Are Shallots Onions?


Are Shallots Onions?

Both onions and shallots are members of the onion family but they are different varieties of onions. Shallots have a distinctive tapered shape which makes them look different from other members of the onion family. They often have skins of a copper brown color, they can also be reddish or gray.

Onions vs. Shallots

Onions are rounder in shape and can have white, yellow, red, or purple skins. Types of onions vary in taste depending on variety from sweet to bitter. Both onions and shallots have skins, but the ones on shallots are fine and very papery and often very dry and brittle.

Tasting & Growing Shallots

Shallots have a milder taste and smell than onions do.  It is often common for shallots to be eaten raw since their flavor is so delicate. In addition, when shallots are cooked, they lose their flavor quickly. Therefore, if a recipe is asking for cooked onions, then onions are preferable.

It is not just the taste that is different.  Shallots grow differently from onions. Regular onions grow as a single bulb, but shallots grow in clusters, more like a head of garlic does.

How to Cook with Shallots

Shallots can be used in recipes such as salads or in a vinaigrette. They’ll add an onion-like flavor without too much of a bite.  This makes them especially good as a seasoning in raw applications like vinaigrettes or salads, where they add oniony flavor without too much punch, or in slow-roasted or braised dishes, where their sweetness can really enhance a dish without watering it down. 

The flavor of red onions is a bit more like shallots than yellow or white onions, but when they are cooked, they can add an undesirable color to the dish.

Shallots vs. Red Onions

The color is similar but are these two onion varieties the same? Shallots are made with very fine layers. This allows them to blend well into sauces and dressings and their flavor is somewhere between that of garlic and onions. The flavor of red onions is a bit more like shallots than yellow or white onions, but when they are cooked, they can add an undesirable color to the dish.

If your salad or salsa recipe calls for sliced shallots then you can substitute red onions if you don’t have shallots.  The flavor won’t be exactly the same but it’ll be a better choice in both flavor and color than normal onions. However, for cooked dishes, they may not be a good substitute.

Shallot Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe


-1/4 cup white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or aged sherry wine vinegar
-2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
-2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the shallots. Gradually whisk in the oil to make a smooth dressing. Use immediately or store covered, in the refrigerator, for 1 week.

Healthy Carmelized Shallots


-3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or vegan butter)
-fresh whole shallots, peeled
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped


1.Preheat oven to 350-400 degrees F.
2.In a large oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally until shallots are browned, about 10 minutes.
3.Remove from heat. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.
4.Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake 20-30 minutes until shallots are fork-tender. Divide between plates, spoon the sauce on top and sprinkle with parsley.

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