Difference between: onions and shallots

We recently delved into various types of onions, and we’ve also covered green onions versus scallions

But as my sister-in-law Tara pointed out – what about onions and shallots?


  • Onion: A plant, Allium cepa, of the amaryllis family, having an edible, succulent, pungent bulb.
  • Shallot: a plant, Allium cepa aggregatum. . .related to the onion, having a divided bulb used for flavoring in cookery.

As we compare the two, do keep in mind the term “onions” encompasses several different kinds of the vegetable; shallots are a specific food item in the onion family.


  • Are typically round, and can be white, yellow, or red.
  • Have a strong, pungent flavor.
  • Can be eaten raw or cooked (depending on type).
  • Are seed-propagated (new plants from seeds).
  • Can be difficult to grow.


  • Are more elongated than onions, brown, and smaller.
  • Have a milder, sweeter flavor with a hint of garlic.
  • Are best eaten raw; lose flavor when cooked.
  • Are vegetatively propagated (asexual reproduction without seeds).
  • Are easier to grow than onions.

Shallots, being best consumed uncooked, are great for salads, dressings, and virtually any raw dish that would normally include onions.

White and yellow onions are better for cooked dishes, as with other vegetables in a stir-fry; red onions are better consumed raw, like shallots.

4 thoughts on “Difference between: onions and shallots

  1. Don’t know why I haven’t used shallots more. I appreciate this tutorial, as I didn’t realize they are best uncooked. Will plan on incorporating more in our salads and sprinkling over cooked foods for a little crunchy garnish. Thank you!

  2. I’m sorry, but–you can grow *both* onions and shallots by either seed or vegetatively, and shallots are not generally easier to grow than onions. They are pretty similar. The link doesn’t say that onions are difficult to grow and shallots are not, so I’m not sure where you got that from.

    Also, shallots are great cooked, and there are tons of recipes that include cooked shallots. I think your info isn’t quite as accurate as it could be.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your comment. I appreciate it when readers can add their own insight and experience with the foods I’m writing about it. Let me elaborate on where I got my information:

      So, I have admittedly not grown my own onions or shallots and I take it you have, but this is where I read onions are more difficult to grow than shallots: http://goo.gl/GrJNUG

      That same source indicates that shallots “seldom form seed” and typically reproduce vegetatively. I’ve also seen that on other sites, such as here: http://goo.gl/t9ycv2

      And finally, yes, absolutely shallots can be cooked as well. In fact, they can be substituted in for onions in many recipes, cooked or not. However, I did read they can lose flavor when cooked, and therefore are better eaten raw, and I got that information here: http://goo.gl/vT0Sbb

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