Shallots
Resources > Food > Vegetables > Onions > Shallots > Shallots

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
+ -

Shallots, “The Onions of Ascalon,” were once considered a separate species within the onion family (Shallots’ scientific name is Allium Cepa var aggregatum or Allium ascalonicum). Today they are just considered as a form of onion by botanists, but in the kitchen they are still a stand-alone Allium. The scientific name “aggregatum” is used for the group of onions that form clumps of bulbs from a single planted bulb.

We have found that it is convenient to think of Shallots as almost a midpoint, a delightful, subtle yet powerful midpoint, between garlic and onions. Shallots grow in clusters and have several cloves when peeled. Most Shallots have a coppery skin and off-white flesh and are more nutritious than onions.

Fresh Shallots that we see at retail are actually the “necks” and “bulbs” of the plant. The “tops” are usually discarded in the field.

The addition of Shallots to SautésSaucesPan SaucesSoups and Stews adds a great depth of flavor. Shallots become even sweeter when Roasted or cooked “Low & Slow.” They are a good choice to use when you are Layering Flavors and want complexity, without a single overpowering flavor.

Shallots were first cultivated in the ancient Philistine port city of Ascalon (now in Israel). There were no wild ancestors of Shallots, so Ancient Greek traders gave them the name “Onion of Ascalon” when they came upon them. The Romans followed suit, calling Shallots Ascalonia Caepa in Latin.

From “Ascalonia” it wasn’t far to become “Escalogne,” in old French. Emperor Charlemagne mentioned Shallots in his list of preferred plants “Capitulare de Villis Imperialibis.”The modern French word for Shallots is “Échalote” and is the place where we get our word “Shallot.” The English did not mention Shallots in print until 1655. There are various pronunciations in English. “Shall--ot,” is how Teaching Chef pronounces the word. Others say “Shallets.” We treat the debate, if any, as they do in the famous song:  You say “Toe-may-toe.” I say “Tom-aa-toe.” That is, we don’t worry about it and get a kick whenever Teaching Chef says it his way.

There is also some confusion in certain regions (Quebec and Australia primarily) between Shallots and Scallions (Green Onions), which confusingly sometimes go by the same name. The ancient Roman author Pliny made the same mistake.

The Shallot did not only migrate westward. It also wound its way to the East where it became a part of Indian Cuisine (Shallots are called “Kanda,” “Gandana,” “Praan” or “Pyaas” in India depending on the region) and Southeast Asian Cuisine (where Shallots are called “bawang mera kecil,” which means “small red onions”).

Shallots are a mainstay of French Cuisine. In fact, the French cook with Shallots more frequently than they cook with Garlic. It was this French affinity for Shallots that caused French explorers to carry Shallots along with them to their territories in North America, where they traded with the original 13 colonies. 

Season

The prime time to purchase Shallots is April through August in North America, though they are also planted in a counter-cycle and are therefore generally available year-round.

In most climates, shallots are planted in the fall to harvest the following spring and into the late summer. After they are brought in from the field, Shallots need some curing (drying out for better storage), which can last a number of weeks depending on the conditions, to aid their preservation. 

Availability

Shallots are available all year long but are easier to find at better grocery stores.

Cultivation

Shallots are a cool season perennials plant that is typically grown annually. Shallots are widely cultivated all over the world and can grow up to 20 inches tall (50 cm).

Shallots are in fact the hardiest and easiest onion to grow. They should be grown as with any multiplier. The more moisture and fertilizer the Shallot receives during the growing season the better the outcome. Add wood ashes or limestone to sweeten overly acidic soil.

Shallots grow best when planted in the fall with some exposure to frosty temperatures. The kiss of frost seems to improve their flavor. Shallots do need well-drained soil to prevent rotting.

Production

Natural Shallot farming is dependent on the number of hours of daylight experienced in a given location. Shallots are therefore divided by farmers into “Long Day” varieties and “Short Day” varieties. Long Day Shallots are the ones most commonly grown in the west. Long Day Shallots grow slower and are firmer which gives them a longer storage time once picked.

France (especially Brittany which is the spiritual home of Shallots for gourmands), the Netherlands, the United States. (New Jersey & New Hampshire mostly), Canada (mostly Quebec & Ontario) and Great Britain are the major producers of Long Day Shallots. Chile also has a crop, which helps with supply in the off season.

