As a home chef, I know the importance of having a variety of flavorful ingredients on hand and knowing how to substitute them to avoid having to run to the shops for every recipe. From chives to chopped red onion, here are my favorite substitutes for shallots, which I hope will make your recipes more adventurous!
What are Shallots?
Shallots are a type of allium – the same family of plants that includes onions, garlic, and scallions. Unlike larger onions, however, shallots have thinner skin and a slightly sweeter flavor, which can be appreciated in both raw and cooked recipes.
When cooking with shallots, you'll find that they add a dimension of depth and complexity that regular onions just can't match, and once tried, it is easy to see why so many like to include them in many dishes.
They're fantastic for simmering in sauces, sautéing with vegetables, or adding to a variety of dishes, from French cuisine to Asian stir-fries.
My favorite way of using shallots is in tomato, feta, olives, and cucumber salad, or sauteed and added to sandwiches like this Steak Sandwich.
List of the 11 Best Substitutes for Shallots:
Honestly, we all run out of ingredients while the cooking process is well underway, however, I often start my recipes by making conscious decisions to amend them to use up ingredients I already have at home and reduce waste, and I am sure many do too. Below are my go-to options in these cases, which are tried and tested, and hope you will enjoy them too!
1. Red Onion
One of the best substitutes for shallots is the red onion, which is also known as the Spanish onion.
It has a mild sweetness that makes it ideal as a substitute for shallots, and it is found in many houses at all times as it is a very common ingredient.
When sliced, it can add an earthy flavor to soups, stews, and sauces, while its texture is also perfect for dishes like burgers and salads.
The best part about using red onions as a substitute is that they are readily available all year round in most grocery stores, so they are not as seasonal as some of the options I will mention below.
2. Yellow Onion and Garlic Powder
Yellow onions are a great alternative to shallots. What is great, is that they are also readily available at most grocery stores and have a similar flavor.
The taste of yellow onions is slightly more pungent than shallots, but they will provide the sweetness that shallots add to your dishes.
They are an excellent replacement for sauces, dressings, and soups. I recommend using yellow onions with a pinch of garlic powder if a recipe calls for cooked shallots, as it helps balance out the profile.
Leeks are from the same family as shallots, onions, and garlic, so it makes sense that they would make a great substitute.
Their flavor is milder than an onion but more robust than a shallot. Leeks are long and cylindrical; the white and light green parts are the most useful in cooking, while the darker green parts are tougher.
They’re great for sautéing and roasting, especially in soups (yum, leek and potato!) and stews and I love them particularly in chicken pies or mashed potato with leek.
While leeks offer a unique flavor to dishes like soups, stews, and pies, exploring substitutes for leeks can introduce new dimensions to your favorite recipes, especially when leeks are not readily available.
Garlic is one of the most popular ingredients in the culinary world. For shallot substitution purposes, using garlic provides the same depth of flavor but with a more pungent punch.
It’s an excellent option for dishes like pasta, risotto, and sauces, especially if you like roasted garlic taste as it pairs wonderfully with tomato-based sauces (use it in a simple tomato and basil pasta sauce), and butter (which is usually used to sautee the chopped shallots in risottos).
However, keep in mind that garlic cloves are quite strong; therefore, if you do not want your food to taste overwhelmingly like garlic, use it sparingly.
Garlic scapes are a better choice if you like a milder flavor and offer a lovely green bright color.
Chives are a perfect alternative, especially in recipes that require raw shallots. They have a mild onion flavor, a subtle sweetness, and a delightful aroma.
Chives are commonly used as a garnish, but they can also add an extra layer of flavor to dishes, especially omelets, soups, or salads.
To use chives in place of shallots, chop them finely and add them to your recipe. Remember that they must be stored properly in the fridge, as they are quite delicate. They are often mistaken for green onions. I have covered more about their differences and similarities in this article are chives green onions?
6. Pearl Onions
Pearl onions are precious little bulbs that you can use as an alternative to shallots.
They are relatively sweeter than shallots and have a subtle flavor, making them perfect in dishes where you want the onion flavor without it being too overpowering.
Try using pearl onions in stews, casseroles, and braised dishes. If you haven't used them before but would like to try them, I love them in South Indian dishes and use them to prepare Kerala Beef Fry and different coconut chutneys, or Cabbage Thoran.
Scallions, also known as green onions, are another great alternative to shallots. They have a milder taste than shallots but provide the same subtle sweetness, and are especially good when used raw.
They are a perfect substitute for garnishing and give dishes a little bit more color. You can use whole or sliced green onion, and it is preferred to add them in the final minutes of cooking to get the best flavor.
Add them chopped to salads or on top of stir-fries, or use them to cook dishes like Schezwan Sauce.
8. Fennel Bulb
Fennel bulbs have a mild licorice flavor, making them the perfect substitute for shallots. They are crunchier and slightly sweeter than shallots, but they provide the same depth of flavor.
Fennel is best used raw in salads or cooked in soups and stews. Either way, it will add unique flavor and texture to your dish.
Be sure to remove the tough core before slicing or chopping the fennel bulb, however, feel free to eat the green thin leaves on top of it, even though they are frequently used as simple garnishes.
9. White Onion
White onions are a great substitute for shallots in dishes where you do not want the strong onion flavor. They have a milder taste than yellow onions but still provide sweetness.
White onions can be used in any dish, from salads to sauces and even soups. Use a thinly sliced white onion in your evening stir-fry, to garnish a stew, or on top of salad like you would a chopped shallot!
These onions are incredibly versatile and provide a subtle onion taste without overpowering the other ingredients.
10. Ramps (wild leeks)
Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a springtime favorite in many parts of the world and you may have heard of them as wild onions. They provide a unique flavor that is similar to shallots with an added bit of earthiness.
Ramps can be used similarly to shallots in cooked dishes, adding great flavor to salads and sauces. Chop or slice them thin and use them instead of chopped or sliced shallots to get the same flavor with a unique twist!
My favorite ways of using ramps are in omelets, or instead of onions in a rich pasta sauce.
11. Shallot Powder
Though it’s not a vegetable, shallot powder is another great substitute for shallots. It is made from dehydrated and finely ground shallots, resulting in a flavorful and versatile seasoning that you can use in any dish.
Shallot powder provides the same depth of flavor without having to do any chopping or slicing, and having some in the cupboard helps in moments you run out of fresh ones.
Use it to add umami flavor to your dishes or as a garnish. It’s an excellent addition to soups, sauces, and marinades.
People Also Ask [FAQs]
Yes, shallots are part of the onion family. They belong to the Allium cepa var. Ascalonium species grow in clusters from a bulb known as the mother.
Shallots have a milder flavor than onions, making them ideal for chefs who want to avoid the sharp and tangy bite of onions. They also grow differently from regular onions, forming clusters more like garlic does.
Wrap Up: Shallot Substitute
- Shallots are a type of onion with a milder flavor than normal onions, there are a variety of vegetables and seasonings that can be used as an alternative to shallots.
- When substituting other ingredients for shallots in recipes, chefs can use raw options such as red onions, chives, scallions, fennel bulbs, or white onions.
- For cooked dishes like soups and stews, yellow onions, garlic leeks pearl onions, or ramps (wild leeks) may be better suited to give the dish more depth of flavor.