Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Nutritional Benefits of Shallots
If you’re not familiar with shallots, you’re going to want to make room in your pantry for this small but mighty bulb. It looks similar to an onion on the outside, but when you peel off the skin, it looks more like garlic. While it may seem like this onion cousin is going through an identity crisis, it’s very clear on its purpose – to offer a subtle flavor and plenty of nutritional benefits. In fact, it’s the nutritional benefits of shallots that have caused them to be used for centuries for their potential medicinal properties in both prevention and treatment and why they definitely deserve at least some of your attention.
What are Shallots?
Shallots belong to the Allium family, which also includes garlic, onions, leeks and chives. They’re usually found with fresh garlic in the grocery store because their internal structure is similar to that of garlic with a head made up of multiple cloves. They can range in color from brown to red, and they have a much milder flavor than either garlic or onions. Just like their other family members though, there’s no escaping the potential for eye irritation. You’re as likely to tear up when peeling or cutting a shallot as you are an onion.
Nutrients in Shallots
Shallots contain protein and fiber, but it’s their vitamin and mineral content that really stands out.
(100 grams or just under 7 tablespoons)
Protein 2.5 grams
Carbohydrate 16.8 grams
Fiber 3.2 grams
Calcium 37 mg (4% of DV)
Iron 1.2 mg (7% of DV)
Magnesium 21 mg (7% of DV)
Phosphorus 60 mg (9% of DV)
Potassium 334 mg (13% of DV)
Zinc .4 mg (5% of DV)
Folate 34 ug (9% of DV)
Nutritional Benefits of Shallots
The nutritional benefits of shallots are many. Research has shown that those include antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties as well as possible prevention and treatment of certain blood disorders2. This means that they could hold potential for helping to prevent many inflammatory diseases as well as cancer, but the actual amounts needed to lower the risk of each needs to be studied further.2,3
How to Prepare Shallots
According to the University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil Science, shallots have a sweet flavor that comes out even more when they’re cooked or roasted4. They’re often used in French and Asian cooking4 but are often called for in other types of recipes as well. Many of the nutritional benefits of shallots, such as antioxidants, are released when they’re chopped, crushed or chewed.3 They’re so mild, they can just as easily be eaten raw in sauces and vinaigrettes as they can be when cooked with meat and/or vegetables. Bottom line, if you want a milder flavor than onion in your recipe, shallots usually make a good substitute.
My Great Recipes has a fantastic Beginner’s Guide to Shallots that offers tips on how to use the bulbs, as well as plenty of recipes.
Cost of Shallots
Shallots do cost more than yellow onions, but you’re probably not going to use them as frequently either. They usually cost around $3/lb versus $1.30 – $1.50 for a 3lb bag of yellow onions. If you’re not familiar with shallots, it’s probably going to be in the best interest of your pocketbook to start by following recipes. Once you get a feel for their taste and how they can be used, you’ll probably feel more comfortable experimenting.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170499/nutrients
- Mohammadi-Motlagh, H. R., Mostafaie, A., & Mansouri, K. (2011). Anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities of shallot (Allium ascalonicum) extract. Archives of medical science : AMS, 7(1), 38–44. doi:10.5114/aoms.2011.20602
- Nicastro, H. L., Ross, S. A., & Milner, J. A. (2015). Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 8(3), 181–189. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0172 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4366009/
- University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science. https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/shallots.html