Like its close relatives garlic and onions, shallots grew wild thousands of years ago and were a favorite among Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Asians. Legend has it that in the 12th century, Crusaders brought bags of the bulb from the Middle East to Europe on horseback. Today, shallots are enjoyed and eaten all over the world, but France is where the shallot is an esteemed culinary staple and more widely used than onions.
Shallots vary in size and shape from long and thin to large, round and plump. Their thin, papery skins range in color from coppery brown to dark red or purple and even whitish-gray. Peeling shallots reveals a slightly purple- or rose-hued inner skin (the flesh itself is white) and one or two large sections that break apart, similar to garlic cloves.
While home cooks often use shallots interchangeably with onions in recipes (three to four shallots are equal to about one medium onion) their flavors are actually quite different. Shallots have a more subtle, sweet flavor that is less pungent than onions. Their complex flavor resembles a combination of both garlic and onion.
Shallots can be peeled and thinly sliced or finely chopped to serve raw in salads or vinaigrettes. They also can be sautéed, roasted or fried and pair well with vegetables and pastas or delicate seafood such as scallops or sole.
Nutritional Qualities of Shallots
Like onions, shallots are low in calories. A ½ cup of raw chopped shallots contains 58 calories, 2 grams of protein and nearly 3 grams of dietary fiber. One serving also contains vitamins C and B6, folate, potassium and manganese.
Shallots share the same health-protecting compounds as other allium vegetables — quercetin and organosulfur compounds — which means they may be beneficial for reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Using Shallots in Foodservice
Shallots are common in many fine dining establishments and often are deep-fried and served as a garnish on meats or poultry. The French shallot (also called the gray or “true” shallot) is the most prized for its refined flavor, but it’s difficult to find in the U.S. Here, shallots tend to be larger, rounder and more pungent, with the most popular American type being the “Jersey” or “false” shallot.
Shallots come in small, medium and large sizes and are often bought in five- or 10-pound netted bags. Although available year-round, their peak seasons are spring and summer. Look for bulbs that are firm and heavy with no soft spots, wrinkling or sprouting. In addition to fresh, raw shallots, dry shallots also are available.
Diane Welland, MBA, RDN, LD, is a food and nutrition consultant and adjunct instructor at Georgia State University.
Roasted Peanut and Ginger Collard Greens
- [30 grams] 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) apple cider vinegar
- [75 grams] ¼ cup, plus 1 tablespoon (75 milliliters) roasted peanut oil
- [15 grams] 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- [<1 gram] ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- [30 grams] 2 tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter (room temperature)
- [3 grams] 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- [<1 gram] 1 pinch kosher salt
- [35 grams] 2 shallots, minced
- [10 grams] 2 cloves garlic, minced
- [250 grams] 10 cups collard greens, stems removed and thinly sliced
- [20 grams] 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- Make vinaigrette by combining vinegar, ¼ cup peanut oil, ginger, red pepper flakes, peanut butter, brown sugar and salt in a shallow bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and collard greens to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Sauté for 5 minutes or until greens reach desired tenderness. Add a few tablespoons of water if greens stick to skillet.
- Add vinaigrette and toss to combine. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 minute. Top with peanuts and serve warm. Serves 8.
SERVING SIZE: ½ cup (50 grams)
CALORIES 125; TOTAL FAT 11g; SAT. FAT 2g; CHOL. 0mg; SODIUM 174mg; CARB. 5g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 1g; PROTEIN 3g; POTASSIUM 110mg; PHOSPHORUS 39mg