Shallots are small, mild-flavored onions, about the size of boiling onions. Very popular in French cuisine, these small, elongated vegetables are the stars of béarnaise sauce and give dishes the warmth and intensity of both garlic and onions.
Shallots are far more delicate than other onions and have to be cultivated and picked by hand. Browning makes them bitter, so shallots are delicious diced finely and fried gently in butter, wine, or vinegar. They’re also gorgeous pickled or roasted.
If you have a recipe that calls for shallots and you can’t find any of these unusual alliums, here are some ideas of substitute for shallots.
#1. Green Onions
Green onions or scallions are related to shallots but have a milder, herbaceous flavor. The great advantage of green onions is that you can eat both the dark green leaves, which have lovely freshness, as well as the more pungent white bulb.
To substitute for cooked shallots, stick to the green onion bulb to get a similar texture and flavor. Green onions need a shorter cooking time than shallots, as they are much smaller and softer. If you want to substitute raw shallots, use both the bulb and leaves of the green onion.
Green onions are very versatile because of their gentle bite, so you can substitute them for shallots in most dishes. They work brilliantly in Asian cuisines, such as noodles and stir-fries, as well as egg dishes, but are mild enough to eat raw in salads, dressings, or as toppings.
To substitute green onions for shallots:
1 shallot = 2-3 green onions.
#2. Yellow Onions
Many chefs and foodies recommend yellow onions as an ideal shallot substitute because their mild sweetness is similar to their shallot cousins’. They’re also practical, as most of us have yellow onions or sweet onions lurking in the veg basket.
Yellow onions are texturally more robust than shallots, so they need to cook for longer and won’t cook down to that delicious mushiness of shallots. They caramelize beautifully and roast well, though, so yellow onions are a good choice for those cooking techniques.
You won’t be able to use yellow onions raw, but they do well as a shallot substitute if you’re roasting vegetables, making a soup, or even a stew with red wine.
To substitute yellow onion for shallots:
1 shallot = ½ yellow onion.
Leeks are an ancient member of the onion family and can range from miniature baby leeks to ones that look somewhat like enormous green onions. Smaller leeks make an excellent shallot substitute as they lack the sharpness of other onions yet have the tender mellowness of shallots.
A word of caution about leeks: the layers of the leek’s bulb and white stalk can contain dirt as they are buried to keep them pale. Remove the tough base and green leaves. Once you’ve halved your leeks, rinse them thoroughly in cold water and let them soak until the dirt falls to the bottom, about 15 minutes.
Because leeks have a milder onion flavor, you might want to add some garlic to your dish to mimic the effects of shallots.
Use leeks instead of shallots if you’re braising or roasting vegetables– they make an excellent side dish served au gratin or with butter and herbs. Roasting is a helpful way to prepare heftier leeks, which need to be cooked down.
You can also slice young leeks finely as part of a quiche, stir-fry, soup, frittata, or with chicken. They make a delightful risotto as well.
To use leeks instead of shallots:
1 shallot = 1 medium-sized leek or 2-3 baby leeks + 2 cloves garlic.
#4. Red Onions
If you don’t have any yellow onions, you may well have red onions with their bright, sharp flavor.
Red onion has more of a kick than shallots do and have a similar texture to yellow onions, so they will need a longer cooking time than shallots to achieve the same tenderness and aroma.
You can also replace shallots with red onions in salads and dips because of their sweetness and toothsome crunch. To take off some of the bite of raw onion, soak the chopped red onion for 10 minutes in cold water. Rinse and use as a garnish or topping.
Because red onion is more potent than shallot, use them in this ratio:
1 shallot = ½ red onion.
Garlic and shallots are both bunching plants as they grow in clusters. Shallots have an exciting hint of garlic, so consider using garlic if your shallots were intended to add savory spice to a dish.
Garlic is much more powerful than shallots, so you’ll use far less garlic to replace your shallots. They’re also not texturally similar, so go for this option only for the flavor; you couldn’t use garlic to replace shallots in a quiche or onion soup, for instance.
Use garlic to add spice to stews and casseroles.
As a substitute for shallots, use garlic as follows:
1 shallot = 4 cloves of garlic.
Although the taste and scent of chives are reminiscent of onions, this tender-leafed plant with its vivid shoots is a herb. Chives have a bright, garlicky flavor and add color as a tasty garnish.
Chives don’t have a bulb like onions do, so they are best used as a substitute for raw shallots when you want a hint of sharpness in a salad, dip, topping, omelet, frittata, or scrambled eggs.
To add subtle oniony-ness to a dish, sprinkle in chopped chives at the end of cooking as a fresh element or garnish– chives will wilt and lose their flavor if cooked for long.
To replace raw shallots with chives:
1 shallot = ½ cup of chives.