Difference Between Shallots and Onions

Shallots vs Onions

Most recipes require very specific directions as well as precision in ingredients. This is exactly why, although onions and shallots are from the same allium family, they cannot be used interchangeably in cooking. However, because of the very similar appearance of the two, they often tend to be confused for one another.                                                               

What are Onions? 

Also known as the bulb onion or the common onion, onions are a vegetable that is also the most widely cultivated species of the allium family. Scientifically referred to as Allium cepa, onions are usually a biennial or a perennial plant that is considered as an annual plant and is harvested in its first growing season. 

With a bulb at the base of the plant that begins to swell when a certain day length is reached, the onion plant has hollow, bluish green leaves. Cultivated and used around the world, onions are known for their content of phenolics and flavonoids that have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cholesterol properties. 

Onions come in three colour varieties such as white, red and yellow onions. While the yellow onions or the brown onions are a full flavoured variety that is used in everyday cuisine, the red onion is at its best when served up raw. The white onion are a classic option in Mexican cuisine and gives out a particular sweetness when sautéed. 

Onions are served either raw in salads, chutneys and by themselves or cooked in a variety of savoury dishes. They can be used as a part in hearty, warm dishes or as a main ingredient in their own right such as onion chutney or French onion soup. A very versatile ingredient, onions are a staple in Indian, Sri Lankan and Maldivian cuisine and are used as a thickening agent in a variety of curries.   

What are Shallots? 

Shallots, scientifically known as Allium cepa var. Aggregatumis a botanical variety of the Allium cepa species that is classified under the plant family Amaryllidaceae. Shallots are formed in clusters and their colour typically varies from gray, golden brown to rose red while their flesh is usually off-white in colour tinged with magenta or green. Extensively cultivated all over the world, shallots are used in various cuisine types all over the world. They can be served fresh or cooked, in pickles, salads, curries and a large variety of dishes. Rich in flavonoids and phenols, shallots are often used as a flavour enhancer or a main ingredient by itself in a wide range of dishes from all over the world. 

What is the difference between Shallots and Onions?

Difference Between Onions and Shallots

• Shallots are milder in flavour than onions, with a hint of garlic.

• Shallots are less pungent than onions which carry a more intense flavour and a strong aroma.

• Onions are typically served cooked which help temper their strong flavour. Shallots are more flavoursome when served raw in salads, vinaigrettes or sauces where its mild flavour can be properly showcased.

• Although both onions and shallots produce edible foliage, onion plants grown for scallion don’t usually produce bulbs. Shallot plants produce both scapes and bulbs.

• Onions form one large, single bulb. Shallots grow in clusters of small bulbs.

• Onions are typically harvested in summer from either fall- or spring-planted sets. Shallots are usually planted in fall for harvesting in summer.

• Shallots are known to contain more flavonoids and phenols than onions.  


Further Readings:

1. Difference Between Leeks and Onions

2. Difference Between Leeks and Green Onions

3. Difference Between Leek and Spring Onion