Shallots, Scallions, & Green Onions – What’s the Difference?

Ever wondered what the difference is between onions, green onions, shallots, and scallions? Perhaps you’ve watched an episode of the Martha Stewart show and she told you that for a particular recipe shallots would be best. But what’s the difference? How do you know which one you’re really using? (Because, to be honest, I’ve seen labels mixed up more than once in a grocery store.)

Let’s start with the common onion, which is familiar to most of us. They produce large bulbs, usually in colors of white, yellow, or red. They’re multi-layered, and make you cry when you cut them.

onions

True scallions are onions that do not form bulbs. They multiply by ‘bunching’. Bunching onions are true scallions. They grow long and straight, with plenty of green leaves above ground and a white root base underground.

'Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions' - seedlings

‘Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions’ seedlings

Some people refer to immature common onions as scallions. Before the onion plant has formed the large bulb we’re all familiar with, it has a white area near the roots and long, green, hollow leaves. At this point, they look, and taste, just like scallions. So it’s reasonable to call them scallions. But in reality, they’re just immature bulbing onions.

Green onions, or onion greens, simply refers to the leaves of the onion plant, which some people prefer due to their milder flavor. My father used to eat green onions raw, dipped in a bit of salt, along with ‘bread and milk’ – a favorite family meal.

Onion greens

Onion greens

A shallot is a type of onion that divides, not in layers, but in bulbs or cloves underground, like a garlic. Each bulb is wrapped in papery outer layers, like those that cover a single onion, but without an outer skin that encompasses all the bulbs in one, as you see with garlic. Shallots taste like a mild onions, with a touch of the pungency of garlic.

shallots

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13 Responses to Shallots, Scallions, & Green Onions – What’s the Difference?

  1. Mike March 5, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    I’m so glad that someone finally explained the difference. I’ve been eating scallions for years thinking it was just another word for shallots.

  2. William June 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Thanks for the info, very well written and easy to understand without a lot of fluff. Like Arnie said, I vill be back.

  3. Ro Pape September 12, 2016 at 5:34 am #

    They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”! Thanks for the pics of each! I have been using green onions whenever I see “scallions” or “shallots”. I now see the distinct difference between the three. Thank you for the clarity!

  4. Om May 21, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    Very well explained

  5. Arlene Rafferty June 4, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    Thanks answering my question. Very helpful

  6. Hadel Toma June 28, 2017 at 1:50 am #

    Please talk more about factory farming how it’s the number one cause of pollution and what these innocent cows pigs and chickens are going through now, which is hell.

  7. Bayushi August 5, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    My sister and I used to find small white onion bulbs in the backyard, mixed in with regular grass.

    We would dig these up and eat them.

    I’m not certain if these were just small onions or shallots?

    • Anni September 23, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

      They were probably miniature wild onions. I remember eating “onion grass” as a kid too. 🙂

  8. DEBORA SMYTH August 17, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    LIKE YOUR WEB SITE. SIMPLY AND TO THE POINT. WILL KEEP AS A FAVORITE😛😛😛😛

  9. Helena August 24, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    In my salads I use chopped onions, scallions & shallots. All 3 make for a tasty salad with cucumbers, lettuce & tomatoes. If we are having just a salad for dinner I add sliced hard boiled eggs. If avocados are in season they are cut up & put in a small dish to go with the salad. My friend doesn’t like cheese with his salad but I will use either crumbled goat or feta cheese on mine.

  10. Helena August 24, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

    In my salads I use chopped onions, scallions & shallots. All 3 make for a tasty salad with cucumbers, lettuce & tomatoes. If we are having just a salad for dinner I add sliced hard boiled eggs. If avocados are in season they are cut up & put in a small dish to go with the salad. My friend doesn’t like cheese with his salad but I will use either crumbled goat or feta cheese on mine.

  11. Cat Foster September 14, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    Very well explained! You would make a great school teacher 🙂

    • Anni September 23, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

      Thank you!

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