By Erin Marissa Russell
What’s the difference between scallions and shallots? Both scallions and shallots are alliums that are used in the kitchen as aromatics to season the food they are cooked with. Despite being related, however, these two vegetables are actually fairly different. Keep reading to learn what scallions and shallots have in common, where they vary, and when to use each.
Scallions vs. Shallots: Botany
Because scallions and shallots are both members of the allium family, they have more in common botanically than they do in some of the other ways we’ll talk about, like their appearance or nutrition.
- As they grow, both scallions and shallots consist of the same basic parts. These include the underground portion of the onion or shallot, which is made up of the root system and the bulb that forms as scallions and shallots mature, and the green tops of the scallions and shallots that emerge from the bulb and grow above ground. The scallions are harvested when they are immature, while the bulb of the onion is still quite small and the greens are still alive and attached. Shallots are allowed to mature longer, and the greens die back before the plant is harvested. The bulb of the shallot is also much larger than it is on scallions, since they haven’t been allowed to mature as long as a shallot does.
- With the exception of bunching onions, which are a type of green onion, scallions grow singly. In comparison, shallots grow in clumps or clusters.
Scallions vs. Shallots: Appearance
Although scallions and shallots are both alliums (and the words are a bit similar), they have lots of differences when it comes to their appearance.
- Scallions still have the long green tops attached, while shallots are sold without their greens and consist of the bulb of the onion alone. The bulb portion of scallions tends to be much smaller than a shallot, which consists solely of the bulb. Shallots do grow with green tops attached, but these die before the shallots are harvested. Scallions are harvested earlier, while the bulbing part of the onion is still immature. That’s why their greens are still healthy and are sold with the bulb. (You can learn how to grow your own shallots or how to grow your own scallions in other articles on our site.
- Shallots are sold with the papery husk still attached around the bulb, while scallions do not have a substantial husk. Scallions will occasionally have their own papery covering wrapped around the bottom portion of the onion, but when they do, this covering is thinner and more translucent than the brownish or purple opaque husk on shallots.
- Inside of the husk, shallots are purple and white (like a miniature version of a red onion, though paler in hue). Scallions are white and green, without any purple coloring. The exception to this rule is the purplette variety, which is vivid purple instead of white at the base.
- Scallions are a single bulb and are not divided into sections (other than the circular layers they are made up of, just like any other member of the onion family). In addition to these layers, shallots are divided into sections or cloves, similarly to garlic.
Scallions vs. Shallots: Flavor and Culinary Uses
You might assume that since scallions and shallots are both alliums, they would have almost identical tastes. However, that isn’t accurate. The two have quite distinct flavors, which is why they aren’t interchangeable in recipes. If you need to make a substitution for scallions or shallots while cooking, you can use chives in the place of scallions and either garlic or red onion in the place of shallots.
- As the less mature allium, scallions have a much lighter, less pungent oniony kick. Their flavor is quite mild compared to shallots or more mature onions.
- In addition to having a more traditional oniony bite, raw shallots have a garlicky flavor you won’t find in scallions. If you cook shallots long enough to allow them to caramelize, though, their flavor will mellow out and become almost sweet.
- The green portion of scallions has a fresh, grassy taste. Shallots don’t include this flavor profile at all.
- Both scallions and shallots can be served either raw or cooked.
Scallions vs. Shallots: Nutrition
Both scallions and shallots are healthy food options because they’re low in fat and carbohydrates while offering plenty of minerals and other nutrients the body needs.
- Both scallions and shallots provide your body with antioxidants, which help maintain healthy cells and have been linked in research to cancer prevention.
- Scallions have lots of fiber, which helps promote good digestion and keeps you feeling full without loading your system with calories.
- Shallots contain almost twice the calories of scallions.
- Both scallions and shallots are quite low in fat, though scallions contain twice the amount of shallots. The amount of fat contained in both veggies, however, is not enough to worry about.
- Shallots have more than twice the amount of carbohydrates you’ll find in scallions.
- Shallots contain almost 20 percent more potassium than scallions do.
- Scallions have 25 percent more sodium in them than shallots do.
- Shallots have just over 20 percent more protein than scallions.
- Both scallions and shallots are free from cholesterol and Vitamin D.
- Shallots contain no Vitamin A, while a serving of scallions has 20 percent of the recommended daily value.
- Scallions pack more than 40 percent more Vitamin C than shallots provide.
- You’ll get more than twice the calcium when you eat scallions as you would if you chose shallots.
- Scallions offer 25 percent more iron than shallots.
Now you’ve learned pretty much all there is to know about the differences between scallions and shallots. But why stop there? If you’re ready for more knowledge about members of the allium family, you can read about the differences between onions and green onions, scallions, bunching onions, and more. You’ll also find out about long day, short day, and day neutral onions as well as the differences between white onions, yellow (or brown) onions, and red (or purple) onions. There’s even more to learn, too, with less well-known types of onions like pickling onions, storage onions (also called keeping onions), Cipollini onions, Spanish onions, Vidalia onions, sweet onions, and more. There’s just so much to know about this very diverse family of plants.