Onions vs. Shallots

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Difference between Onions and Shallots

Allium is a genus of flowering plants including species widely used for cooking, such as onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic and chives. It groups almost 750 species. They are perennials which means they grow each year out of small bulbs placed in the soil. Most Allium species can be found in the northern hemisphere in temperate climates. Some also grow in Chile and Brazil.

Onions and shallots come in various colors from white to reddish. They usually are round whereas shallots are normally round or elongated. People consume onion bulbs as well as the tall leaves known as green onions.


Onions have a strong aromatic odor and taste. As such they are used in a variety of recipes to add flavor to a dish. People can eat them alone if they are pickled in vinegar or as an accompaniment to the main course.

Shallots have a mild and sweet taste and contain a great number of phenols and flavonoids which give it a distinctive odor and flavor. They are used to prepare many dishes. Shallots too can also be consumed in their pickled state. Shallots are particularly appreciated in the Asian cuisine where they are mixed with yogurt or served as a part of rice or curry dishes.


Green onion is stored best in the refrigerator. Cooking onions and sweet onions may be kept outside the refrigerator at room temperature in cool, dry and dark places lasting for up to 4 weeks. If they are stored with other vegetables, they tend to assimilate the odor as well as the moisture, so it is best to keep them isolated or use them within a short period after purchase.

Shallots have to be stored in cool and dry places either in the refrigerator in the drawer for vegetables or in cellars, sheds or other utility rooms. They can last a few weeks in these conditions. Peeled shallots may be kept in the refrigerator for a week.

Medicinal Properties

Onions contain phenols which are recognized as antioxidants. They can inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Shallots contain the largest number of phenols which makes them the leading anti-oxidant line of the Allium genus.

Onions prevent the risk of osteoporosis as women going through menopause. Sliced onions applied to a bee sting can reduce the swelling. They can be used successfully for a variety of anti-inflammatory purposes.

Shallots have a positive influence on the liver by helping it to eliminate toxins. The flavonoids in shallots prevent the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.

Similarities and Differences

  • Onions and shallots are used for their aromatic taste and odor in various dishes. Shallots are preferred for their sweet taste.
  • Onions and shallots can be stored in the refrigerator or in cool and dry places for a short period of time.
  • Onions and shallots contain phenols which are antioxidants able to help prevent cancerous cell growth, diabetes and heart diseases.


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