Shallots have a mild onion flavor with a slight hint of garlic. They are delicious raw, and are coveted in salads and as a garnish for their mild, crisp flavor. Like onions, they are considerably milder when properly cooked, exhibiting a delicate, sweet flavor. Shallots are essential ingredients in classic French sauce and vinaigrette preparations. Raw and cooked, they are popular in most major cuisines, and are found in all types of savory dishes.
While similar to onions, shallots are a separate species. There are hundreds of varieties. Mature plants grow into bulbs comprised of several individual shallots. The bulb is wrapped in fine-textures paper-thin layers of skin in numerous shades including copper, gold, and pink. When the skin is removed, the individual shallots are revealed. They have a look similar to onions, but smaller in shape and often tapered into a point at the top of each shallot. Recipes often call for a shallot, which can vary greatly in size. You’ll have to use your best judgement on which one to choose from your bulb.
Shallots are available in supermarkets, farmers markets, and specialty produce stores. Sourcing your shallots locally, like other fruits and vegetables, often results in obtaining the freshest, highest-quality ingredient available. If you fortunate enough to have a specialty produce store in your area, you may have access to a wider variety of shallots.
For best results, store the uncut bulb at room temperature, around 70 F. Leave the bulb whole and the skin on until ready to use. Remove the skin and separate shallots from the base of the bulb as you need them in your recipes. They can be left whole for deep-frying, for use in stews and braises, or for roasting.
Slicing and Cutting
Shallots have a root base that can be left on when using them whole in recipes. The base can be trimmed off by the cook before serving, or by the diner. The root base is often left on while cutting or slicing to assist in making the task easier. Shallots can be sliced lengthwise or across the grain, depending on desire. Finely minced shallots are ideal in vinaigrettes, and as a garnish for soups and savory dishes.
Spring shallots, or shallot shoots are immature shallots. Similar to green onions, or scallions, the bright green shoots attached to the small bulb are harvested before reaching maturity. The shoots have a milder flavor than mature plants. The shoots are readily available in spring at specialty produce stores, and some farmers markets.
Shallots sautéed over very low heat until golden brown and soft. Caramelized shallots work well in savory dishes and pair nicely with roasted vegetables, fish, seafood, and meat.
- 12 shallots
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- fresh lemon juice
- Peel skin off bulb and separate individual shallots. Cut shallots lengthwise into thin strips. Trim off root base.
- Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to preheated pan. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the shallots and toss in the butter and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Sprinkle sugar over shallots. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
- Reduce heat to low. Sauté shallots, stirring occasionally until light brown.
- Squeeze lemon juice over shallots and stir to combine.
Variations – Stir in minced or roasted garlic when adding the shallots. Substitute balsamic vinegar for fresh lemon juice when shallots have caramelized.
- Have a high concentration of flavonoid compounds. Flavonoids have antioxidant properties that may provide important health benefits.
- Should be stored at room temperature in an area free of moisture. Do not wrap shallots in plastic. Whole unpeeled shallots will keep for several weeks. Peeled shallots or unused portions should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Low in calories. A single tablespoon of chopped shallots contains small amounts of vitamin A, B, C, and E.
- Can be round, oval, or elongated in shape. The skin color can be a variety of colors including red, reddish brown, copper, yellow, and grey.
- Readily available in supermarkets, farmers markets, and specialty produce stores. The bulbs may be purchased individually, or they are often packaged in nets containing a half dozen to a dozen bulbs.