The “Short Day” Shallots are grown in Southeast Asia and Africa and are tropical cultivars. China grows thousands of acres of Short Day Shallots, as do Indonesia and Thailand and the surrounding region.

Commercially, Shallots may yield 9-12 tons per acre and are ready to harvest when their bulbs are large enough for culinary use (1-2 inches in diameter at least or 2.54 cm or 5 cm) and their “foliage,” the part protruding from the ground withers. Most Shallots are hand-pulled (though there are some multiple-row harvester machines) and then hand-cleaned and “topped.” The fresh Shallot bulbs are then “cured” (dried in storage for a few weeks) to dry out the necks and bulbs to help improve the Shallot’s shelf life and preserve them. Once cured they are put into bags or bins for storage. Cured Shallots are fresh Shallots and different than Dried Shallots.

Varieties

Since Shallots have been grouped in with Onions by modern botanists, the truth is that there are a number of ways to classify the different varieties of Shallots, and Onions that go by the name Shallot.

The biggest issues to the purists is whether the Shallot in question is grown by vegetative propagation (asexual reproduction with a bulb buried in the earth) or from a seed (sexual reproduction) and whether it flowers or not. Only Shallots that are the result of vegetative propagation are actually “True Shallots” or “Éschallote de Tradition,” as they are named in French. These true shallots also rarely flower.

The seed propagated Shallots are, to the purists actually just another type of Onion, a Multiplier Onion. They call these questionable Shallots “Éschallote issue de semi” or just “Éschallote de Semi.”  There have been so called “Shallot Wars” over these designations, but we like to cook and don’t like to argue. Also we don’t earn our living selling Shallots with Protected Geographic Indications so we don’t get into the debate. We also won’t debate how many chefs can dance on the heat of a spatula. We just want to lay out some of the information so you have an awareness of what you are purchasing and working with.

Using the narrowest definition there are really only two western varieties of “Long Day” Shallots: The French Red Shallot and The French Grey Shallot. In an Asian Market you might find “Short Day” Asian Shallots, also known as Asian Red Shallots.

A broader definition of Shallot varieties would include some seed grown Shallots (Éschallote de Semi), which may be more properly described as a variety of Onions called Multiplier Onion, if you are into such arguments. Examples include: Dutch Yellow Shallots, or Banana Shallots.

If you include the multiplier onions in with the mix of true Shallots, what you might call the “Kitchen Definition of Shallots,” then Shallots come in a variety of shapes (Round, Oval & Elongated), Colors (White, Red, Reddish Brown, Grey, and Yellow), and sizes (Small, Medium and Jumbo).

Purchasing

Cured Shallots are most often found at retail in small mesh bags, windowed boxes or trays holding 5-7 Shallot bulbs each. They are often about twice the price of their cousins, small White OnionsFresh Shallots are found at retail less often and typically follow the seasons.

When selecting French Red Shallots, look for firm, dry Shallots that are completely covered in papery skin. The skin should be smooth and wrinkle free and the Shallots should be firm and heavy for their size. They should have no black spots or mushy soft spots. Sprouting shallots are an indication of age, can taste bitter in use, and should be avoided.

Shallots need some time to develop their flavor. The younger and smaller the Shallot of a given variety is, the milder it will taste. As we mention in Seasons above, there are two Shallot seasons in North America. The primary season begins in the spring and runs through late summer. Fresh Shallots are most easily found in season. Because of counter-cyclical planting it is possible to find Cured Shallots all year long.

Shallots can also be purchased as Dried Shallots or Freeze Dried Shallots. These preserved Shallots are usually Chopped, Flaked or even in a powder form when they are packaged for sale.

Storage

The first and best way to get the most out of your French Red Shallots is to try and purchase only what you will need for use in the short term. Shallots are not a staple in most homes, though many can argue that they should be.

That being said, if you overbuy or find a deal, you can store Fresh Shallots in the refrigerator for about a week. Refrigeration does encourage sprouting though, but don’t worry. If your French Red Shallots sprout during storage, just remove the somewhat bitter Shallot sprouts before use. In fact, some cooks use the Shallot tops as they would use Chives.

