Shallot VS Red Onion | Why Looks Can Be Deceiving

Shallot vs red onion

Things aren’t always what they seem, and this is particularly true when comparing shallots with onions. Although they may look similar, they are actually quite different in many ways. In this article we’ll be exploring some of those differences as we compare shallot vs red onion in particular, seeing as how they look so similar.

In short, the difference between shallot vs red onion is that shallots have a milder and sweeter flavor. Although not onions, they do come from the onion family. Shallots  also contain more calories and nutrition per serving due to their density. On a per-calorie basis, however, their nutritional profiles are similar.

Let’s have a closer look at the details.

What Are Shallots?

Shallots look, feel, and taste like onions. That is because they botanical variety of the onion. Shallots are a species of the Allium family, which also includes garlic, leeks, and chives.


Shallots grow in much of the same conditions as onions. They do best in dry climates, direct sunlight, and soil with good drainage. They form underground clusters of small bulbils that can be harvested and replanted.

Shallots are typically small and brownish-red, with a paper-like skin that’s similar to garlic. Underneath that skin is a fleshy white or pale pinkish bulb that’s 2-3 times larger than the average garlic clove.

When comparing shallot vs red onion it’s important to be mindful of the different types of shallots that exist. According to the Home Stratosphere website, there are 6 different types of shallots:

  1. Pikant: a red/brown variety
  2. Ambition: shaped like a teardrop
  3. Prisma: entirely red both on the outside and inside
  4. Yellow/Golden: has a milder, sweeter taste
  5. French Grey: considered the “true” shallot
  6. Banana: a hybrid between a banana and a shallot

What Are Red Onions?

In case the name left any doubts, red onions are named after their red color. Sometimes referred to as “purple” onions, they have a deep reddish outer skin and a white inner flesh, and are bulbous and medium-large in size.

Red onion

Much like shallots, there are many different varieties of onion. Red onion is just one of many. They are often used in recipes that call for raw onions, as they tend to have a milder and sweeter taste than white or yellow onions.

Red onions are available year-round, although they are grown in the spring, summer, and autumn months.

Although they may look similar (and even come from the same family,) red onions and shallots are not the same.

Shallot VS Red Onion: How They Differ

Now that we’ve touched on the basics of shallots and red onions, let’s have a look at some of the ways they differ.

How They’re Used

One of the biggest differences between shallot vs red onion is how they’re used.

Shallots can be eaten raw, but they also have a caramelization effect when cooked. This makes them preferable to red onions when heated as red onions do not caramelize as well as shallots do.

There are countless ways in which shallots can be used, including:

  • Sautéed in stir-fried
  • Added to soups and salads
  • Roasted with meats

They also pair well with garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Red onions, on the other hand, are best when eaten raw. They can be cooked, but they have a longer cooking time and not nearly as much of a caramelization effect as shallots and other onion varieties do.

Some of the ways in which red onions can be used include:

  • On burgers, sandwiches, and wraps
  • As a salad topping
  • In salsa, diced

Taste & Texture

When it comes to flavor, shallots are somewhere between onions and garlic. They’re not quite as pungent as onions, but they’re also not as mild as garlic. Shallots have a sharp, sweet flavor that’s perfect for adding depth to sauces, stews, and soups.

Red onions are unique because they’re considered one of the milder onion varieties, making them the ideal onion to eat raw. Despite their mild flavor, though, they’re not quite as mild as shallots.

Red onions have a much stronger flavor and odor than shallots do. Shallots would be preferable if you just want a hint of onion flavor, but without the sharpness and intensity.

Nutrition Facts

Let’s have a look at some of the nutritional differences between shallots and red onions.

The table below compares the nutrition facts of a 100-gram serving of raw red onions with an equal weight serving size of raw shallots:

Item Red Onion Shallot
Serving Size 100 grams 100 grams
Calories 44 72
Total Carbohydrates 9.9g 17g
Fiber 2.2g 3.2g
Total Fat 0.1g 0.1g
Protein 0.9g 2.5g
Calcium 1% DV 3% DV
Iron 1% DV 7% DV
Potassium 4% DV 7% DV
Vitamin C 9% DV 9% DV
Magnesium 3% DV 5% DV
Zinc 2% DV 4% DV

As you can see, each has lots to offer in terms of nutrition. They’re both excellent sources of:

  • Fiber: an indigestible carbohydrate that is tasked with removing waste from the body
  • Vitamin C: a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that plays a role in supporting immune health
  • Iron: a mineral responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body
  • Potassium: an essential electrolyte that plays a role in fluid balance and muscle contraction

Furthermore, both shallots and red onions contain an antioxidant known as quercetin, which may be helpful in boosting immune health and fighting inflammation, according to WebMD.

Despite their similarities, though, there are a couple of nutritional differences between shallot vs red onion worth noting.

Shallots Are More Nutritionally-Dense

When comparing shallots with red onions in the nutrition facts table above, the comparison was made using an equal weight serving of each. Shallots are denser than red onion, though, so that means they contain more nutrition per equal weight serving.

This may explain why it is that shallots have nearly double the calories and significantly more nutrition per serving, with the exception of vitamin C and total fat.

So if your goal is to load up on as much health-promoting nutrition in every bite possible, shallots would provide the advantage.

Red Onions Contain Fewer Calories

While it is true that shallots are more nutritionally-dense, this also means that red onions have fewer calories per serving.

This can be advantageous if you are seeking to reduce calorie intake, as opting for red onions over shallots will allow you to consume a greater volume of food for less calories.

On a per-calorie basis, however, the nutritional differences between shallot vs red onion are negligible.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of their differences, both shallots and red onions are delicious plant-based foods with health-promoting properties. They’re also available year-round and in abundance. So the real question is, why pick when you can enjoy both?

This post was contributed by a member of the PBF writing staff. is an online publication for learning about plant-based food and nutrition.

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