Shallots are the mildest representatives of the allium family. Cooking with shallots means that you won’t have to deal with the overpowering flavor of onions and will add an elegant feel to your dish. Can you substitute shallots to achieve a similar result?
What can you use instead of shallots? While no other vegetable has the same flavor profile as shallots, finding close alternatives is possible. The best substitutes for shallots are onions, yellow onions being the most fitting. They resemble the taste of shallots when cooked but should be used cautiously in raw dishes. You can also substitute shallots with scallions and green onion, a combination of onion and garlic, leeks, and garlic scapes.
Read on to learn more about the best substitutes for shallots and how to use them to maintain the perfect balance in your dishes.
What Are Shallots?
Being a member of the allium family, shallots are related to onions and garlic. These mellow-flavored bulbs are a popular ingredient in any kitchen.
The appearance of shallots is very much similar to that of a small onion. Shallots, however, have a more elongated shape.
What Do They Taste Like?
Whether you use them raw or cooked, the flavor of shallots is very delicate and soft. Shallots are sweet and spicy at the same time. Acidity is also characteristic of shallots. While shallots are also sharp, which is typical of the members of the allium family, they are not as harsh as red or white onions.
The taste of shallots is similar to the taste of onions with a hint of garlic. While raw shallots can be faintly pungent, they are never as abrasive as to overpower other ingredients in the dish.
If you want to soften the flavor of shallots even more, cook them. Cooked shallots taste softer and provide a nice background for the main ingredients in the dish.
Cooking softens not only the flavor but also the texture of shallots. Unlike onions that keep their shape even after long cooking time, shallots almost melt in the dish.
Uses of Shallots in Cooking
Shallots can be used in cooking in a variety of ways. Due to their mild flavor, shallots can be the primary ingredient in many dishes. You can use shallots in:
- Stews and casseroles
- Pies and tarts
5 Best Shallot Substitutes
If you have run out of shallots or haven’t found them in your local market, there are multiple substitution options. But there are a few things to keep in mind when substituting shallots with another ingredient.
Firstly, the flavor profile of shallots is very unique. These alliums taste soft when raw, and even softer when cooked. If the recipe you are using shallots in is largely dependent on their flavor qualities, you may consider going to the store in search of shallots.
Secondly, there are dishes where you cannot substitute shallots with something else. Shallot tart tatin, for example, can hardly ever be made with onions.
Some people think that shallots are an onion variety. But this is not true. While they look similar and come from the same family, there are a few differences setting the two apart.
First of all, onions grow as single bulbs while shallots form small clusters. Secondly, while the flavor profile of shallots and onions are somewhat similar, the latter is more intense.
Shallots are milder and sweeter which is not characteristic of any onion variety. Raw onions are especially intense compared to shallots. Thus, it is best to substitute shallots with onions only in cooked dishes. In raw dishes, such as salads or vinaigrettes, the flavor of onions will be too intense.
It is recommended to substitute shallots with onion varieties that are on the sweeter side. Yellow onions can be your best bet if you are looking for an option closest to shallots as far as the sweetness goes.
You can also use white or red onions. However, their flavor may be too sharp or too sweet. You can opt for these onion varieties in dishes that require cooking. Cooking makes the flavor of onions subtler.
The ratio for substituting shallots with onions is 1:1 in cooked dishes. Make sure you measure chopped onions.
For dishes that call for raw shallots, use less onion to be on the safer side. Using half as much onion as the recipe calls for shallots will do the job.
Note: Don’t substitute shallots with onions in dishes that require large amounts of shallots. This means that shallots play a key role in the recipe and using onions instead will lead to a completely different outcome.
2. Scallions or Green Onion
Scallions and green onions sold in bunches can be a good substitute for shallots.
Scallions have a milder flavor compared to onions. The white bulb of scallions can be used in cooked dishes to replace shallots, while the green part will work perfectly as a garnish.
Green onions, often wrongly considered to be the same as scallions, are also a nice alternative for shallots. They are fresh, crunchy, and with a mellow oniony flavor.
Use green onion in dishes that don’t require cooking or add them at the end of the cooking process when everything is ready.
3. Garlic and Onion
You are more likely to have a basket filled with onions and garlic at all times than shallots. The reason is that the first two are extremely versatile and staple ingredients, while shallots are more specific. Not everyone chooses shallots over onions if the recipe doesn’t call for them. Part of the reason why this happens is also that shallots are more expensive than onions and garlic.
As we have already mentioned, you can substitute shallots with onions in cooked and raw dishes.
Garlic can also be used in the task of recreating the flavor of shallots in cooked dishes. However, it can only be used in combination with onions.
To recreate the onion-garlic flavor of shallots, use a combination of the two ingredients. Add a small amount of finely chopped garlic to onions. Alternatively, you can use a small amount of garlic powder for the same effect.
Leeks are another vegetable from the allium family and they make a great substitute for shallots.
The flavor of leeks is similar to onions but a lot milder. When raw, leeks have a crunchy texture. Once you cook leeks, they turn tender.
The white and the light green parts of the leeks are used in cooking. The dark green parts are usually discarded. While the lower white part looks similar to shallots, it is the middle light green part that has the flavor most similar to shallots.
You can use leeks in soups, stocks, and stews. They can successfully replace shallots in almost any dish. Keep in mind that you need to add leeks earlier in the cooking process in order to tenderize them.
Use leeks as a 1:1 substitution for shallots.
5. Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are not something you will typically have at home. However, if you have your garden and grow garlic, you can harvest the stalks growing from the bulbs and make good use of them.
Garlic scapes look like scallions but twisted. Their flavor is mild, slightly sweet, and of course, with garlicky notes.
When using garlic scapes instead of shallots it is important to pay attention to the ratio. Use four times less garlic spades than the recipe calls for shallots.