Shallots are especially popular in French and Asian cuisines for their sweet, mild, and delicate flavor. Delicious whether raw or cooked, you’ll typically find shallots next to onions and garlic in your local supermarket.
No matter how well you plan, there’ll always come a time when you need shallots for one of your recipes but have run out or your local store is fresh out.
Luckily for you, I’ve found some of the best substitutes for shallots that you can easily use. You’ll find that they work just as well or even better than shallots for your dishes.
Shallots vs Onions
You could be forgiven for thinking that shallots are just smaller and fancier onions and are basically the same. However whilst they look similar, shallots aren’t onions.
What Do They Have in Common?
Shallots do belong to the same genus, allium, as onions, garlic, and chives. Shallots also have a similar taste to onion and garlic. The color of shallots and onions are almost identical, ranging from different hues of red to yellow.
What’s The Difference?
Shallots are usually smaller and an oblong shape compared to onions. Whilst onions grown in individual bulbs, shallots grow in a cluster like garlic.
Shallots are not as spicy as raw onions and they don’t pack the same level of heat. They’re also less likely make you tear up or give you bad breath. Instead, shallots taste sweeter and milder than onions. This makes them an excellent alternative if you’re looking to tone down the flavor of raw onions in a salad.
When you Can Substitute Shallots… and When You Shouldn’t
Let’s be clear, whether your recipe calls for cooked or raw shallots, you can substitute them.
However, there are occasions when you really should hold out for the real thing.
It’s important to remember that shallots have a unique and mild taste. You should pick a substitute according to your recipe’s needs: Do you need shallots for frying? For a salad? Or for their flavor and aroma?
If you’re making fried sliced shallots, using a substitute may not let you achieve the delicate crispiness you are looking for. I’d suggest that you don’t substitute shallots in this particular situation. You’ll never entirely be able to replicate the thin crispiness of fried shallots with substitutes.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to replace the mild flavor and aroma of onion and garlic found in shallots, you can and should easily substitute shallots with some of the alternatives below.
Best Substitutes for Shallots
Substituting shallots doesn’t have to be hard, and there are many options you can easily find in your very own kitchen.
Here are some of the best substitutes for shallots that I have found for you to try. For each option I’ll guide you on using them as replacements, depending on your recipe’s needs.
My favorite go-to substitute for shallots that never goes wrong is yellow or white onions!
White/yellow onions are the best substitutes for shallots as they have an almost identical flavor profile. These onions are readily available in most supermarkets and are a staple found in nearly every kitchen.
Whilst white/yellow onions are one of the best options, it’s important to note that they have a more intense and potent in flavor. Because of this you should never substitute them one for one.
I would recommend soaking and rinsing your chopped white/yellow onions in cold water to reduce the strong onion taste.
However, if you’re an onion lover and would like a more robust and pronounced onion flavor in your dish, you won’t go wrong by adding more than the suggested portion of onions.
Substitution Ratio: To substitute 1 shallot, use ¼ cup of chopped white/yellow onions.
The next best substitute for shallots is red onions. Another common ingredient you can find in your kitchen and supermarket. Red onions make a great alternative when used raw and finely sliced in salads.
Like white/yellow onions, red onions are more intense in flavor and have more heat than shallots, so you need to use much less when substituting.
Similar to white/yellow onions, soak and rinse the chopped red onions with cold water to reduce the heaty and pungent flavor.
Substitution Ratio: To substitute 1 shallot, use ¼ cup of chopped red onions.
Have some leek lying around in your kitchen? Great! Leek also makes an excellent substitute for shallots in your recipe.
Leeks are much milder in flavor compared to onions and shallots. Nonetheless, you will enjoy the garlic and onion flavor that leeks have to offer, without the tears! Leeks make be an excellent substitute for shallots in soups, stocks, or when sauteing.
Raw leeks are not well suited to be substituted raw as they can be rather stiff and unpleasant compared to raw shallots. It would be best to substitute leeks when cooked and be careful not to overcook them.
To get a real replacement for the shallot flavor, be sure only to use the leek’s green ‘leaves’ and not the white portion.
Substitution Ratio: To substitute 1 shallot, use 1 chopped leek.
Scallions, why not try them out as a substitute? You may also know scallions as green onions or as spring onions.
Although scallions have a unique flavor profile, they have a similar but much milder flavor of shallots. They would be great substitutes for raw and cooked shallots. If your recipe calls for raw shallots, particularly in salads, scallions will make a perfect replacement when finely sliced.
To get the closet shallot flavor, be sure only to use the white part of the scallion. You can save the rest of the scallion, the green stems, by finely chopping them and using them as the perfect garnish for your dish.
Substitution Ratio: To substitute 1 shallot, ¼ cup of chopped scallions.
It’s best not to use garlic alone to substitute for shallots. However, pairing garlic with any of the alternatives mentioned above will give your dish more depth in flavor when substituting shallots.
I recommend that you try adding a pinch of garlic powder or minced garlic in addition to one of the substitutes above. This will help to replace the shallots’ garlic flavor and accentuate the taste of the substitutes.
With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment with different quantities of garlic and any of the substitutes to replicate the shallot flavor perfectly.