Almost similar in taste and appearance to a regular onion, the shallot is a smaller and milder version, with a sweeter flavor. Most scientifically referred to as an allium, the earthy notes and flavors combine with the acidity when used raw making the shallot well worth using just on its own.
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Once you get used to cutting them, shallots add an entirely new element to your culinary playbook. You’ll get the punch of onion but with the subtle and fragrant flavors of garlic. Just a small amount is needed to get the full range a shallot has to offer. The shallot can be used in a ton of different recipes and made in a ton of different styles. You can roast your shallots in the oven to bring out the sweetness it has to offer or you can throw them on the sauté pan with your other veggies for a quick cook. You can also pickle them or even mince them to throw in with a salad dressing or a marinade.
Though these delicious little shallot bulbs are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, they need to be properly prepared before cooking. The shallots are in clusters of bulbs just like garlic, so separating each piece to remove the skin to cut can take some time and know-how.
To get more flavor out of your dishes and safely cut your raw shallot, here is your step-by-step guide that shows you exactly how to do it. Plus, you’ll even get some expert tips along the way.
Prepare for Cutting
Your first step to getting the perfect cut shallot is to prepare it for cutting. Unlike an apple or pear, you can’t just start cutting into the shallot because it has some extra protective layers that can make the process unsafe if you don’t remove them first.
To even get to the shallot pieces, you’ll have to separate them from the main bulb. To do this, you’ll need to take a sharp knife and a cutting board. Place the shallot on your cutting board and remove the top and bottom of the shallot by cutting it with your sharp knife.
Now, you’ll be able to see the smaller pieces. Separate each piece from the other and remove any excess skin that is peeling off. You should be using your hands instead of your sharp knife to remove the pieces inside to be as safe as possible.
Take Off Your Skin
Next, you still have another top layer of skin that needs to be removed before you can start cutting into the shallot itself. Just like an onion, the shallot has a thin layer of skin that can be removed with the help of your knife.
This next part requires a steady hand and some concentration because the wrong move could cause an accident. Hold on to one of the smaller pieces of shallot, take your knife, and make a small score lengthwise along the shallot piece. This will create a cut into the papery skin and you should be able to simply use your nails to peel away the skin from the shallot.
Once the skin is off they are fully ready to cut into smaller pieces. However, you can keep your smaller shallots whole and roast them to get a sweet and caramelized flavor.
Create Smaller Shallot Slices
Now you are ready to slice your shallot into smaller pieces. Take your shallot and place it horizontally on your cutting board. Starting from one side, make small slices and continue cutting until you get to the very end. How thick or thin you slice your shallots is up to you and the recipe you are using.
Once you have little rings, you can add them to your recipe as is or you can cut them further into smaller pieces. Keep reading to get step-by-step instructions on the different ways you can cut and prepare your shallots. These are perfect for creating crispy shallots while sautéing.
Cut into Dices
If you have a pretty large shallot then you’ll want to cut the pieces in half so they are better to work with. Typically, you’ll want to cut them lengthwise so the pieces end up being more even.
This next part is a little tricky but will help keep your shallot pieces intact to make it easier to dice. Take your knife and make slices that are about a 1/4 or 1/2 inch wide but you don’t want to cut all the way through. Instead, stop your knife right before you reach the bottom of the shallot. When you’re done slicing, all the pieces should still be barely connected at the bottom.
Next, rotate your shallot 90 degrees and make full cuts through the shallot, creating small diced pieces. Diced shallot pieces go great in a salad, added to a warm stew, or can be cooked up and served with roasted vegetables.
When you’re making minced shallots you really want to focus on being as safe as possible. The process will require you to cut your shallots into tiny pieces and it is imperative you don’t rush this part or end up cutting yourself.
To start, take your shallot and cut it in half. Once again, start making slices in your shallot just as you did in the previous step but try to make them smaller. When you get to the bottom of the shallot, instead of making full cuts, stop slicing about halfway through and try to keep your knife parallel to the cutting board.
Then, rotate the shallot again at 90 degrees and cut all the way through the shallot to the bottom. You want your slices to be as small as possible because it makes the process easier.
Now that you have diced shallots that are smaller than in the previous step, you can gather the pieces together and start rocking your knife back and forth to create incredibly small minced shallots.
