What are Shallots: Shallots vs Onions
With their similar looks but very different flavor profiles, knowing the difference between shallots and onions means you can truly understand when to use which. Doing so can help you make or break and truly excellent dish and compliment your current culinary skills with different textures. So, just what are shallots and is a shallot an onion? Find out the answer to this, and learn how to use these delicious veggies, below.
What Are Shallots
Like the red, white and yellow onions, shallots are alliums. Despite their similar looks, with multiple layers and origins based in Asia, shallots are not the same thing as onions. They’re slightly longer than their onion cousins, with rounded but pointed ends and have a very different smell and flavor.
Shallots are usually used for seasoning dishes, rather than cooking directly with them, as well as being used in vinaigrettes. They have a gentle fragrance and the taste is quite subtle, making them the ideal accompaniments to salads and light dishes.
Difference Between Shallots and Onions
When looking at the difference between shallots and onions, as with any ingredients, it’s always a good idea to check out the nutritional information of each, to see which best compliments your diet.
100g, or 3.5 ounces, of shallots contain:
- Calories: 75
- Protein: 2.5 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 17 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
The same amount of onions contain:
- Calories: 40
- Protein: 1.1 grams
- Carbs: 9.3 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 1.7 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
Both options contain plenty of water, as well as being packed with ample vitamins and minerals. However, while onions contain fewer calories, shallots have a much higher level of protein, carbs and fiber packed in, making them a great choice for those looking for healthy calories in a limited diet.
Shallots and onions also have very different benefits, so including both in your diet can help you with a wide range of different ailments and provide you with a much healthier outlook. For example, shallots are ideal as a source of antioxidants and may even be able to help with seasonal allergies, while providing plenty of antimicrobial compounds.
Meanwhile, onions are great for those suffering with Type-2 diabetes, as they are fantastic for regulating sugars and lowering blood sugar levels, according to recent studies. There is also evidence to suggest that onions can help maintain bone health by decreasing bone deterioration and increasing bone mass.
In terms of flavor, shallots are very mild – especially in comparison to their onion cousins – and have a delicate flavor, with a hint of garlic. Because of this, they can easily be eaten raw and are therefore great additions to any salad. Onions, on the other hand, have a very sharp, intense flavor that works best in hot meals and when cooked into different dishes, although red onions are capable of working in both settings.
Shallots do not have the “weight” necessary to handle heavier foods and are best served when just the right touch of flavoring is required. Meanwhile, onions have the ability to truly swing the flavor of a dish and can have a massive effect on the final meal. In other words, shallots are best used when a touch of flavor is required, such as in a dressing or with lighter foods such as chicken, and onions are necessary when you want to add an extra depth and bite to your meal, as you may want to taste in a stew, for example.
Like flavor, shallots and onions also have a very different fragrance. While onions are known for being very strong smelling and clearing out a kitchen with their scent during cooking, shallots are less obvious and come with a very mild scent. As this scent isn’t as overpowering, it can be better to add shallots to lighter dishes, including those with fruit – and even desserts!
Most shallots will be imported and can be a little tougher to find, while onions are a well-known and well-liked ingredient in America, with almost 3.5 tons of onions bought each year.
What Can I Substitute For Shallots
As we know, onions and shallots have similar flavors, but their intensity is very different. If you’re looking to substitute shallots, then you can choose onions – but be very careful about the amount you add. Roughly 3 or 4 shallots is usually a good substitute for onions, so the reverse can be true when you’re trying to replace shallots in a recipe, with about a quarter of an onion.
Be aware, however, that different onions will have their own individual strengths too. Due to this, we recommend using between a quarter to half an onion per shallot requested in the recipe. If you do use white onions instead of shallots, we would also recommend adding a pinch of garlic to your recipe, to produce the same flavor as you would have with a shallot.
Another good substitute for shallots is the scallion, also known as spring onions, which have the same gentle flavoring. Similarly, leeks can be used – and won’t require any additional garlic due to their natural flavoring being so close to the scallion. Both of these can be substituted to taste, with roughly a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
How To Cook Shallots
While shallots work well when used raw, you can get the full flavor and enjoyment of your shallots when they’re fried. Caramelized shallots are a big hit and go well with a wide range of recipes, including both red and white meats. Simply add your veg to a large frying pan with roughly 3 tablespoons of your chosen oil and fry for roughly 5 minutes. Then drain the oil from the pan and add in some thyme, butter and bay leaves with some beef or veal stock and continue cooking until tender.
You can also roast shallots in the oven with a little brown sugar and olive oil for roughly 40 minutes at 400°F for a great side dish. This gives your shallots a crisp crunch, and a very tasty way to serve your veg, without any fuss in the kitchen.