What’s The Difference: Shallot Vs. Red Onion

Both are considered onions but shallots are still different.

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ILLUSTRATOR Louis Miguel A. Talao

You are already probably familiar with the different kinds of onions. There are red onions, white onions, and even yellow onions. Red onions are the sweetest among these three varieties. However, did you know there's another kind of onion bulb that is not among these three? 

Not counting green onions and scallions which have a similar onion taste, there is also the shallot, also known as the sibuyas Tagalog. This onion is also part of the same umbrella plant family, the allium, but has more in common with the garlic than the onion. 

However, young red onions and shallots are commonly mistaken for each other. Here's what you should look for when you are shopping for one of these red-skinned alliums: 

These red onions are milder than yellow onions but not as mild as shallots.
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1 Shallots are narrow. Red onions are round. 

Shape is one of the more distinctive differences between onions and shallots. Shallots actually come in both red and yellow skins just like onions. However, peel back those dried-up skins and you're likely to find what looks like a narrow red onion that's not quite as purple as a red onion usually is. 

2 Shallots grow in clusters or cloves, unlike onions which grow as single bulbs. 

Around a decade ago, shallots were believed to be a separate family from the onion. However, it's since been decided that shallots and onions are indeed related. However, there are still aspects of the shallot that makes it distinct from other onions. 

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The shallot is not only different in shape but also in how it grows. Like garlic, the shallot grows in clusters of two or more. That's why when you slice a shallot in half, you can expect to find two separate halves of a bulb in what seems to be a single bulb. 

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Shallots are more like garlic than onions; you'll commonly find shallots in twos.
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3 Shallots are mild in flavor. Red onions are more pungent and sharp. 

It's true that red onions are sharp in flavor, especially when raw. So, if you're not a fan of the onion flavor, shallots should be your choice. Shallots are much more mellow in flavor. In fact, it's the sweeter kind of onion, so if you are going to make caramelized onions, adding a few shallots into the mix will create a delicious mix. 

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