It is important to note that when you are working with a sharp knife, it is essential to keep your fingers away from the blade and use the tips of your fingers as a guiding tool instead.
You can use minced shallots for just about anything including soups, sauces, burgers, and casseroles.
Choosing Your Shallots
When you’re at the grocery store and checking out the produce section, it’s important to make sure you pick the right shallots. Picking the wrong ones could ruin your recipe and cause you to have to make another trip to the store.
The first thing to look for is the root end or sprouting leaves. This is an indication that the shallot isn’t fresh anymore and it’s best to avoid them.
Second, choose shallots that have bright and glossy skin but aren’t too soft or mushy. If your shallots are damp or have lots of moisture, they are probably spoiled and ruined by disease or bulb rot. At worst, there could even be mold inside your shallots. The skin should be firm to the touch and shouldn’t have any wrinkles or bruises on it.
Finally, make sure to smell the shallot before you buy it. It should have a sweet and earthy aroma that is not overly pungent or smelly.
How to Store Shallots
Anytime you are buying produce that is in the allium family, you want to store it at room temperature. This is assuming you have not cut into the shallot bulb yet and that the shallot is perfectly ripe. A shallot can last you up to six months if properly stored in a dry place that is relatively cool.
If you have already cut into your shallot bulb and don’t plan on using the rest, you’ll need to store it in your fridge. The cool temperatures will keep the exposed pieces from spoiling right away and give you a few extra days of life. Unless you love everything in your fridge smelling like common onion, go ahead and store the remaining pieces in a storage bag. This will keep your shallot smell from absorbing into the rest of your leftovers.
Different Ways You Can Use Shallots
- Sautéed shallots with some olive oil are a delicious addition to vegetables or salads.
- Mince or dice chopped shallots and add them to sauces, gravies, and salad dressings for flavour enhancement.
- Use roasted shallots in soups, stews, and a casserole dish for a flavorful umami profile.
- Try making a pickled shallot as a condiment that can be served with sandwiches and burgers.
- Shallots are a great way to add flavor when sautéing proteins such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish.
Is there a difference between a shallot and an onion?
Although the shallot comes from the exact same family as the onion, the two are not the same ingredient. The Allium cepa family does have similarities like the size and shape of the bulbs but the taste is subtly different. Shallots are generally milder and include more sweetness in their flavor. They also include the fragrance and slight taste of garlic. Despite their differences, shallots can be substituted for onions in just about any recipe but you’ll need more shallots to make up for the lack of size.
What ingredients can be substituted in place of a shallot?
Onions are the best substitution for a French shallot. The white and yellow varieties of onion will work best for recipes that require a sharp flavor while red onions work best in meals that require a subtle onion taste. Even using white pieces of green onions or a leek can be substituted for a shallot. Often, people combine onions and garlic together which tastes quite similar to a shallot.
Why do shallots smell more after cutting?
In the Allium family, there is an abundance of organosulfur compounds. These compounds live within the cell walls of the shallot and when you cut them, they release into the air with the help of alliinase enzymes. The combination creates the sulfur compound that fills a room and makes eyes tear up when cutting. You can decrease the smell when larger cuts of the shallot and storing it or using it after cutting. Otherwise, the smell will get stronger with time when the shallot is cut. Cooking it will also take away the pungent odor.
How to Cut Shallots
- 1 shallot
- Place the shallot onto a cutting board and use a sharp knife to remove the top and bottom ends of the small bulbs. If you find multiple bulbs inside the shallot, go ahead and separate them by hand and remove any excess skin.
- Next, place each shallot piece with the flat side down on your cutting board. Carefully score the top of the shallot lengthwise, making sure to penetrate the skin. Using your nails, remove the skin completely from the shallot, exposing the bulb.
- Slices: Once the shallot is peeled, start on one end and make slices to your desired size. You'll end up with thin rings.
- Diced: Just like you did with the slices, cut your shallot with the flat side down into thin slices but make sure you don't cut all the way through. Then, rotate the shallot 90 degrees and make slices that cut all the way through to end up with diced shallot pieces.
- Mince: Complete the same steps for dicing your shallot but once you have all the pieces gathered, continue to rock your knife back and forth. Be careful not to get your fingers close to the blade of the knife.