Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Onion and Shallot

onion vs shallotsOnion vs Shallot

In the culinary world, you may come across two ingredients that may somehow confuse you, the onion and the shallot. Some people may consider them very similar as they often substitute one with the other. However, established culinary experts know the distinct tastes and texture they provide in every cuisine. So, how different are they from each other? Let’s break it down.

Onion is a general term used to refer plants in the genus Allium. However onions, as a common name, usually refers to specific specie, the “garden or bulb onion” (Allium cepa).

The bulb onion is a popular kitchen ingredient that is used worldwide. As the name implies, it is bulb shaped but sometimes flat almost disc shaped. Its skin colors are white, yellow or red. The taste depends entirely on the variety. It can sharp, spicy, tangy and pungent or mild and sweet.

Onions are grown from seed or commonly, from sets. They eventually grow into a large single bulb per plant. Onions are rather difficult to propagate since there are special processes involved to produce a durable bulb.

A shallot, on the other hand, is referred to two different Allium species the Allium oschaninii and the Allium cepa var. aggregatum or Allium ascalonicum.

The Allium oschaninii is the French grey challot or griselle. This specie is considered as the “true shallot” but still cannot beat the Allium cepa variety in terms of global popularity. The latter is widely accepted as the shallot.

Shallots, the Allium ascalonicum variety — grow in clusters, just like those of garlic, where separate bulbs are attached at the base. However, unlike garlic, the individual bulbs are not encircled together by a common membrane. They are closely related to multiplier onions and are rather easy to grow as they require little soil preparation. The plants seldom form seed, so they’re usually grown from cloves ñ they are vegetatively multiplied.

They look like elongated onions and the skin is colored copper, reddish, or gray. Shallots have a mild taste which is a mix of sweet onion flavor and a touch of garlic.

Summary:
1.  Shallots grow as a cluster of bulbs from a single planted bulb similar to garlic while onions grow as a single big bulb per plant.
2. Shallots are a lot smaller compared to onions.
3. The common onion is Allium cepa while the commonly accepted shallot is Allium ascalonicum.
4. The shallot may resemble the taste of onion but milder and sweeter in flavor. Distinctively from onions, shallot may taste with a hint of garlic.
5. Onions are more difficult to grow than shallots.
6. Onions are seed-propagated, whereas shallots are vegetatively multiplied.
7. Onions are almost disc-shaped bulbs while shallots can appear like elongated onions.


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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the informative article. I have substituted onions and shallots before but understand the difference now.

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