Shallots are a magical little allium. They offer a similar flavor profile as your standard red, yellow, or white onions but in a much sweeter and more delicate package. Making them versatile and easy to use cooked or raw.
Shallots are sometimes thought of as a “chef’s ingredient”. And while I learned to love them and use copious amounts of them in professional kitchens, they deserve a place in every pantry.
Ok, now that I’ve officially hyped them up, let’s talk about the sad circumstance when you don’t have any on hand. It’s hard to replicate shallots perfectly, but these 7 shallot substitutes should get you through any recipe.
What Can I Substitute For Shallots?
1. Spring Onions
While they’re only available for a short period each year, spring onions are the best shallot substitute you’ll find. Use them raw, cooked, or pickled just like you would shallots.
Spring onions are simply red, yellow, or white onions that have been picked early in their growth cycle. And just like shallots, they’re sweet, complex, and have a relatively mild flavor and bite compared to their full-grown counterparts.
The only real downside to spring onions is their high price and short season. But when they’re available, they simply can’t be beat.
Pro Tip: Spring onions usually come with their green tops still attached. Look for vibrant tops that aren’t brown or wilted and try grilling them or using them like you would scallions.
2. Red Onions
Red onions are another great option that can stand in for shallots in both raw and cooked applications. Plus, this is one of the only alternatives that will also add a similar color to your dish.
Think of red onions as a shallot with the volume turned all the way up. Even though the flavor is sweeter and milder than most other full-size onions, they’re definitely more intense than a shallot.
So when using them raw, try shaving your red onions extra thin to tone down some of the extra heat they can pack.
Leeks are in the onion family, but they don’t have a bulb-like shallots or your other standard red, yellow, and white onions. Instead, they look just like a giant scallion.
Leeks are one of my favorite substitutes when replacing a shallot that would have been sauteed as an aromatic in a dish. So, things like soups, stir-fries, and sauteed vegetables.
You can also use leeks raw, but they should be sliced extremely thin and only the tender inner white portions should be used.
Pro Tip: Leeks are notorious for trapping dirt within their layers as they grow. After you cut them, place your leeks in a large bowl or pot of cold water and agitate them with your hands. The leeks will stay afloat at the top while any dirt will sink to the bottom.
4. Cippolini Onions
Cippolini (chip-o-leany) onions are similar in size to shallots, but they’re round and somewhat flat. And these little guys are loaded with sugar, with a minimal oniony bite.
While you can use cippolinis raw, they really shine when they are braised or roasted and caramelized. Two ways that you’re also likely to find shallots used.
Also similar to shallots, cippo’s can be a bit of a pain (pardon my french) to peel. Luckily, the blanch-to-peel method works great with these as well.
5. Yellow Onions
If you’re looking for a shallot substitute strictly for cooking purposes, yellow onions are a solid choice. These are a bit too assertive and “hot” to be used raw, but they cook up and caramelize beautifully.
Some of the added benefits of using yellow onions are that they’re always available, they store exceptionally well, and they’re very inexpensive. So load up on a sack of these to keep on hand as a backup. Plus they’re a great way to add tons of flavor to soups, stocks, and braises.
6. Scallions (Green Onions)
Scallions are an option that pulls double duty as a great raw or cooked substitute for shallots.
Scallions are definitely more mild and herbaceous compared to the other options on the list. And that makes them perfect when you don’t want to overpower any of the other ingredients in a dish.
The entire scallion is great, just know that the whites (bottoms) have a bit more bite while the greens (tops) are milder.
Garlic has a much stronger, more intense flavor than shallots. But in a pinch, garlic can fill in and add some additional flavor if you don’t have any shallots on hand.
This is an option that should definitely only be used as a substitute in cooking applications. And even though they’re much smaller, only use about 1 clove of garlic per shallot to keep the strong flavor from completely dominating a dish.
Pro Tip: While not readily available, and carrying a high price tag, green garlic (or spring garlic) makes an excellent and interesting shallot substitute. Like spring onions, this is simply very young garlic. It has a delicious, mild taste and they’re often hoarded by restaurants and chefs. So if you see some, grab them while you can.
Tips For Working With Shallot Substitutes
Shallots are prized for their sweet, mild, and complex onion flavor. And most substitutes are a bit (or a lot) more assertive. So the number one tip when working with substitutes is that less is usually more.
If you’ll be cooking the onions you’ll have a bit more leeway since the flavors and heat will tend to mellow out.
When using substitutes raw though, it can be a good idea to start with less and also try to slice or shave them very thin to minimize any aggressive onion bite.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Best Shallot Substitute?
Spring onions are the best all-around substitute for shallots. But since they’re not always available, you can try red onions for raw applications and yellow onions for cooking.
What’s The Difference Between Shallots And Regular Onions?
Shallots have a similar flavor profile to regular onions but they’re sweeter and milder, without as much heat or bite.
Can I Use Garlic Instead Of Shallots?
You can use garlic instead of shallots in cooking applications, but it’s generally much too strong to be used as a raw substitute. Even when cooking, use less garlic than you would shallot.