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Top Shallot Substitutes to Try

Raw shallots are tasty little vegetables in the onion family that instantly spice up any dish they’re included in. They’re perfect for savory dishes that require an onion or garlic flavor. If you’re fresh out of shallots, you can find another option from our shallot substitute list below. These alternatives will save you time and will work well in most recipes.

Tabletop with shallot onions, some sliced in half.

What are shallots?

If you are wondering what a shallot onion is, wonder no more. Shallots are part of the allium family, known for housing vegetables like onions, garlic, and chives.

Shallots are described as having a flavor that is somewhere between garlic and onion. This difference is even apparent in its appearance – the exterior looks like a red onion, while the interior is similar to garlic cloves.

Where onions grow individually, shallots grow in groups similar to cucumbers.

However, you’ll find shallots root partially in the ground and stay slightly submerged through the growing process.

The size of shallots remains between garlic cloves and onions as well – you’ll likely need to use a few extra while cooking to achieve the same amount of flavor as using onions provides.

Shallots have a more delicate flavor and can be difficult to find at your local store. They’re also more expensive than onions or garlic, which could be another reason you might search for alternatives.

Once purchased, you’ll want to keep your shallots in a cool, dry area like other onions.

types of shallots

If you’ve ever seen shallots at the store, you’ll typically see the pink variety. Often, other varieties are not as widely available, which may cause people to think there is only one type of shallots.

There are three main types of shallots – grey shallot, pink shallot (Jersey shallot), and echalion, aka banana shallots. The variety commonly found in the US is the pink shallot. All three types are mainly grown in Europe.

Best Shallot Substitutes

1. Yellow Onions

Yellow onion is the closest substitute for shallots. It has a sweet flavor similar to that found in shallots and can be used in most recipes. It does lack the garlic taste and has a slightly different texture than shallots.

The flavor is similar in that yellow onions provide sweetness to dishes. These work well with any meat dishes or cooked dishes you want to add a sweet taste to.

Yellow onions do have a bite to them – they’re best used for cooked meals. Though they can be used in salads – prepare for some spice when used in these recipes.

Cooking Tips:

  • Since yellow onions have a more pungent taste than shallots, use ½ of the required amount when substituting.
  • Add a few garlic cloves when using yellow onions to provide the garlicky taste shallots offer.

2. Red Onion

Red onions also work well as shallot alternatives since they’re in the same allium family. Red onions have an even bolder flavor than yellow onions, as well as spiciness. The taste is most similar when using raw red onions – so it’s best to keep these in their natural state.

Red onions are an excellent way to add flavor to salads and vinaigrettes and a great shallot substitute. They provide a slight sweetness as well, which mimics the sweet taste of shallots. If you enjoy spicy foods, these can add some bold flavor to any raw dish.

Red onions do not work well in cooked dishes as an alternative to shallots due to the red appearance provided. This limits the use of red onions in uncooked recipes.

Cooking Tips:

  • Even though red onions are spicier, you can use them in a 1:1 ratio.
  • Keep a damp paper towel on your cutting board when slicing red onions; it will prevent your eyes from watering and burning.

3. Green Onions

Anything in the onion family works well as a substitute for shallots. These have a similar flavor profile to shallots because they have a milder taste than red or yellow onions. You’ll still be lacking the garlicky flavor, and green onions do not provide the same sweetness.

Green onions can be distinguished in the supermarket by their long green tops and bulbous white bottom sections. They’re often sold in clusters and are also called scallions.

The taste of a green onion is quite similar to a shallot, making it easy to use green onions as a swap. They work well in salads for a milder flavor than red onions.

Both the sweetness and garlic flavor are missing from green onions. While adding garlic powder to adjust the taste is easy, it’s difficult to recreate the shallots’ sweetness.

If green onions are used in cooked dishes, they can become bitter if cooked for too long.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use in a 1:1 ratio instead of shallots.
  • When subbing shallots with green onions, use the white section at the bottom for a more similar flavor.

4. Leeks

Leeks are also in the same allium family, so that you can use them as substitutes for shallots.

The appearance is similar to green onions, with a white section at the bottom and long green leaves at the top. The white area is less bulbous, and the leek itself is much more significant than green onions.

A leek is a fantastic substitution for shallot due to its flavor. Leeks have a mild, sweet flavor that can also be described as oniony or garlicky. The main difference you’ll note is the texture that leeks offer.

Leeks are commonly used in Europe in stews and originate from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. This vegetable has been used for many years and pairs well with potatoes in meals.

The flavor is very similar when using leeks instead of shallots. The sweetness, along with the mild taste, makes leeks an excellent choice for cooking dishes that typically incorporate shallots. Try using leeks in soups or meat dishes for a nice garlic and onion flavor.

Leeks work best as a substitute when cooked, as they can provide a strange texture when raw. Because of this, leeks are not a perfect alternative to shallots.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use leeks in a 1:1 ratio as a swap for shallots.
  • For the closest flavor match, use the green part of leeks in cooked recipes.

5. Chives

As noted above, chives are in the same family like shallots, garlic, and onions, making them an excellent shallot substitute.

They have a subtle taste and lack the spiciness of red onions. These are not to be confused with green onions, which are much more prominent in comparison.

Chives are thinner and can be more delicate than shallots, so you’ll want to use this swap as a garnish or add it at the end of the cooking process. Fresh chives work well as a replacement for fresh shallots – they have the best flavor in this format.

You can also use dried chives, though the flavor will be much subtler and may not be noticeable in dishes.

Using chives in dishes provides a similar flavor to shallots. Use chives with eggs, chicken, potatoes, and dressings for flavor.

As chives are more delicate, it can be easy to overcook them in baked dishes making the flavor unnoticeable. You’ll also find the texture different when using chives as opposed to shallots.

Cooking Tips:

  • When using fresh chives, you can use a 1:1 ratio for cooking.
  • Dried chives will need to be used in a smaller quantity of 1 teaspoon for every tablespoon of shallots.

6. Garlic

As with chives, this swap also comes from the allium family. You’ll have a similar flavor when using garlic in recipes.

Garlic does have a spicier, less mild flavor, which will change the taste of the dish. However, it is versatile and works well in many dishes.

The flavor of garlic changes based on whether it is used raw or roasted. When raw, you’ll taste more spiciness, and when roasted, garlic adds more sweetness to a dish.

Garlic is very flavorful and packs a punch in any dish. It’s versatile, and you can use it in every recipe that calls for shallots. With its flavor changing when used raw or roasted, it allows for even more versatility in recipes.

Garlic is not as subtle in flavor as shallots; if you’re using raw garlic in place of shallots, expect a much spicier taste. Because of this, the flavor in your recipes will vary when using garlic as opposed to shallots.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use one garlic clove for every teaspoon of shallots listed in the recipe.
  • To more closely match the flavor of shallots, keep garlic raw or roasted depending on how the recipe includes shallots.

7. Sweet Onions

You can use any onion instead of shallots, even sweet onions. As they’re related, the flavor will be similar. They can also be consumed raw or cooked, like shallots.

Here’s where you’ll find a difference – sweet onions have a much sweeter taste that is noticeable in recipes.

You can use sweet onions in soups and stir-fries as a replacement. Any dish where a higher level of sweetness still meshes with the other flavors is a great time to utilize sweet onions.

Onions, in general, are typically less expensive to purchase than shallots. They’re also available at grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Sweet onions offer a similar sweet taste that some other onions (like red onions) lack. They provide a nice flavor to soups and stir-fries when used.

You may find sweet onions adding too much sweetness to certain dishes. They also are not a good substitution for all savory recipes that use shallots.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use sweet onions in a 1:1 ratio when opting for this substitution.
  • Try these onions in recipes that call for raw shallots – the sweetness allows them to provide excellent flavor.

8. Bok Choy

Bok choy might seem like an odd idea for a substitution. However, it can provide heartiness to dishes that have Asian flavors, like stir-fries. Bok choy is an Asian cabbage, so you’ll find the taste very subtle. It soaks up the flavor of sauces very easily when cooked.

You will want to use bok choy only as a way to add fullness to a dish, not for flavor. Keep this in mind when choosing this substitute.

Since bok choy does not have a strong flavor, it can be added to most Asian-style dishes. It adds bulk to dishes as a primary purpose for using this vegetable as a swap.

Bok choy does not add flavor to recipes, so you’ll need to add more seasoning than you would if using shallots. This Chinese cabbage is not a good swap in dishes that do not have Asian flavors.

Cooking Tips:

  • There is no ratio when using this substitution. Use as much or as little as you want since it will not add significant flavor.
  • Bok choy shrinks like spinach when cooked, so add more than you think you need.

Related Questions

Shallot vs. onion?

There are a few differences between shallots and onions. First, the sizing- onions are much larger than shallots. Also, shallots have a much more subtle flavor combined with sweetness, unlike onions, with a bolder, pungent taste.

Why do chefs use shallots instead of onions?

Chefs love shallots for the subtle flavor that they add to dishes. Using shallots allows chefs to provide a sweet, garlicky taste to dishes without onions’ spiciness. They work perfectly in salads for this reason.

Can I substitute garlic for shallots?

Yes, you can use garlic instead of shallots. You’ll need a much smaller quantity to flavor your food since garlic has a more intense flavor. I recommend including some yellow onion as well to provide the sweetness that shallots offer.

What are shallots best used for?

They work well for salads and dressings to add a touch of the taste you would find in raw onion – without the bite that raw onions typically provide. They’re also excellent in meat dishes that need a slight sweetness.

Are shallot and onion the same?

The above is a commonly asked question, and the answer is no; shallots and onions are not the same. They are from the same family, as noted above, which creates a similar taste. However, when you look at the appearance of shallots versus onions, you’ll notice a size difference and a slight shape difference.


Out of the above options, opt for yellow onions as the closest alternative. They provide the most similar flavor in the allium family to shallots due to their sweetness. Yellow onions also work well for both cooked and uncooked dishes, unlike some other alternatives listed.

If you can’t find the above options in the store or don’t have them in your garden or pantry, there are a few additional options you can choose from. Try pearl onions, white onions, ramps, or garlic scapes when your recipe calls for shallots. Each offers its flavor and will create tasty dishes.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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