Lots of people don’t really distinguish between shallots and onions. In fact, Allium ascalonicum (shallots) are classified as a separate species within the broader Allium cepa (onions).
Other close relatives include garlic, leek, chive and Chinese onion. Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish them from red onions is their smaller size, interiors that cook faster, and a decidedly milder flavor – a subtleness which makes them favorites in a number of cuisines.
How long do shallots last and what’s the best way to store them, either in whole or chopped form? And lastly, what should you do to prevent them from going bad quickly?
This is what we will be covering today, as shallots are definitely something you shouldn’t skip over if you want to prepare a really stunning dish.
How long do shallots last ?
Shallots can last for up to a month if stored in a cool, dark, dry place that has plenty of airflow (like a pantry). Shallots keep as well as onions and garlic, and if you don’t store them all in a big mound they can last even longer.
Storing shallots in the fridge will bring the storage time down to about 2-3 weeks, because the air is too cold and your shallots will end up being frostbitten.
The common wisdom is that shallots can be stored in cold and dry climates for weeks on end, unless they are cut into pieces. In warmer climates, they may not last too long unless they are frozen – more on that below.
How long do fresh shallots last ?
This depends on the freshness of the stock you have, of course, and also how you’re storing them. Let’s start with whole shallots.
If you live in a cool, dry climate and store your vegetables at or below room temperature, whole shallots can easily last four to five weeks in your pantry. The key words are dark, cool, dry and well-ventilated.
If you live in a hot and humid climate (consistently above 80 F in daytime temperature and above 50% humidity) and your kitchen/pantry is not air conditioned, expect them to grow moldy and/or rot within a few weeks – a month may be really pushing it.
Check for signs of them going bad before using them.
The picture changes if you store the shallots in your deep freezer. If the temperature stays around 32-40 F/0-4 C, whole shallots will stay edible for up to 6 months, maybe even longer.
Know that shallots are mostly water and fiber, so when you thaw them they will be very soft.
If you store shallots in the bottom half of your fridge, the moisture buildup alone will cause to decay faster – you should not expect them to last more than 2-3 weeks.
As with almost any fresh vegetables, you cannot expect chopped pieces to last for more than a couple of hours if left on the counter.
Place chopped shallots in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. They will last up to 4 days in the fridge, and up to 6 months in the freezer.
Dried or Pickled Shallots
If you buy dried shallots, or ones pickled in vinegar, you can expect longer shelf life, as would be normal with most dried or pickled vegetables.
These should last for a while, certainly for many months – if they don’t get a fungal infection or mold. Dried shallots can be stored out in the open, though you may freeze them if the use is far into the future and you live in a hot, humid climate.
Pickled shallots in sealed jars need to be refrigerated once the seal is broken.
How to tell if shallots are fresh
If you are familiar working with onions, you should not have too much trouble discerning (quickly) if your shallots are edible or if they have gone bad.
Fresh shallots come in a range of colors, from grayish white to golden to rose red. Their flesh inside is off-white, similar to a red onion, and is often tinged with shades of magenta or green.
How to tell if shallots have gone bad
If they have started to rot, you will be able to tell by the soggy, pulpy interior. Dark patches or mold on the external skin and the odd smell which you must have come across when onions go bad are definitely signs the shallots are bad.
If the inside is oozing liquid or you see clear signs of black rot, get rid of it at once.
Be aware that unless you live in a really damp environment, mold is more probable when you store shallots in the regular refrigerator (not deep freezer).
How to keep shallots from going bad
A couple of the common do’s and don’ts are already given above – namely, to use the deep freezer if storing for a long time (especially when you live in a hot and humid climate) and to not chop shallots if you are going to use them a week or more in the future.
Besides storing shallots in a cool and dry place, you should keep them in a way that allows them to “breathe”. They are often sold in mesh bags, which are fine.
But if you get them home in plastic wrapping bags, make sure you tear a hole big enough for them to get adequate air. Another option may be to store them in paper bags that you have perforated at regular intervals to aid ventilation through the bag.
The other precautions you should take is to avoid storing shallots with certain types of fruits or vegetables. For example, do not store potatoes and shallots together. The gases emitted by the two are not simpatico and will cause the shallots to decay faster.
Similarly, tomatoes, apples and bananas should not be stored alongside shallots. These fruits and vegetables tend to emit ethylene gas, which will accelerate the ripening process and make your veggies go bad faster.
As a wrap up, let’s go through the types of shallots you can encounter at a grocery store, so you know what to buy.
Types of Shallots
Whenever you’re buying shallots, you’re buying one of three types. Here they are:
1. Grey or “French” Shallot – To purists, this varietal – also known as the French shallot or griselle (Allium oschaninii) – is the only “real” shallot.
2. Pink or “Jersey” Shallot – This is the most frequently used species found in North America. Rosy in color, they resemble paler and smaller red onions. In general, pink shallots display almost identical flavor to gray shallots.
3. Echalion or “Banana” Shallot – This is a crossover breed between shallots and onions. They are larger in size than the normal shallot but have a milder flavor than onions.
These are the general classes found all over the world. There are occasional specific local variations. For example, the Persian Shallot (Allium ascalonicum) is recognized as a different species.
The original shallot (now the grey shallot varietal) is abundantly found in Central and Southwest Asia. The name itself came from a Canaanite city, Ashkelon, where the vegetable had migrated to in ancient times when the ancient Greeks discovered it.
There are many cultures that do not distinguish much between shallots, onions and even scallions. In India, for example, local languages such as Marathi, Bengali or Tamil view shallots as small onions.
“Onions” pickled in vinegar – a ubiquitous side dish served in restaurants – is really made from shallots as opposed to onions. In parts of Australia and Quebec, the name “shallots” is used to denote scallions as well.
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Shallots can add wonderful and subtle taste and flavor to your dishes, sides or pickles. Just make sure that you buy them fresh, without any visible scars, dents or rot.
If you see any problems, use those pieces first and get them away from the rest of the batch to prevent any mold or rot from spreading.
Next, store your shallots in a cool, dark, dry and well-ventilated space. Be sure to put them in the freezer if your day or use is over a month away.