9 Best Substitutes for Shallots

Published Categorized as Food
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Life without shallots is almost unthinkable, but not impossible. These are the best substitutes for this sweet and mild allium.

There’s nothing quite like shallots. Sweeter than onions and mellower than garlic, shallots are a special type of allium that tastes equally good when eaten fresh as it does when sweated, sautéed, caramelized, roasted, or stewed.

If you don’t happen to have shallots within arms reach, the good news is that shallots belong to the lily family, Latin name Liliaceae, and they have quite a few relatives within that family that can be substituted for them.

Read on below to find out our test kitchen team’s absolute favorites.

Yellow Onions

Many say that yellow onions are the best substitute for shallots for a number of reasons. Sure, they are a little more pungent than shallots are. But at the same time, they are almost as sweet and just as fragrant.

How to use them: Substitute a large yellow onion for a handful of shallots. Slice it somewhat finer than usual to equalize the texture and use it fresh, i.e., as a garnish or in salads, or cook with it.

White Onions

White onions are milder than all other onions. You might even say they’re milder than shallots! White onions are an excellent substitute for shallots when you want to tone down the aroma and flavor of alliums in a dish.

How to use them: Substitute a large white onion for a handful of shallots. Slice thinly or dice finely, then use it fresh or cook with it.

Red Onions

If you want to add a purple color to the cooking liquid of your soup or stew, red onions are just what you need. Red onions are more pungent than shallots and are a good substitute for them when cooked

How to use them: Substitute 1 red onions for every 2-3 shallots called for in the recipe. If you plan to add it to a salad, sweat, sauté, or roast it first—the heat will make it more mellow.

Scallions

A scallion, also called a spring onion or green onion, is an underdeveloped onion with a long green stem that you can use as a substitute for shallots in cold soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and wraps.

How to use them: Substitute 1 scallion for 2-3 shallots. Slice thinly crosswise and use fresh.

Leeks

Taller and fatter than scallions and crunchier than shallots, leeks may not be the most ideal shallot substitute on our list. But if they’re all you have in the kitchen or garden, who’s really to judge?

How to use them: Substitute ⅓ a leek for a handful of shallots. Sweat thoroughly or cook until soft and tender.

Ramps

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a species of wild garlic that grows in the spring in Canada and the United States. With its tiny bulbs and large, leafy stems, ramp tastes like a combination of onions and garlic.

How to use them: Substitute 1 ramp, thinly sliced, for every 1-2 shallots called for in the recipe. Use fresh, preferably in sauces, salads, and cold dishes—ramp’s pleasures cook off when exposed to high heat for prolonged periods of time.

Chives

The tender, squeeky, and decidedly sweet chives are a good substitute for shallots when you’re looking to add fragrance and a touch of pungency to your dish.

How to use them: Substitute a chive bunch for every handful of shallots called for in the recipe. Chives should be used as a herb, that is, used as a garnish or added at the end of cooking when used as a flavoring agent.

Garlic

What cannot be said about garlic, the king of all alliums? There are many varieties of garlic out there—some milder, and others more pungent. When in doubt, go for milky, softneck garlic; it isn’t as overpowering as the dry, hardneck varieties are.

How to use it: Substitute 1 clove of garlic for each of the 1-2 shallots listed in the recipe. Sauté in hot olive oil for 20-30 seconds or simmer until the pungency of the garlic is gone.

Garlic Powder

If you can’t get your hands on any fresh produce, use garlic powder. Note that this only works for cooked sauces, soups, and stews, as the powder must dissolve in the liquid.

How to use it: Add 2 teaspoons of garlic powder for every 1-2 shallots called for in the recipe. You can also add 2 teaspoons of sugar to mimic the sweetness of the shallots.

By Dim Nikov

Cooking for family and friends, one dish at a time. I love to make food that's delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare.