Behind the Seasoning: Shallots & Shallot Flavor
Shallots are an underrated way to spice up your recipes. With similarities to both onion and garlic, a pinch of shallots goes a long way in flavor. Read on to see how you can liven up your dishes using different types of shallots.
What Are Shallots
If you think shallots are just tiny onions, think again. While they are related and have some overlapping qualities, shallots have a distinct taste and flavor profile. Like onions, they grow underground as bulbs but they actually grow in a way that is more similar to garlic. The plant grows in clusters of bulbs, and each bulb has a thin, light brown, papery skin. When fully grown, the bulbs are plucked from the ground and the paper-like outer layer is peeled off before using.
While shallots most likely originated in Central or Southwest Asia, the first documented use of the vegetable came from trading ports in the Mediterranean. During the 11th century, the bulb made its way to Europe via crusaders from the Middle East.
Cutting, dicing, and cleaning shallots can be a little bit of a process. Luckily, dried shallots have all the flavor of the tiny bulb and none of the work in the kitchen. Our Freeze Dried Shallots are chopped, dried, and frozen. They offer the same bold flavor as a fresh shallot and tend to taste like a cross between sweet onions and garlic.
Dried shallots can also be reconstituted very easily. Add equal parts water with the shallots and let them sit until the water has evaporated to rehydrate them.
Like onions, shallots have a place in various seasonings and shallot spice mixes. Shallots are a key ingredient in French béarnaise sauce, which was the inspiration for our sweet and herby Tarragon Shallot Citrus Seasoning. We paired shallots with another herb, dill weed, to create one of our top-selling spice blends: Capitol Hill Seasoning.
What Does a Shallot Taste Like?
Don’t let your eyes fool you — a shallot does not taste just like an onion. While they share similar tasting notes, particularly with red onions, shallots tend to fall on the sweeter side. When served raw, shallots have a strong and sharp flavor, similar to a red onion. When cooked, the vegetable turns very sweet and has a super mild flavor.
Dried Shallot Flavor
If you really want to understand the flavor of shallots, picture a cross between sweet onions and mild garlic. The flecks pack a lot of flavor without being overpowering. Dried shallots are excellent as a substitute for fresh shallots, especially since you may not always be able to find them as easily.
Supreme Shallot Salt is the best of both worlds when it comes to an onion salt blend. A combination of shallot, minced green onion, and salt combine to make this umami flavor bomb. The spice blend is great to use in recipes where you would typically use garlic salt or onion salt. It can even be a replacement for regular sea salt if you are looking to jazz things up a bit.
Difference in Shallot Flavor vs. Onion and Green Onions
Shallots, onions, and green onions are all part of the allium family (onion & garlic) but that doesn't mean they taste the same. Shallots have a sharper flavor than green onions, but are sweeter than regular onions. The white ends of the green onions are probably the closest in taste to a shallot. Onions and shallots have more of an overlap; however, shallots are not as harsh and are less pungent than onions. When cooked, shallots are the sweetest of the bunch.
What Other Spice, Seasoning, and Flavors Pair Well with Shallot Flavors?
Because shallots tend to be used as a base for other flavors when cooking, there are numerous herbs, spices, and ingredients that mix well with shallots. The vegetable is excellent to add when making soups, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. It is also a great flavor when making different meat and vegetable-based dishes.
As a background player in most recipes, shallots support other flavors really well and help build them up. Take a hint from the French and use them as the aromatic base for a savory sauce. Put this concept into practice with a uniquely American flavor and try our Tangy White BBQ Sauce, or see the sharpness firsthand by making a Saffron Citrus Vinaigrette to dress your favorite salad.
What are Shallots Used For?
You’re not likely to see a bowl of sautéed shallots because shallots are rarely the star of the plate. That being said, they play an important role when building a dish. When making soups, stews, and marinades, shallots are used to build up base flavors, similar to how their cousins garlic and onion are used. It’s easy to use Freeze Dried Shallots because you can add them directly into recipes. They add a slightly sweet and mildly garlicky flavor profile to the dish. Try baking them into bread, especially flatbreads like naan or pita, to make a pillowy-soft bread full of subtle onion flavor.
Tarragon Shallot Citrus Seasoning and Capitol Hill Seasoning both feature shallots. While we don’t call these all-purpose seasonings, because they don’t stand up to direct heat, they can be used to add subtle oniony flavor to Crispy Pan-Fried Fish & Asparagus, Herbed Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Chive Pasta, and Roasted Red Pepper Wrapped Cheese Rolls.
Supreme Shallot Salt is a secret weapon that will instantly upgrade any recipe you put it in. The combination of sweet shallot, salt, and slightly herby green onions really wakes up your taste buds. Use the blend just like garlic salt or onion salt - or even regular table salt. We love the flavor it adds to dressing or Garden Ranch Dip.
What Can Be Substituted for Shallots?
Like we’ve already mentioned, fresh shallots and Freeze Dried Shallots can be used virtually interchangeably. About ½ teaspoon of dried shallots is equal to one shallot bulb. But if your recipe calls for shallots and you don’t have either on hand, there is no need to worry. Many vegetables and spices can replace the shallot flavor in a pinch. Onions, leeks, scallions, chives, red onions, garlic, and yellow onions are all related to shallots which makes them great opinions as substitutes. If you’re looking for a spice swap, go for something that has a similar flavor profile, like Granulated Onion or Garlic Powder.
Are There Shallot Health Benefits?
Shallots may not be the first to come to mind when thinking about health benefits from vegetables. But you might be surprised to find that the little bulbs actually have a lot of health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants and high in potassium, and they may relieve allergy symptoms, improve circulation, and assist in lowering blood sugar.
Where & How to Buy Shallot Seasonings
If you are not familiar with buying fresh shallots, the process can be a little confusing. They are typically located in the produce section in the grocery store by the onions and garlic. Look for something that is about the size of a garlic bulb but has a purplish-brown or rusty color. Shallots may have between one and three cloves to a bulb. When picking shallots, look for bulbs that are heavier and rather firm. If the bulbs have sprouted or feel soft in areas, leave those behind as they are older.
If buying them seems complicated, or you can’t find them near you, your best bet is to opt for dried shallots. Our store sells Freeze Dried Shallots that are perfect for keeping in your spice collection. Our Supreme Shallot Salt is also an excellent addition to your spice collection. If you’d prefer to see our spice in person, check out our store locator to see where you can find our shallot collection near you.
Recipes Using Shallot Flavors
Not sure where to start when it comes to cooking with shallots? You’ve come to the right place. These recipes show off how shallots and shallot seasonings can be used to add a lot of flavor to almost any kind of dish.
Freeze Dried Shallots: A pinch of Freeze Dried Shallots will turn your recipes up a notch thanks to the bold garlicky, onion, and mildly sweet flavor.
- Saffron & Squash Risotto: Shallots and other spices add an aromatic flavor that balances the sweetness of Spanish Coupe Saffron in this creamy risotto that tastes as good as it looks.
- Korean Beef & Broccoli Bowl: The next time you want your family to have a simple dinner that tastes like it took hours to make, try this recipe for a dinner everyone will love.
- Lamb Kebabs with Baharat Glaze: You might be familiar with adding onions to your meatloaf, this is a similar technique for easy and flavor-packed kebabs.
- Lindsay’s Luscious Quiche: With classic French-inspired flavor, this quiche is delicious enough for breakfast, brunch, or dinner!
Shallot Seasonings: The blend of shallots and herbs creates a balanced flavor that can give an extra boost to veggies, sides, fish, and more. Choose the dill-infused flavor of Capitol Hill Seasoning or the herby, licorice-like notes of Tarragon Shallot Citrus Seasoning in any of these recipes.
- Sandra’s Salmon Salad: Choose your own flavor adventure for this throwback recipe that is perfect for a satisfying lunch.
- Roasted Beet & Onion “Pickles”: This quick pickle recipe is easy but requires a bit of planning ahead as they taste best after spending some time chilling in the fridge.
- Capitol Hill Green Beans & Spring Tarragon Shallot Asparagus: While these recipes have suggested seasonings, you can mix and match your favorite shallot blend. The point is that both seasonings are great on green veggies!
Supreme Shallot Salt: Leftover shallot granules mix with green onions and white pepper to make a blend that sits perfectly in each bite.
- Deviled Egg Dip: If you love deviled eggs but hate all the steps to make the small bites, you’ll love this recipe. This dip has all of the flavor of a deviled egg without all the fuss.
- Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad: You can’t go wrong with this simple Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad. Serve it as a side or main and enjoy the medley of seasonings.
- Garden Ranch Dip & Dressing: Ditch the store bought ranch and opt for the homemade version, thanks to this tasty recipe. The perfect combination of spices will make this dressing stand out.
Shop Garlic & Onion or learn more by going Behind the Seasoning to explore Onion, Garlic, Chives and Scallions, or Seasoning Salts. Tell us about your favorite ways to use shallots below or tag us on Instagram @savoryspiceshop.