By Abigail Gottshall, MS, RD, LDN
Shallots are a member of the Allium family, which also includes leeks, chives, scallions, garlic, and onions. Most shallots are grown in Europe, specifically in France. The flavor of shallots, which is thought to be a mix between onion and garlic, has long been used in traditional French cooking to enhance and brighten sauces.
In terms of nutrient content, 3.5 ounces of shallots, or just over a half-cup serving, contain at least 5% of the recommended daily value of folate, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. It also contains 3 grams of fiber, small amounts of calcium and zinc, and high amounts of antioxidants.
Shallots also contain a type of fermentable fiber called inulin-type fructans (ITFs). A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming a diet high in ITFs—which can be found, for instance, in shallots, artichokes, and leeks —led to increased satiety, reduced cravings for sweet and salty foods, and a beneficial modification of the composition of the microbiota (the bacteria in the small intestine). In general, increasing soluble fiber intake can help to lower blood cholesterol levels and control blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber is also an important dietary component for individuals living with heart disease or diabetes.
A diet high in alliums may help to improve heart health. One study measured the effects of allicin—an organic sulfur compound found in shallots—on heart health and found that allicin reduced blood vessel stiffness, improved circulation, and lowered blood pressure. The sulfur compounds found in shallots and other allium vegetables are also thought to have antimicrobial properties. One group of researchers found that using a mouth rinse containing shallot extract and water prevented oral bacterial growth better than some medical disinfectants. Other research has studied the effect of alliums in treating seasonal allergies, cold sores, and the flu.
When stored properly, such as when they are kept in slatted crates with sufficient airflow, shallots can be reserved for up to 8-10 months. The delicate flavor of shallots can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways. Adding shallots and garlic to meats, vegetables, and side dishes is a good way to flavor foods without using salt for individuals who need to limit their sodium intake. Pick up some shallots on your next visit to the grocery store and try them in a recipe.
Here are some great ways to enjoy shallots:
- Sauté shallots in butter until they’re crispy, then serve them on top of your favorite green vegetable or grains.
- Add shallots to gravies, cream-based sauces, soups, or salad dressings for a boost of flavor.
- Slow-roast whole shallots in their skins to use in vinaigrettes, soups, or as toppings for salads.
- Create a delicious one-dish meal by roasting chicken or pork with shallots, potatoes, and carrots.