The Closest Swap For Shallots In A Recipe According To Julia Child

If you find yourself in the kitchen using a recipe that calls for shallots — perhaps for a green bean and tomato panzanella or Panang Curry and tomato bisque – but you don't have any, don't worry. Maybe you couldn't track down any shallots at the grocery store, or maybe you pulled up the recipe last minute. Well, Julia Child has you covered with a simple substitution that won't unduly affect the flavor of your dish.


The French particularly love these mild, slightly sweet members of the onion family. So it makes sense to go to Julia Child — the culinary queen who turned Americans on to French cooking — for an answer. In her iconic 1961 cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol.1)" she suggested using the white part of green onions in place of shallots in a pinch, or mincing white onion and boiling it for one minute, which helps mellow its sharpness and gets you closer to the shallot's flavor profile.

The secrets of the shallot and how to mimic them

The shallot is a member of the allium family, which includes red onions, white onions, garlic, and green onions, among others. The shallot's flavor is kind of a cross between a white onion and garlic, only a bit more toned down. Because of its mellow sweetness that still hints at its cousins' pungency, it's a great addition to many recipes. Like other alliums, it's an ingredient that helps build up the flavor in your dishes. Unlike most other alliums, it doesn't have a sharp bite, making it perfect for vinaigrettes, soups, and pickling in salads.


Julia Child suggested using the white part of the green onion as a replacement since they, too, are mellower than white, yellow, or red onions. The white part has more flavor than the green tops, which are often relegated to being a garnish. When cooked, green onions mellow out even further.

Boiled white onions can also replace shallots

If you find yourself without shallots or green onions, Julia Child still has you covered. She suggested using finely minced white onions that have been boiled briefly. The boiling water helps break down the enzymes in the onion that give this vegetable its tell-tale pungent sharpness. Cooking the onion will also help bring out its natural sweetness to get you closer to the shallot's flavor. It should be noted that whether you replace shallots with green onion or boiled white onion, you won't get the exact same flavor profile, but it'll get you closer than any other replacement.


Child wasn't above using kitchen hacks to make cooking easier and faster. Whether that was her smart way to dress potato salad by using a bit of the water used to cook potatoes to help bind the dressing, or offering substitutions for recipe ingredients. For Child, it was all about the journey. "This is my invariable advice to people," she suggested in her book, "My Life In France." "Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun."