Julia Child's Genius Advice For Substituting Shallots

The late cooking legend Julia Child left quite a culinary mark on the world before her passing — particularly in America, where she all but popularized French cuisine. With the release of her 1961 book, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking," she skillfully introduced many to an entirely new way of cooking, enticing the masses with classic dishes like boeuf bourguignon and chicken and mushroom fricassee

Her debut cookbook's helpful step-by-step instructions and tips made whipping up her elaborate dishes a breeze, especially when it came to her clever hack for using other vegetables if you're all out of shallots, a primary ingredient in many dishes.

A member of the allium family, shallots are known for their delicate, sweet flavor. The mild aromatic marries the flavors of garlic and onions, but not overwhelmingly so. A mainstay in French cuisine, shallots — also known as échalotes — are widely used in stuffings and sauces like hollandaise and sauce ravigote as well as other traditional applications, adding a brilliant depth of flavor to a variety of meals. 

Since the humble yet flavorful shallot is a crucial component to many of Child's most beloved recipes, the beloved television personality was clear in her cookbook that you don't have to lose out on their sweet pungency if you don't have any on hand. Mincing up an onion or the whites of scallions will work in a pinch, too.

Sub in the white part of green onions

Similar to shallots, green onions (or scallions as they're also called) are widely consumed in a myriad of different ways. They can be eaten raw, such as being diced into a colorful salad or as a garnish for baked potatoes, or cooked in a plethora of savory dishes from soups to casseroles. But, while some may chop the white parts of green onions off and relegate them to the compost bin, you can incorporate them into dishes in much the same way you would the essence of onions.

Unlike the green part of green onions, which features a far milder chive-like or grassy flavor, the white part of scallions has a sharper flavor profile akin to a white onion. However, it's not nearly as strong, lending a subtle sweetness to any dish when cooked. So, if you ever find yourself making a recipe that calls for a portion of finely-minced shallots, such as Julia Child's mushroom quiche or spinach souffle, you can easily substitute in the minced whites of a green onion using a 1:1 ratio.

Or use minced onion as a swap

If you happen to find yourself all out of shallots and green onions, you're not out of luck. According to Julia Child, finely-minced onion will do the trick just as well. However, as she shared on page 19 of her cookbook, "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking," there's just one more step you'll have to take before you can incorporate them into your recipes: boil them in hot water for one minute.

Since shallots are not nearly as pungent as onions, quickly dropping the onions into boiling water will help diminish their sharp flavor, making them more comparable in taste. Just be sure to rinse and drain the onions after boiling them, and they'll be ready to be used as a suitable replacement in a 1:1 ratio. 

Although any type of onion will work, especially if you boil them, it's important to keep in mind that there are subtle flavor differences between red, yellow, and white onions. The red varieties are typically the sharpest and spiciest, while the white varieties are the mildest — therefore, white or yellow onions may be a better pick.