The Fresh French Red Shallots you bring home can also be Peeled (as you would Peel Onions) and then Chopped and placed in an airtight container to be frozen for up to 3 months. However, they will lose their crunch during the freezing and thawing process. Their texture will be more like that of a Sautéed Shallot.

Cured Shallots, those most of us see in the produce aisle, most of the year, should be stored in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Some folks store them in hanging mesh baskets. They should last a few months.

Culinary Uses

Because they are an Allium, Shallots have a flavor that is reminiscent of Onions or Garlic, but the Shallots are milder and sweeter than either. In France, the flavor of true Shallots is often described as "Fin” or “Very Fine” because it is more concentrated and nuanced.

Shallots, are softer than either Onions or Garlic, and are known for breaking down and more fully incorporating into dishes or sauces so they don’t have a “chunky” Mouth Feel.

Where Shallots really shine is in deepening and layering flavors, where they offer complexity without imposing a single overpowering flavor. Cooking heat makes Shallots even sweeter and Roasted Shallots which are then peeled and Puréed are a great addition for flavoring GravyCurriesSoupsBroths and Sauces. Shallots are also great as an accent to other ingredients, such as Meats or Vegetables.

Shallots are available in a few different forms that range from Fresh Shallots (just out of the field) to Cured Shallots (harvested Shallots that have been air dried for a few weeks to improve their shelf life as produce), to Dried Shallots (dehydrated with all of the moisture removed). Dried Shallots can be purchased Minced, Chopped, flaked or even as a powder.

In the broadest culinary definition, Shallots (True Shallots and the Multiplier Onion / Less-true Shallots) come in small, medium and jumbo sizes. Younger, smaller Shallots have a milder taste with less bite to them. The jumbos are considered to have the least desirable taste. Shallots, again broadly, also come in a few colors (Red, White, Reddish Brown, Yellow and Gray). Using dried Shallot powder is pretty self-explanatory and will be given cursory consideration below.

Before use, Shallots should be prepped, in almost an identical way as you would Peel an Onion. Larger Shallots might be easier to peel if they are cut in half lengthwise. The green Shallot sprouts are typically removed because they are a little bitter but they can be used as you use Chives, if you so choose.

Once prepped, Shallots can be Sliced, Chopped, Minced, Diced, etc. as needed by the chef or the Recipe. Remember that Shallots contain sulfur compounds, like Onions, and can cause reflex tears when cut.

Raw Shallots are edible but, like Onions and Garlic, they are infrequently eaten Raw because they are fairly pungent. Macerating and/or Marinating them in Vinegar can mellow their Raw flavor. If Shallots are used Raw, they are most often added to cold Sauces (like Sauce Mignonette), to Salad Dressings, like a Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette Dressing or used to make Pickled Shallots (great on a Relish Tray).

Un-macerated, Raw Shallots should be incorporated into the dish the day of service and not prepared in advance and held for service. If the dish is Held with the un-macerated, Raw Shallots already added, the Shallots will become overly pungent.

More often Shallots are cooked because the cooking heat breaks them down and can Caramelize them so that they can become integral components of creamy hot Sauces (like Sauce Bearnaise,) Pan SaucesBeurre BlancsCompound Butters, or other dishes that benefit from a shot of Allium flavor. Dropping Shallots into the Roasting Pan of a Roast Chicken is a good example. Smart Kitchen’s recipe version is Roast Chicken with Rosemary, Shallots & Garlic.

Shallots are Cooked, Tender, Thick, Moist, and Lean on Smart Kitchen’s Homeplate and are most often Roasted or Sautéed. But they can also be SweatedBraisedPan FriedDeep FriedStewedBraised, etc. When heating Shallots, treat them gently; too much Browning can turn them bitter.

Shallots are an important part of two world Cuisines: French Cuisine and Southeast Asian Cuisine. In French Cuisine Shallots are used (Raw and Cooked) for their milder Allium taste, which enhances existing flavors without overpowering them. They are featured Raw in Salads, Salad Dressings, Compound Butters, etc. and classic cold Sauces such as Sauce Mignonette. Cooked, Shallots are used in classic Hot Sauces such as Sauce ChasseurSauce au PoivreSauce BordelaiseSauce Perigeux, or Marchand de Vin. They can also be Sweated gently to become a flavor foundation for Pan Sauces such as Whiskey Pan Sauce or Beurre Blancs.

