Adding different vegetables to give your recipe the right flavor is a great way to introduce acidity and bitterness. Often, people will add green onion, yellow onion, or garlic to the recipe but often forget about the wide variety of shallot options available to many avid cooks. A shallot is a beautiful vegetable that comes in many color varieties and flavor profiles.
This easy-to-find and versatile vegetable can spice up just about any dish and give your meal a certain flare and kick unobtainable with just a simple onion or garlic flavor. Below, let’s take a closer look at the many types of shallots, their tastes, and how they can be introduced into your recipes.
Related: How to Store Shallots | Types of Onions
What is a Shallot?
Although this little vegetable can pack quite a punch, many people are unfamiliar with shallot and how it can be used in your meals. A shallot is a completely unique vegetable species, although it is most likely related to an onion, garlic, leek, or chives.
This vegetable has been in existence for centuries but was probably first initially cultivated by farmers and travelers from Southwest Asia who traveled to the Eastern Mediterranean or India.
The physical appearance of a shallot can vary depending on the specific type of shallot. Like garlic, most shallot varieties will grow in a cluster protected by a thin layer of material or skin. The individual cloves of shallot can then be stripped of the skin and used in many recipes.
While most shallots are bulb-shaped, other shallot varieties can be elongated, such as the banana shallot, or teardrop-shaped, such as the ambition shallot.
Shallots are commonly used in many types of cuisine but are widely featured in Asian dishes. This vegetable is frequently cut and cooked or pickled to create a completely different flavor profile. The shallot offers cooks a softer and more mild taste compared to an onion. In many recipes, a shallot can be used in place of an onion to soften the flavor.
Or, a chef can use onion in place of shallot to create a punchier, more robust flavor. Shallots have an incredibly long shelf life and can be kept for six months or longer if they are stored in a cool and dry place.
Types of Shallots
Like many other vegetables, shallots come in a range of varieties. The shallot’s appearance may change between available varieties, but the flavor profile can also be incredibly different. Below, here are some of the most common types of shallots cultivated and used in recipes around the world.
This French shallot option is brown or mahogany color on the outside and can be pink or red on the inside. The shallot is quick to grow and reaches maturity in just 80 days, making it one of the fastest-growing shallot options. The pikant shallot has a strong taste and can be stored for an extended period.
The ambition shallot is a teardrop-shaped shallot. The inside of this shallot ranges from a rusty-brown color to a pink shallot color. This option is a French shallot variety that matures in about 100 days and can be stored easily for a long time. This option is a commonly used shallot in many recipes.
The prisma shallot often referred to as the red shallot, is an entirely red shallot both inside and out. This shallot has smooth skin and is usually ready for harvesting from the plant after about 100 days. This shallot has a very strong and pungent taste and smell compared to other shallot variety options. This type of shallot will most directly replace onion in a recipe due to its strong taste.
The yellow shallot, commonly called a golden shallot, is a small type of onion. This little variety of allium cepa is prized for its milder and sweeter taste. The yellow shallot is commonly featured in many soups and stews, adding just a hint of onion flavor to your recipe. This type of shallot is also widely used for pickling recipes.
French Gray Shallot
Although the scientific name is Allium Schaninii, this shallot is commonly just referred to as the French grey shallot. This type of shallot is considered the true shallot and can also be called the griselle shallot.
The griselle shallot is a French-style shallot that is commonly found in garden centers the kitchen alike. This variety has a gray shallot exterior, with an almost purple interior. This shallot variety has an elongated shape and matures after 200 days. It has an extremely robust flavor and can be used in various recipes but does not have a particularly long shelf life.
The banana shallot is a hybrid type of shallot that mixes an onion and a shallot. This variety is the largest shallot and is commonly used in many recipes. This shallot has a brown or rust-colored exterior and is very easy to peel. Compared to other shallots or onions, this shallot tastes more similar to a softer or sweeter onion and garlic mix.
