Shallots are a type of onion that have been enjoyed by cooks throughout history. Although they look like a cross between cloves of garlic and small onions, they are actually a distinct cultivar of the Allium fistulosum species of onion typically found in gardens and backyards all around the world. Shallots have sweet, mild flavor that makes them an excellent addition to salads and soups, as well as to cooked dishes, like stir-fries. In fact, shallots are often featured prominently in French and Asian cuisines.
Let’s take a closer look at what are shallots, some of their top nutritional benefits and culinary uses, plus a few tips to help you shop for, store, and cook with shallots.
What Are Shallots?
Shallots are a bulb-forming type of onion that can be divided into two distinct groups. The most common type is known as the multiplier shallot. These grow in dense clusters and feature multiple bulbs attached to a single base. Each bulb can be harvested individually, or the entire cluster can be harvested at once. However, the second type of shallot—the single shallot—looks more like tiny onions and grows singly, typically with no more than three to four bulbs clustered together.
Shallots are usually a little larger than cloves of garlic, but smaller than regular onions, so each individual bulb typically ranges from the size of a golf ball, up to the size of table-tennis ball. They also have a copper-brown to pinkish outer layer, with a layer of papery skin beneath that. Once the outer skin is removed, a white or yellowish flesh is exposed.
Like other types of onions, shallots are low in calories but pack an impressive nutrient profile. They contain high amounts of vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B6, plus potassium, dietary fiber, and other minerals.
Per 100 grams, a serving of shallots contains:
• Calories: 32
• Carbohydrate: 7.2 g
• Sugar: 4.2 g
• Fiber: 1.8 g
• Protein: 0.9 g
• Fat: 0.1 g
• Vitamin C: 13.7 mg
• Vitamin B6: 0.3 mg
• Manganese: 0.3 mg
• Potassium: 240 mg
• Calcium: 14 mg
• Iron: 0.7 mg
Culinary Uses for Shallots
Shallots can be used in a variety of different dishes. They are usually used raw in salads or as a garnish, but their mild sweetness and pleasing texture makes them an excellent choice for cooked dishes as well. They’re delicious when caramelized or sautéed and can be stirred into soups, stews, and stir-fries for extra flavor. Shallots also make an excellent addition to pasta dishes, sauces, and vinaigrettes as well.
Shopping and Storing Tips
When shopping for shallots, look for bulbs that are firm, dry, and without any signs of sprouting. As they tend to be quite fragile and susceptible to bruising, be careful when handling them.
Ideally, store shallots in a cool, dry location, such as the refrigerator drawers. If stored dry and away from direct light, shallots will typically keep for up to two weeks. However, if you spot any signs of mold or mold odor, discard them immediately.
Preparing and Cooking Shallots
Shallots can be cooked, either peeled or unpeeled, depending on your recipe.
When peeling them, cut off the ends and then slit the skin down the middle. You can then carefully pull the skin away from the flesh. Discard any damaged or sprouted shallots.
To prepare shallots for cooking, halve the shallots vertically and then use a sharp knife to cut them into thin slices. Be sure to use a protective cutting board as shallots tend to release a strong odor and color when cut.
When cooking shallots, take care not to burn them. They have a tendency to burn easily and quickly, so watch your cooking time carefully.
Shallots are an incredibly versatile and flavorful type of onion that make an excellent addition to a wide variety of dishes, both cooked and uncooked. In addition to possessing a subtle, sweet flavor, they are also packed with vitamins and minerals, making them a nutritious addition to any diet. When selecting, storing, and cooking with shallots, be sure to follow the tips outlined above to get the most out of this special ingredient.