What are Shallots?

Recently, I have been seeing shallots more and more often at the grocery store.  I’ve never used them in the past, so I picked up a bunch of them on a recent shopping trip so that I could see for myself what they are all about.    I have been growing onions in pots lately, so the size of these seemed like they might be something that would work out for me.A Shallot has a milder taste than an onion does. It is also smaller and shaped differently. See how to choose, use, and store this vegetable.

They LOOK like onions (well almost) and they TASTE like onions (only milder) so what is the deal with these veggies?

What is the Difference between an Onion and a Shallot?

The obvious difference in the two bulb vegetables is their shape.  Onions are commonly round in shape and shallots seem to take more after cloves of garlic. It appears to look something like an elongated onion, in my opinion.  My big bag of shallots had several that had one rooted bottom and several clove shaped pieces.  (This makes them ideal for those times when you want to add just a bit to a salad and don’t want to peel a whole onion!)One of the biggest differences between an onion and a shallot is the shape.

Both onions and shallots come in more than just one color.  Yellow and purple shallots are the most commonly seen variety.

Taste of a shallot vs an onion.A Red shallot has a milder flavor than an onion and it is smaller in size

A shallot has a milder flavor and aroma than an onion does.  For this reason, it is more common for shallots to be eaten raw. When they are cooked, shallots lose flavor easily, so if you are making something like a stir fry or caramelized onions, where you want the flavor to shine, choose onions. Shallots also have a softer texture than onions do when cooked.

Types and sizes of Shallots.

There are two main types of this vegetable:

  • False shallots – also called Jersey shallots. These are much larger and have less flavor.
  • True shallots – smaller with a more subtle flavor.

A shallot comes in bptj tan and purple colors and in various sizes

Shallots come in sizes from small to jumbo with the smallest being the most tasty.  I can attest to this. I have bought shallots individually (small ones) from Kroger than have a lot of flavor, and I have bought a large bag of them from a bulk warehouse store that were much larger and had far less flavor (and they were much cheaper in price.)  The younger the shallot is, the milder the flavor, so size does matter!


How to use them.Use a shallot in a salad for a mild onion flavor

Cooking tip: The mild flavor of a shallot makes it the perfect choice to use in salad dressings and salads. Because of their mild flavor, they are a great choice for kids who are a bit finicky about onion eating.  Shallots make a great addition to steamed veggies such as Brussels sprouts.  Potato and pasta salads that ask for raw onions would benefit from the use of a shallot instead of an onion.

How to choose and store this vegetable.Store onions in a dry place

Look for a firm young shallot that is free of sprouts. The bulb should be dry and firm and it should have a nice covering of the papery skin. Store them in a cool, dry location that is well ventilated.  They will keep for about a month if stored correctly. I have a straw onion basket that I keep on a high shelf in an unlit part of my kitchen. It has another shelf above it so the light is dim and it’s in a dry spot.  The basket holds my shallots, garlic and onions and they keep well there for several weeks without sprouting.

Can you grow a Shallot in a container?Shallots can be grown in pots on a sunny patio.

Shallots tend to be smaller so they grow readily in pots.  You could start them indoors in the winter but they do need quite a bit of light so will grow best outside on a patio if you do put them in containers. I even used a water bottle to grow shallots vertically.

If you are interested in growing onions indoors, this article gives lots of tips for doing so.  All types of onions can be grown from parts of the onion that is normally thrown away.  Spring onions can also be grown indoors.

For more tips on vegetables, be sure to visit my Pinterest Vegetable Gardening board.

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  2 comments for “What are Shallots?

  1. Stacy Stine
    07/05/2017 at 6:33 pm

    Shallots tend to make much more beautiful wine sauces. I tend to go for Vidalia onions myself and to me these are in the same flavor range. They aren’t a bold strong bite but more of a background flavor that just adds more depth to your meal.

    • Carol
      07/05/2017 at 7:32 pm

      I agree Stacy. I use them in sauces all the time. They are also great used as I do with Vidalia onions in salads. Thanks for the comment! Carol

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