4 Best Shallot Substitutes

Need a last-minute shallot substitute? These best four ingredient alternatives will get you out of trouble.

shallot substitute

What is a Shallot?

This is probably a common term that you have come across in various recipes. It is often interchanged with onions. But we will get into that a little later in this article. Shallots are a variety of onions. 

Right off the bat, you will notice the vibrant green leaves and small white bulbs. The skin on the bulb is often grey-ish or white; in some cases, it may seem like it is purple-ish red-ish. You will also immediately notice that the bulb is much smaller than the onions you may be used to. 

The bulb of the onion is called the mother, and it has clustered around it. The shape of the onion is small and long. Shallots are part of the Allium family, which also has leeks, scallions, and chives.

What do shallots taste like?

Shallots have often been said to be a cross between garlic and onion. They have a mild and sweet taste. They are also favored for their spiciness as well as their acidity. As much as they are onions, they are not as strong, and they add a different flavor and texture to the dish. 

The mild flavor makes them a good fit for recipes that contain several spices. They will pair well with the spices but still be mild enough to blend in and not overthrow the existing spices. If you want to taste more accurately, think about what an onion tastes like, but milder and with a dash of sweetness that you don’t necessarily find in onions. 

Shallots vs. Onions

You may find yourself in a position where you wonder why you shouldn’t be using onions in place of shallots and vice versa. What is the difference? Can you swap them out? The long and short of it all is yes, you can swap the two. They have similar flavor profiles, and they will also offer a similar texture to the meal. But similarity doesn’t mean they are the same. 

Shallots have a milder taste than onions. Onions have stronger notes. They are also sweeter than onions. The other difference between the two is their shape. Shallots are small and long, while onions are bigger. Shallots can be used as a garnish in ways that onions can’t. You can use them in recipes to hint at the onion taste but not necessarily the full strong taste.

The other difference is that shallots have much smaller cloves, and as such, you will need to use more of them to get the same amount as an onion. To use shallot in place of an onion, use three bulbs in place of a tiny onion. Keep in mind that raw shallots and raw onions do not taste the same. This only happens when they are cooked. 

Cooked Yellow Onions

Yellow onions are also known as Spanish onions. They have a high sulfur content which explains their strong taste. 

That is why they always get cooked. Serving yellow onion raw isn’t much of an option. They become sweeter and less intense when cooked. 

The sweetness they have when they are cooked is what makes them a great choice when caramelizing. They are the favored option because of their sugar content, which makes them a good shallot substitute. 

You can substitute shallots with cooked yellow onions. In contrast, it may not seem like it matters whether or not they’re cooked—the taste changes when they are cooked. Yellow onions are amongst the best substitutes that you can think of. 

When substituting shallots with yellow onions, one small onion is the same as three shallots. You can use a one-to-one ratio and then play it by ear after that. That means taste and see if it’s working for your recipe or if you will need to add more as you progress. To bring the flavor of yellow onion closer to shallots, you may have to add some garlic to your recipe. 

Raw Red Onion

Red onions are another type of onion that is often favored for their sweetness. It is not as intense as yellow onions, and it can be eaten raw, making it an excellent substitute for shallots that are sometimes eaten as garnish. While it’s not as intense as the yellow onion, it is still more potent than the white onion. The sweetness also makes it suitable for pickling. 

Also, just like shallots, red onions provide the same pop of color to a dish. To replace raw red onion with shallots and vice versa, you can use a one-to-one ratio. The red onion will be a bit more intense than the flavor that shallots would give, so you may need to use a  little less than a 1 to 1 ratio. 

Green Onions or Scallions

Scallion’s flavor is closer to shallots than onions, mainly because they have similar mildness. Whether they are cooked or raw, you can use scallions in place of shallots. Scallions and shallots are often confused. Both are small and long. A shallot will look like a small thin red onion, while a scallion will have long green leaves with white tips. They both make great garnishes. 

When you use scallions, you may need to use a bit of garlic to bump up the taste to taste a little more like shallots. 

Cooked Leeks

Leeks, just like shallots, are a member of the allium family. This is why the taste and look are not far from each other. The middle part of the stalk on leeks can give you the most similar flavor to shallots. 

The reason why leeks make a good substitute is that they taste similar to shallots. To use leeks in place of shallots, use a one-to-one ratio. The difference between leeks and shallots is the cooking time. Leeks cook faster than shallots, so be mindful that you substitute the cooked version of shallots with cooked leeks. You may need to put the leeks in your dish at a later stage than you would ordinarily put shallots. The other similarity between the two is that the bulbs look alike. 

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