperatures tend to encourage sprouting. If you use only part of a shallot, you can seal the remaining part in a zip-top bag or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Shallot Measurements and Substitutions
If you are using shallots in any recipe or plan to substitute a shallot for a different vegetable, use these guidelines to help determine the right quantity.
- 3 to 4 shallots may be substituted for 1 small onion. (Shallots vary in size so eyeball how big the shallots are and try to equal the amount of one onion.)
- 4 medium shallots = 1/4 cup finely minced shallots
- 8 to 9 shallots = 1 pound
- 1 shallot = 2 to 3 scallions