Because this vegetable is not commonly used in everyday homes, it makes sense to have several questions surrounding its availability and use. Below, we have put together a list of some commonly asked questions about shallots. Hopefully, with the right information and guidance, you too can start using this great vegetable to spice up your mundane recipes, giving your cooking some more flair and excitement.
What is another name for shallots?
Shallots are their own unique species of plant and vegetable and are only called shallots. Their scientific name is allium cepa, and this often helps to define specific shallot varieties and species for horticulturists and gardeners who want to grow their own specific shallots.
Although the shallot is related to and looks very similar to the chive, onion, and garlic plant, the shallot is its own independent and unique species. Sometimes, cooks and chefs will refer to the shallot by using the specific type of shallot name, including the griselle, banana shallot, pink shallot, pikant, or ambition shallot.
What is the flavor of shallots?
Shallots have a uniquely different flavor, but the flavor is often compared to a mild onion. Shallots will provide the same bite and acidity as an onion but with a softer side. Certain varieties of shallots can be sweeter, while others are bolder.
It is possible to substitute a shallot with onions in many recipes or onion with a shallot to create a customized variation on a standard recipe. This vegetable is commonly used in stews, soups, or pickling because of the softer shallot flavor.
What do shallots look like when growing?
Growing shallots is easy to do, and many beginner gardeners have a great deal of success with many shallot varieties. This vegetable will grow largely under the soil. Gardeners will just see the very bright and vivid green tops of the plants sprouting above the surface. These plant stems are thick and green and often reach six to ten inches in height.
Under the soil, though, the shallot grows as a bulb. The roots for the shallot plant then extend past the bottom of the bulb. Inside the shallot bulb, several individual cloves can be pealed and separated to be used for cooking.
What pairs well with shallots?
Shallots offer a softer flavor than an onion. For this reason, they are commonly used as a stand-alone vegetable in stir fry dishes, sauces, or salads. A shallot can be left raw or cooked with other vegetables. Shallots are also commonly pickled, offering a softer alternative to using pickled onions.
Shallots are often commonly used alongside garlic because of their similar flavor profile. Shallots and garlic pair well with one another. Cook shallots and garlic in olive oil or vinegar, and introduce some fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary to really bring out the flavors.
Shallots, fresh herbs, and garlic are the perfect way to season your beef, chicken, or pork. Because onions and shallots have a very similar flavor profile, they can easily be used in place of one another to create a slightly different flavor for your dish.
Are scallions and shallots the same?
Although scallions and shallots are from the same family and are related to onions, they are not the same. A scallion, or a green onion, is the part of the plant formed before the full onion bulb has formed. Many parts of the scallion or green onion are edible, and it offers an alternative onion-type flavor.
A shallot is a unique type of vegetable related to the onion, garlic, and chives. This vegetable grows as a bulb in the grown and forms an individual clove that can be peeled and cooked.
What are shallots best used for?
Shallots are best used for cooking and can introduce a similar flavor to onion but softer. This common onion alternative is a great addition to any meal. Choose to feature each shallot as the main component in a salad or stir-fry, or introduce them as a way to flavor your meal, combining them with garlic and fresh herbs. Shallots can also be stored for an extended period of time and can be kept for upwards of six months in a cool and dry location.
What are shallot bulbs?
Shallot bulbs refer to the bottom of the plant that lives under the surface of the soil. When growing shallots, gardeners will just see the green top part of the plant that will grow above the surface. Under the soil, the shallot bulbs form, with roots extending off the bottom.
When harvesting shallots, gardeners will simply pull at the plant’s exposed green tops, pulling up the shallot bulbs, including the roots. The shallot bulbs contain individual shallot cloves, which can be peeled and separated for cooking.
Depending on the type and species of shallot you are growing, the shallot bulb may look different. Some shallot bulbs are round and bulbous, while others are elongated and skinny. The shallot bulb’s color will also vary drastically, ranging from a gray or white color to deep rust or mahogany color.
Often, chefs will seek out a specific shallot type to create a flavor profile or look that compliments the entire meal.