Commonly found alongside the onions, leeks and garlic in the grocery store, shallots make an essential kitchen ingredient. They can be used in a variety of ways, from salads, soups to stocks and quiches.
There are still some people who haven’t got to taste this amazing vegetable, and that’s a shame. If you’re one of the unlucky few who haven’t tastes shallots yet, read on because this might just convince you.
What do shallots taste like?
Shallots have a more delicate flavor, a little less sharp than an onion while also bringing notes of garlic. Shallots taste more watery compared to red or white onions, but a shallot’s flavor intensifies with cooking.
Due to shallots being so close to onions in flavor, they can easily be interchanged. Cooks usually use shallots because they give a more delicate flavor, compared to onions.
And yes, you can substitute shallots for onions (white or red) if you have to.
What are shallots ?
Shallots are the close relatives of onion, garlic and chives. They are one of the most versatile vegetables. You can use them in cooking as well as in uncooked dishes.
They can be diced, sliced and minced to get used in soups, salads, gravies, quiches etc. They pair best with a pop of acidic flavor such as vinegar and garlic, or lemon and a bit of chili or cayenne pepper.
Where do shallots come from?
It is said that shallots are originally found in Asia, specifically the Central and Southeast region. Later, they made their way to India and Mediterranean. Shallots were used as medicine by the ancient Egyptians, and they were discovered by the Greeks during trading.
Nowadays you can find shallots almost everywhere, but they’ve taken a backseat compared to onions.
You’ll find shallots used in Asian cuisine, but also in more refined French and Italian dishes.
Types of shallots on the market
You may have noticed the shallot is widely spread, though not heavily used. At least, not as heavily used as onions.
There are basically three main types of shallots including the French gray shallot, Jersey shallots and Echalion or Banana shallots.
French gray shallot – This is the most common variety of shallots. They are named as gray shallots due to their grayish color. Fresh gray shallots are known to be the best type of shallots and are used in a variety of cuisines. They are also known as the ‘true’ shallots.
Jersey shallot – These are also known as pink shallots and these are popularly sold in the grocery stores in the US. Their flavor and taste is almost similar to the French gray shallots and can be used in the same way as well.
Echalion – These shallots are also known as banana shallots. Echalion are the cross between an onion and a shallot, hence they got the best qualities of both the vegetables. These qualities include the bigger size of onion and mild sweet flavor of the shallots.
Whichever you use depends on your preferences, or what you have on hand. Keep in mind that as relatives of onions, shallots will sweeten as they cook.
What do shallots look like?
Shallots resemble onions very closely, but they’ve got a few differences that will help you tell them apart. They usually have the following characteristics :
- Shallots are smaller than onions, and elongated
- Their meat is almost white to purple in color
- Their outer skin is very thin like paper and may be copper-pink or purple
- Just like garlic cloves, they grow in bulbs but only have 2-3 cloves
Shallots grow long, green leaves just like onions and garlic, and those are edible as well. When you find such shallots, you’ll notice their lower part, the bulbs, are slightly purple and have a dry brown papery skin near the top.
You may try smelling the shallots to tell them apart from onions, but they will smell so similar you need a very well trained nose. Shallots generally smell a little bit sweeter than onions, and a bit more delicate.
How are shallots different from onions ?
Because of the similar looks, people often get confused between onions and shallots. While they share a close resemblance, they are two entirely different things.
The biggest difference between these two vegetables is their flavor. Onions have a much more intense flavor than shallots. Where an onion has its own flavor, a shallot will remind you of a mild onion, with a hint of garlic.
Further, the structure of both veggies is different.
Shallots break down easier than onions once they’re cooked, hence they serve as a great base for recipes that call for thick gravies. Because they get minced very easily, they work excellent in soups.
How to pick the perfect shallots
If you’re planning to shop for shallots, then always look for the bulbs that are small in size and are a bit firm. Also, if you find shallots without bulbs and patches on their skin, then keep looking for others.
If the shallots are very soft and smell sour, it’s a hint that they are gone bad. You’re very unlikely to find firm, good shallots in a batch that has already spoiled here and there.
What is the best way to eat shallots ?
You can eat shallots in a number of ways. They are widely used in numerous Asian and French dishes and food preparations because of their amazing flavor and texture. They can truly enhance the taste of the dish they’re added to.
Here are the best ways to eat shallots :
- You can add them to your raw salads. Just slice them nicely and season with some salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- You can make shallots rings just like you make crispy fried onion rings.
- You can add them to your pickles.
- If you have fresh shallots with the green stems intact, you can use the greens as a garnish in the same way you use spring onions.
- They can be added to gravies in place of onions.
- You can add them to your soups and quiches.
What can I use instead of shallots ?
If a recipe calls for shallots but you don’t have any, then don’t worry. You can substitute other similar vegetables in place of shallots. Although the flavor will be a bit different, they will work just fine.
The best substitute for shallots are onions, with a clove or garlic to bring that extra touch.
If all you need is a general, onion-like flavor than you can also use leeks or spring onions, but only the white parts.
If you’re looking to substitute the green leaves, then you can use chives or spring onions.
Can you eat raw shallots ?
Yes! You can absolutely eat raw shallots in the same way you eat raw onion salad. They are a bit sweeter and milder than onions, so they taste amazing in salad dressings. They add a nice bite and freshness to any uncooked salad.
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Can Shallots Replace Garlic?
As we already discussed above, shallots are sometimes defined as a cross between onions and garlic. They have the qualities of both vegetables, they’ve got the acidity from garlic and sweetness of the onions. Some people use onion, garlic and shallots interchangeably.
While the flavors will be different, you won’t be disappointed if you swap garlic for shallots.
However, if you’re looking to use garlic to cover up a strong veggie like broccoli or Brussel sprouts, then shallots won’t work as well.
Shallots are amazing vegetables. They are definitely the indispensable kitchen ingredients. When added to a dish, they impart their beautiful fresh flavor and sweetness and take it to a whole next level.