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What are Shallots?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Shallots are considered members of the onion family, but are smaller than onions and look more like garlic. Inside, they do not have concentric structures like onions, but are sectioned into cloves like garlic. The white flesh can have either red or purple streaks similar to a red or purple onion. Shallots are strong, rich-tasting and reminiscent of both onions and garlic. They are also sometimes known as eschallots.

Some shallots have coppery brown skin, while others are pinkish or a greyish-brown. The French grey shallot is called a griselle and many French chefs prefer using them in their cuisine because of their strong and delicious flavor. Many of those sold in the United States are imported from France.

Shallots are native to Israel and regions in the Mediterranean. They were originally called Allium ascalonicum after Ascalon, an ancient city in Israel. However, Europeans changed the name to Allium cepa to fit them in with the rest of the onion family. Shallots were one of the foods that the Crusaders brought from the Middle East back to Europe.

Shallots are used in many of the same dishes where garlic and onions could be used, and do not cause as harsh of breath odors as either onions or garlic. Australians call green onions shallots, but they are not the same as green onions. Shallots are also not the same as pickling onions. Some varieties are more elongated than others, such as the banana shallot. They tend to have a faster cooking time than onions, but they usually do not have as long of a storage life.

Wine and shallots are a popular cooking combination. They can be sauteed or caramelized but, like garlic and onions, can have too much of a strong taste if they become too browned. Some people prefer to roast them while leaving the skins on and then peel and mash them before using. Shallots can be used in cream or butter sauces as well as gravies.

Beef, veal, fish and poultry, including duck, are often cooked with shallots. Some people like to add them to add flavor to potatoes or beets. Popular vegetarian dishes made with this ingredient include those with white beans or lentils. Some of the seasonings commonly used with them are thyme, chervil and tarragon. They are very popular in Asian cuisine as well. Some Thai and Indonesian dishes uses condiments made from shallots, and they are also included in Malaysian stir fry dishes.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon996590 — On Sep 15, 2016

For those with no knowledge of history, these are the facts.

As punishment for the Jewish uprising against Rome in 135 AD,

Hadrian, the Roman ruler, changed the name of the Jewish homeland from Judea and Samaria to Palestina (Palestine).

Ashkelon (Ascalon) was a city in Judea prior to 135 AD ; it was the home of Samson. The pillars of the Philistine temple that

Samson destroyed were excavated in the 1970's.

By Belted — On Oct 21, 2012
How difficult is it to grow shallots, and what parts of the country are they most successful in?

As I read this article it occurred to me that I know tons of home gardeners who have really impressive stocks of fruits and vegetables that they grow themselves. But I don't know anyone who grows shallots. Strange, don't you think?

By nextcorrea — On Oct 20, 2012

I love to use shallots as a garnish for meats. The mild but still sharp onion flavor is the perfect accompaniment to just about any kind of meat, especially if you pair it with something sweet or spicy.

By anon156007 — On Feb 25, 2011

shallots may be used while cooking prime rib.

By anon152441 — On Feb 14, 2011

Israel does pre-date Palestine, maybe not the modern nation, but certainly the biblical one.

By anon130094 — On Nov 27, 2010

Fascinating. So shallots were discovered after 1948?

Really, people. Is it so hard to write "Palestine"?

By anon125602 — On Nov 10, 2010

Ascalon was an ancient city in Palestine.

By anon111851 — On Sep 18, 2010

I always thought that Shallots were onions but named differently. Now I know what they are. This was very useful. Thanks. - Anon123

By anon74864 — On Apr 04, 2010

Good article describing shallots. I thought shallots might be the green onions. Thanks. No I know what to look for in the grocery store.

By jabuka — On Mar 26, 2010

To post #10

You might be thinking of green onions. Shallots do not have green and white part. Not the shallots I am familiar with.

In the grocery store, usually, shallots will be in the same place where onions and garlic are kept. Because they are on the small side, they might be displayed in a shallow basket. They can be bought by weight, but occasionally 2 or 3 of them will be prepackaged, and might be found hanging on a shelf.

Green onions on the other hand are kept with the rest of the produce and are sold in bunches, maybe 10 to 15 green onions to a bunch. Both white and green part of the onion is edible. Do remove the end of the green part, maybe an inch or so. Both green and white part, chopped in small sizes, maybe 1/4 of an inch are good in salads.

By anon72468 — On Mar 23, 2010

Thanks, now I know where to find them at the grocery store.

By anon68621 — On Mar 03, 2010

so when a recipe asks for shallots, which part do you use, the green or white part?

By anon67151 — On Feb 23, 2010

Now I know what they are. Thank you.

By anon63688 — On Feb 03, 2010

I thought these are small onions mostly eaten in samber in south india. maybe i am wrong.

By anon60695 — On Jan 15, 2010

I thought a shallot was in the fish family. Oh I was wrong. Now I now where to look in the grocery store! Thanks

By anon57325 — On Dec 22, 2009

Thank you. A good description. I didn't know what I was looking for in the market. Now I do. Thanks.

By anon42124 — On Aug 19, 2009

This was a very helpful.

By AuthorSheriC — On Mar 09, 2008

Okay, that dressing does sound delicious, sommerset! :)I think I would like to try it in a potato salad.

By somerset — On Jan 27, 2008

I believe shallots are used in French cuisine, that is how I got familiar with them. They are much milder than onions, so they are good in salads. Some finely chopped shallots, a little dijon mustard, wine vinegar and some good olive oil make a delicious salad dressing.

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