Scallions vs Shallots? What’s the difference?
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Well, although both are often believed to be the same, these two onion varieties are different in a variety of ways.
Many people think that you can substitute scallions for shallots and vice versa. Although different in some ways, this is possible, but only in certain recipes. To substitute one for the other, you need to be aware of their differences.
Scallions and shallots are aromatic and belong to the allium family, a very large genus of garlic or onion scented bulbous herbs found in most regions of the world. You can use these in many types of cuisine to add extra flavor to your dish.
However, it can be very difficult to distinguish between both and some recipes won’t work with either. Therefore, it’s important you know the differences to not ruin some meals.
If you’re in a hurry, the main differences are how they are harvested as scallions are harvested as immature bulbs before the onion is fully formed.
On the other hand, shallots are fully grown onions that grow as bulbs and are divided into cloves, like garlic.
Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about scallions and shallots as well as what recipes suit each vegetable and the best ways to cook both.
Scallions vs Shallots: The differences
One of the main differences between scallions and shallots is their appearance. Both have a unique look which is useful for knowing which one is which.
What are Scallions?
Often referred to as green onions, scallions are long, thin tubes with a green to white color gradually changing throughout the tubes.
You will regularly find them sold in bunches and are easy to spot because of their stem’s white end which has a visible root system.
You may be thinking about chives or spring onions right now as shallots are similar in appearance to both but when you see them, you’ll easily notice the difference.
What are Shallots?
Shallots are quite different in form from scallions as they grow in clusters and take the shape of small, bulb-like onions.
Shallots are very distinct from the rest of the onion family thanks to their tapered, almost thinned-out shape.
As opposed to the green and white color of the scallion, shallots typically have a brown or copper color to their skin which easily peels off. The interior has a purple hue with multiple layers that can be cut like garlic.
Botanically, scallions and shallots have more in common than many other aspects such as appearance. This is mostly down to the fact that both are members of the allium family and grow in very similar ways.
As scallions and shallots grow, they consist of the same parts such as the green tops that emerge from the bulb and shoot up above the ground. Both have a very similar underground system too which consists of a root system and bulb that forms each vegetable.
There are some differences, however. Scallions are harvested when they are still immature. The bulb of the onion is still small while the greens are still attached and fully alive.
Shallots, on the other hand, mature for longer, and before the plant is harvested, their greens die back. Shallot’s bulbs are also much larger as opposed to scallions which don’t have as much time to mature.
Scallions usually grow singly but there are exceptions with bunching onions. Shallots, on the other hand, grow in larger clusters or clumps.
Scallions vs Shallots: Flavor
As scallions and shallots are both parts of the allium family, you may assume that they have almost identical tastes. Despite this, it simply isn’t true.
As with all alliums, both have strong, aromatic tastes but these differ widely. Both plants have unique flavors and this is a reason why they are not always a good substitute for one another.
If you have to substitute something for scallions or shallots when cooking, it is recommended you use chives instead of scallions and garlic or red onion in the place of shallots.
Scallions tend to have a much lighter, milder taste due to their less matured state. Therefore, you won’t experience such a strong onion flavor.
Raw shallots tend to have a more regular onion taste to them as well as a hint of garlic flavoring that is not found in scallions. A shallot’s taste can change if you allow the plant to caramelize. They will become milder with a more mellow and sweet taste.
The green portions of scallions usually provide a fresher, grassier taste while shallots don’t have any taste similar to this.
However, both scallions and shallots can be served either cooked or raw. Let’s take a look at the best ways of cooking these plants.
The best method to cook scallions and shallots
As with shallots, scallions can be cooked or served raw. The raw variety is usually served as a garnish for soups, salads, and cooked meats, or fish. You can get delicious results if you grill, roast, or sauté scallions.
You can find scallions in many recipes such as scallion pancakes. This veggie is also popular in Asian cuisine with noodle bowls, stir-fries, and fried rice being prime examples.
If you decide to grill scallions, they can be served on their own or with some parmesan and lemon for the tastiest treat. You can also add scallion to cream cheese which can be a tasty topping to a variety of foods such as smoked salmon on bagels.
If you find yourself drowning in scallions, consider using them in your salads for a punchier taste. They are perfect for potato salads, tuna salads, chicken salads, and more.
Don’t be afraid to experiment too, as you can bake scallions to go on biscuits with cheddar cheese. You can even try scallions with soft-boiled eggs and grill with cauliflower steaks. The possibilities go on and on!
Shallots are extremely delicious when caramelized and combined with other foods. You can roast shallots or braise them whole.
You will regularly see shallots in sauces when diced very thin. In these instances, they are usually served raw or are sautéed with various ingredients.
Many chefs love the versatility of shallots whether they are raw or cooked. Many vinaigrette dressings include shallot as a staple ingredient to add an extra flavor and bite to salads.
If you want to serve shallots on their own, you can either glaze, slow-roast, pickle, or caramelize them for an almost endless variety of preparations.
If you have ever eaten French cuisine, you have probably experienced shallots as they are a staple of many French dishes. Dishes such as French shallot soup or French Béarnaise sauce use shallots for that added bite.
When cooking with scallions and shallots, your recipe possibilities are almost endless. As the main meal, a dip, or a side dressing, both vegetables are ideal for so many dishes!
Nutrition and health benefits
There are a wide variety of health benefits from eating foods from the allium family.
Both scallions and shallots are very healthy food options as they are low in fat and carbohydrates while offering a range of nutrients and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy.
Here is a list of the nutritional differences and similarities between the two vegetables:
- Both plants contain antiviral, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties that help protect us against many possible health concerns such as cancer.
- Scallions provide a great deal of fiber which promotes good and healthy digestion. This helps you feel fuller without needing to feast on more calories.
- Shallots have a greater number of calories than scallions though both are largely low in fat. However, although shallots have more calories, scallions contain almost twice as much fat as shallots. Don’t worry though as the fat found in both veggies is not enough to cause any concern.
- Shallots have over twice as many carbohydrates as found in scallions.
- Scallions have around 25% more sodium levels than shallots.
- Both veggies are completely free from Vitamin D and cholesterol.
- Shallots have nearly 20% more potassium than scallions which makes shallots great after an intense workout.
- Scallions have over 40% more Vitamin C level than shallots.
- Scallions have 20% less protein than shallots.
- There is 25% more iron in scallions than shallots.
- Vitamin A is not found in shallots while scallions have 20% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A.
- There is twice as much calcium in scallions than shallots.
- Scallions are jam-packed with phytonutrients (antioxidants) that help to fight against inflammation and cancer.
- Shallots have a high concentration of essential minerals like copper and iron which can improve your metabolic function and circulation.
As you can see, both scallions and shallots are supremely healthy foods that are low in fat and carbohydrates. They are, however, very high in important minerals and nutrients to keep our bodies fit and healthy.
Can you substitute scallions for shallots and vice versa in recipes?
As we have stated, both vegetables are similar but that doesn’t mean they can be swapped in all recipes. Their distinct flavors and textures are not always interchangeable as ingredients for dishes.
Raw shallots have a stronger bite than scallions so your dish could lack that added bite if scallions take the place of shallots.
There is more scope for substitution when both plants are cooked. Nonetheless, caramelized shallots will add more sweetness to your food than scallions which can be very hard to replicate whether you saute or slow cook each veggie.
If you wanted to replace scallions, the best option would be to use green or spring onions due to their similar harvesting methods.
If you decide to replace some shallots, it is advised you try another member of the vast allium family. One ideal choice could be onions as they have a similar texture and taste to shallots, especially when compared to scallions.
Scallions vs Shallots: Which one is healthier?
You should include both scallions and shallots in your diet as regularly as possible to benefit from their positive impacts on your overall health.
Both vegetables are very healthy for you and their positives far outweigh any negatives. Shallots have more calories and carbohydrates when compared with scallions but they also offer far more levels of potassium and protein.
Scallions, on the other hand, are much richer in some vitamins and minerals than shallots. Scallions provide higher levels of vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron which are all vital in keeping us healthy and warding off possible illnesses.
Overall, scallions and shallots have an abundance of positive health benefits. As a matter of fact, the whole allium family of vegetables are amazingly healthy and should be eaten as often as possible. Both veggies offer distinct nutritional benefits with neither being better for your health than the other.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute shallots for scallions?
Yes, you can! Shallots have a deep flavor with notes of garlic, but they aren’t as strong as onions. This makes them a great substitute for scallions. When roasted or fried, they also release a sweet flavor. They are also extremely versatile and can be diced, chopped, and sliced. And, since they have such a mild flavor, they can even be eaten raw.
When using shallots as a substitute for scallions, the measurements remain exactly the same. So, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped scallions, simply replace it with 1 cup of chopped shallots. It couldn’t be easier!
Are spring onions and shallots the same thing?
They may have a similar flavor and make great substitutes for one another, but spring onions and shallots aren’t actually the same thing.
Spring onions are mature, green onions. They have a white bulb and green tops and, essentially, look like a tiny leek. They are also long and thin.
The white bulb with a sweet, mild, onion-like flavor that has hints of garlic. You can also use every part of a spring onion, aside from the stringy roots at the bottom.
Shallots, on the other hand, are a different variety of onion altogether. They have a milder taste that is quite similar to a spring onion, but they look entirely different.
To begin with, they are a complete bulb that tapered at the top. They also come in many different sizes, from larger banana shallots to much smaller brown shallots.
Another distinguishing feature that separates shallots from spring onions is that they are covered with a thin layer of copper-colored skin. This skin needs to be removed completely before the shallot can be chopped, sliced, or diced and used in a recipe.
Why do chefs use shallots instead of onions?
There are a couple of reasons why chefs might use shallots in place of onions. The first is that they have a much milder flavor. This means that they can be served raw on top of salads and other dishes, where they will add a mild garlic flavor rather than the powerful hit you get from a regular onion.
This mild flavor also means that they can be used to let other ingredients in the dish shine through, without them being overpowered or absorbing the flavor of a white or red onion.
Since they are much smaller, they also take less time to cook. So, by using shallots in certain recipes, you can cut down on cooking time. You can also cook other ingredients in the same pan that take a shorter time to cook, without any fear of overcooking them while waiting for onions to soften.