Ah, shallots. Or maybe, no, not shallots. What are shallots? Is it the same thing as a chive? What about scallions? Can I swap one in for the other? Take a few deep breaths and try to suppress all those questions. We know that if you're not the best home cook, a lot of ingredients tend to blend into one another. It also doesn't help when they're part of the same family and tend to look alike. But, you can find some comfort here because we're going to break down everything you need to know about shallots and how you can use them in recipes.

What Are Shallots?

shallots in a bowl on a table

The main question is what the heck are they? That's easy: they're alliums, which means they belong to the same family as onions, garlic, chives, scallions, and leeks. Those are the more popular guys in the family, anyhow. And in case you're wondering, alliums are just the bulbous plants responsible for creating all the aforementioned vegetables (plus hundreds of species).

Shallots And Their Family Members

Shallots Versus Onions

Even though they look the same, there are noticeable differences in taste and texture between all these family members (particularly the onion). Shallots differ from the onion in a couple distinct ways:

  • Shallots don't taste as pungent as onions do. They also have notes of garlic hidden in there as well.
  • Shallots dissolve a bit easier than their family members, which means you can fully incorporate one into a dish you're making without any gaps in flavor.
  • Shallots are smaller than your traditional onion.

Shallots Versus Scallions

They're also confused quite often for the scallion, but there are key contrasts here as well:

  • Scallions (also known as green onions) have a white bulb towards the bottom of their edible stalks. The stalks are what we eat and they're sold in bunches at stores.
  • Scallions don't have the same garlic notes that shallots do. They're a milder version of a traditional red or yellow onion and can be eaten raw.

Shallots Versus Chives And Garlic

shallots next to garlic on a cutting board

When compared to the other members of their family, the distinctions between them are quite noticeable. For example, chives aren't used as a whole ingredient in dishes. It's much milder than the others and is often only sprinkled on salads or used as a garnish.

Garlic, on the other hand, can be used as a full ingredient in recipes. It's also well-known for its unmistakable flavor, just like the onion. Shallots are sort of the hybrid between onions and garlic, so if you want something that offers both flavors without the high potency, this guy is the way to go. You'll also be able to tell the difference right away from their look since garlic is a white bulb whereas shallots are often brown or red.

How Do You Prepare Shallots?

The easiest way to prepare shallots for cooking is to lay them on a cutting board and slice off the top and bottom. From there, just peel the skin away and pull apart the bulbs. The bulbs can then be sliced according to your tastes and what the recipe calls for.

An important thing to note about shallots is that even though they're not as potent as traditional onions, you're still going to taste it. There's no need to add more shallots into a recipe if you're swapping out onions.

Swapping Shallots And Onions

shallots in a basket next to onions on the table

Which brings us to our next point. You're probably wondering, since they're so close in taste and shape, if you can swap shallots with onions when you're cooking. The simple answer is yes, with some things to keep in mind.

If you're considering swapping shallots with onions then remember that the taste will differ slightly. Shallots have a much less noticeable flavor so if you're using onions in their place, use a smaller amount. This is especially true if a recipe calls for raw shallots because raw onions are going to be overpowering if you use too much of it. It's also worth remembering that shallots are smaller than onions, which is an additional reason to use onion sparingly if you're interchanging them.

A general rule to keep in mind is that one small onion is the equivalent of three small shallots. Swap accordingly and remember this ratio when you're switching in an onion.

How Can I Use Shallots?

The flavor of shallots really stands out when you eat them raw. That's why they're often eaten this way and why you should consider it as well. Raw shallots can be added to an assortment of salads whereas prepared shallots go a long way with vinaigrettes, dips, tofu dishes, and roasted as side dishes.

an overhead shot of shallots in a bowl

Tomato And Shallot Salad

This splendid side salad uses only a few ingredients to bring the flavor to your plate. Tomatoes, shallots, olive oil, and vinegar are the only things you need to bring this creation to life. Don't forget to top with your seasoning of choice to make this salad really pop.

Whole Roasted Shallots And Potatoes

If you're looking to whip up something a little heartier than potatoes and shallots are the way to go. Roast these two together to get a tasty side plate that can be served alongside multiple entrees like steak, chicken, or even tofu.

There are hundreds of recipes out there that use shallots, so even if you didn't know what they were before, you'll soon be using them in just about everything.

Understanding the differences between shallots and its family members isn't all that tough. Admittedly, it can be a little confusing when you walk into a store without any previous knowledge of the allium clan, but now that you know the basics you'll have no trouble making a delicious dinner for you and your loved ones.

Bordelaise Sauce

This sauce is fantastic for red meats such as steaks or roasts. The shallots and red wine combine with the veal stock to create an intensely rich, flavorful sauce. You'll want to keep those shallots on hand because this sauce changes how you'll enjoy your red meats.

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