Shallots are called by various names in South-east Asia. In Malay they are “bawang merah kecil.” In Thai they are “Hom.” In Cambodian they are called “katem kror hom.”  In Southeast Asian Cuisine (Thai, Lao, Malaysian, Cambodian, Indonesian, Vietnam, etc.). Shallots can be used as an elementary spice, as a Condiment as a crispy shallot chip, (Sliced thin and Pan Fried), as Pickled Shallots, in Fried Rice or ground and used in Chile Pastes or Curry Pastes.

Shallots are used elsewhere as well. In India they don’t really differentiate between Onions and Shallots but use both, often interchangeably. In Indian Cuisine you may see Pickled Shallots and fresh Shallots in Curries, in Sambar, etc. Notably, buddihist vegetarians generally avoid Shallots for being too pungent though. Iranian Cuisine uses Shallots (called “Mousir”) in various ways such as Grated and mixed into Yogurt to make an accompanying sauce for Kebab, in Torshi or as a pickled Shallot called “Shour.”

Shallots are also available dry as Dried Shallots (and freeze dried Shallots), which are typically Chopped or Flaked by the purveyor. Dried Shallots are often used in Baking or as a Garnish but can be tossed into any product with enough moisture to reconstitute them as they cook. Dried Shallots can be reconstituted by first covering them completely with water and letting them rest for 5 minutes before draining any excess liquid. Smart Kitchen’s Exercise on Rehydrating Mushrooms follows a similar process. If you are trying to use Dried Shallots as Fresh Shallots, you should rehydrate them as part of your Preparation, the second of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking.™

Dried Shallots are also found in a powdered form that is used more like a Spice, where a dash is added here or there.

Smart Kitchen has some Recipes that use Shallots in the Recipe Section. Examples include: Mashed Turnips with Crispy Shallots.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 t of a Shallot per person.

Pairings

Shallots pair well with: Fresh Basil, Dried Basil, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Caraway Seeds, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin Seeds, Curry, Dill, Mace, Marjoram, Mint, Paprika, Flat Leaf Parsley, Cilantro, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Brown Sugar, Granulated Sugar, Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Apples, Orange Juice, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Mangoes, Raisins, Golden Raisins, Vegetables, Beets, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Cucumbers, Garlic, Chili Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Habanera Peppers, Mushrooms, Black Olives, Peas, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Meats, Beef, Ground Beef, Hamburgers, Sandwiches, Pork, Bacon, Liver, Poultry, Stocks, Beef Stock, Chicken Stock, Veal Stock, Beer, Brandy, Wine, Dry Red Wine, White Wine, Port, Butter, Unsalted Butter, Cheddar CheeseComte CheeseEmmentaler CheeseFromage Blanc Cheese, Goat Cheese, Gruyere Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Milk, Cream, Heavy CreamCrème Fraiche, Eggs, Sour Cream, Bitter Greens, Mustard, Dijon Mustard, Sauces, Gravies, Soups, Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil, Vegetable Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Champagne Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, Sherry Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Rice Wine Vinegar

Substitutes

LeeksScallions (the whites), Garlic and small White Onions are proximate substitutes for Shallots in a forgiving dish like a Chunky Tomato Sauce. Proximate substitutes means that the dish will work, but the substitutes are not an exact match for Shallots and the final product will have a different flavor.

Nutritional Value USDA
SHALLOTS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 72
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 12mg
7%
Potassium 334mg
5%
Total Carbohydrate 16g
12%
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 7g
Protein 2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Shallots have more vitamins and minerals than onions, most notably a higher level of Vitamin A, pyridoxine, folates, thiamin and Vitamin C. Pyridoxine is known to soothe nerves and Vitamin A is a strong antioxidant. They are also high in iron, calcium, copper, potassium, flavonoids, phenol and phosphorus.

We make no claims for it, but the ancients swore by Shallots as a baldness cure, a cosmetic to get rid of freckles and as a cold remedy, insect repellent, pain reliever and mild diuretic. Modern Indians in Asia use Shallots as a home remedy for sore throats.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes