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General Description: The shallot (Allium ascalonicum or Allium cepa, Aggregatum group) is a small member of the onion family. Shallots probably originated in Asia, traveling from there to India and the eastern Mediterranean. The name “shallot” comes from Ashkelon, a city of ancient Israel, where people in classical Greek times believed shallots originated.

Shallots are formed like garlic with a head composed of multiple cloves. Their skin color can vary from golden brown to gray to rose red, and their off-white flesh is usually tinged with green or magenta. Shallots are much favored by chefs because of their firm texture and sweet, aromatic, yet pungent, flavor.

The two main types are the large Jersey shallot (from the Isle of Jersey) and the more subtly flavored “true” or gray French shallot. Jersey shallots of either the long or half-long type are the most common in American markets. Cuisse de poulet are French shallots shaped like a chicken thigh with deep gold skins. Dutch shallots are more rounded with either yellow or coppery red skin. Asian markets usually carry plentiful stocks of relatively inexpensive shallots that are smaller and stronger than European types. In France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, markets overflow with all colors and sizes of shallots. More shallots are grown in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in the world.

Season: Fresh green shallots are sometimes available in the spring, but dry shallots are available year-round.

Purchase: Choose large, plump, firm, well-shaped shallots that are not sprouting.

Avoid: Shallots that are wrinkled or sprouting or that show any signs of black mold should not be purchased.

Storage: Store shallots in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place for up to 1 month.


Note: Shallots are usually diced into small pieces for use as an aromatic in various dishes.

  1. Peel the skin with a paring knife, leaving the root end attached.
    #Cut in half, then set the shallot, cut side down, on a work surface.
  2. Make horizontal cuts toward the root.
  3. Cut crosswise into pieces of desired fineness.

Serving Suggestions: Slice shallots thinly and brown in butter with a little chopped thyme till deeply caramelized, then serve as a topping for grilled chicken, calf’s liver, or hamburgers. Use as the base for gravy. Make creamy shallot vinaigrette by blending chopped shallots with olive oil, red wine or sherry vinegar, and a little mustard.

Flavor Affinities: Beef, beets, Brussels sprouts, butter, chervil, chicken, chives, cream, duck, fish, lentils, potatoes, tarragon, thyme, turkey, veal, white beans, wine.

from Quirk Books: