Shallots vs Onions: What’s the Difference?

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shallots vs onions

Most people are pretty familiar with onions, but when asked about shallots, they often draw a blank. Shallots are very similar to onions but do have their own identity. We’ll help you figure out just what the differences are between shallots and onions.

If you’ve ever seen raw shallots in the grocery store, you might find yourself a bit confused. At first glance, it looks like a hybrid between an onion and garlic, and this is justified as it comes from the same allium family that garlic and onion belong to. While shallots can be used as a substitute to onions in most recipes, they do have their own distinct flavor. Onions have a harsher edge to their flavor, while shallots have a calmer flavor profile.

What is a Shallot?

what is a shallot

A shallot is actually a type of onion and is part of the allium or onion family. There are many types of shallots, with the most popular being Jersey shallots, grey shallots, and Echalion shallots.

Shallots grow underground. They grow in clusters, similar to garlic but are often sold in individual pieces.


Shallots have a lot of nutritional elements. They contain manganese, iron, copper, potassium, and magnesium.

For vitamins, they are rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A.

Health Benefits

Because of their richness in Vitamin B6, shallots help with your immune system and your nervous system.

The Vitamin B9 in them helps with the formation of red blood cells.

Cooking Purposes

Shallots can be used in just about everything. Their subtle flavor can quickly elevate a dish and provide an extra layer of taste.

Shallots are quite common in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. They can also be used in stir-fries, soups, and casseroles.

You can use shallots in salad dressings to add a sweet but tangy taste. They are also great paired with olive oil and garlic to create a meat marinade.

What is an Onion?

what is an onion

Onions are a staple in the culinary world. They are part of the allium family and their bulbs, ranging from small to large, grow underground.

There are many types of onions, including red onions, spring onions, green onions, yellow onions, and pearl onions.


While different types of onions will have different levels of nutrients in them, they all have some qualities in common. Onions have a lot of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium in them.

Onions are especially rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin B6.

Health Benefits

Onions are loaded with antioxidants, which help promote overall heart health. They can also help control your blood sugar levels and may enhance your bone density.

Cooking Purposes

So many recipes will start with a diced onion, simmered in oil. This is because the flavor of onion creates a richness to many recipes, and without it, you would quickly feel that something is lacking.

The biggest issue with onions is that raw onions have a very overwhelming taste. As a result, many people will comment that while they don’t like raw onions, they love the cooked version.

While onions play a supporting role in many dishes, they can quickly become the star in other recipes. French onion soup is all about onions, as are fried onion rings.

Some varieties of onions, such as green onions, allow you to make use of the green leaves, both cooked or as a garnish.

What is the difference between onions and shallots?

AppearanceShallots grow underground in clusters, similar to garlic. They have a thin, papery skin that is either brown, purple, or red.Onions grow underground, usually in single bulbs.
They have a thin, papery skin in white, yellow, and red colors.
Health BenefitsShallots are rich in Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B9. These vitamins help with the nervous system and the immune system. Shallots can also help with the production of red blood cells.Onions are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Together, this combination helps improve heart health, increases bone density, and controls blood sugar levels.
Calories72 calories per 100 grams40 calories per 100 grams
CarbohydratesTotal: 16.8 calories per 100 grams
Sugars 4.24 grams
Dietary fiber 1.7 grams
Total: 9.34 calories per 100 grams
Sugars 7.87 grams
Dietary fiber 3.2 grams
Protein2.5 grams per 100 grams1.1 grams per 100 grams
Fats0.1 grams per 100 grams0.1 grams per 100 grams
OriginsShallots originated in Asia but quickly migrated through India and the Middle East.
Their name comes from a city in Israel which gives another clue to their origin.
Onions most likely originated in Iran, India, and China.
Onions have been reported in use as far back as 5000 BC.

When it comes to the shallots vs onions debate, taste is key. Onions have a more intense flavor, and some would even describe it as having heat.

Shallots, on the other hand, have a softer flavor that is often sweet.

You would primarily use cooked shallots in a recipe while onions can be used both cooked and raw.

Can you use shallot instead of onion?

can you use shallots instead of onion

Yes, you can use shallots instead of onions in most cooked dishes. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, then using shallots instead is a nice option.

However, if the recipe calls for raw onion, it is not recommended to use raw shallots. Stick to cooked substitutions, and you’ll be able to create delicious meals.

Are shallots healthier than onions?

Despite being from the same allium family, shallots are a bit healthier than onions. Their nutrients, which include fiber, protein, and some vitamins, are more concentrated. Thus, you need to consume fewer shallots than onions to get the same health benefits.

How many onions equal a shallot?

If you want to substitute shallots for onion in a recipe, you’ll want to know how much equals what. Three shallots are equal to one small onion. If you have a medium-sized onion, you can use five shallots.


Shallots and onions are both versatile food staples. While similar, they do have their own distinct flavors. Shallots have a warmer, more subtle note to them, while onions can have a spicier, harsher taste, especially when served raw.

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