Good Question: What’s the deal with Shallots?

updated Jun 4, 2019
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Dear Kitchen,

I was making a recipe recently and it called for 5 thinly sliced shallots. As I started to cut and peel my shallots I realized that each one was made of two smaller shallots and then I got confused as to what the “five shallots” actually refers to. Is it like garlic where you count each individual clove or do you count the entire bulb or head or whatever you call it?

Thanks a lot,

(To All Good Questions)

Dear Lauren-

Shallots are interesting little vegetables. Some people describe them, in terms of taste and function, as a cross between an onion and garlic, however they are indeed a member of the onion family. Shallots caramelize like an onion, although their mild flavor is closer to garlic. One nice thing about shallots is that they do not give one bad breath, the way onions and garlic do and they are more easy to digest. They have a brownish, papery skin however once you cut into a bulb of shallot you often find two, or three cloves. This is where it gets tricky when a recipe calls for a certain number of shallots, rather than a specific amount like “2 tablespoons, minced.” A general rule of thumb is that “one shallot” refers to one shallot bulb, regardless of how many cloves are inside once it has been cut.