The Flavor (and Flavonoids) of Shallots

Try these small, onion-like vegetables in dressings, stir-fries, and our delicious pork tenderloin recipe.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on February 23, 2009

It may resemble an onion -- and make your eyes tear like one -- but the shallot is a vegetable all its own. This bulbous member of the onion family is sweeter and more subtle in flavor than its pungent cousin and resembles garlic with multiple cloves when the outer skin is removed. Varying in color from copper to gray, there are two main types of shallots: Jersey or “false” shallots, which are larger and have a strong flavor, and “true” shallots, which are smaller and milder tasting. Thought to have originated in China around 2000 B.C., shallots have long been a staple in Mediterranean, French, American, and Flemish cuisine. They are often used in salad dressings, stir-fries, and sauces to add flavor and are low in calories and fat-free. They also contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables that helps protect the body and may reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. (Garlic, leeks, and onions also have great cancer-fighting nutrients, by the way.) Plus, one tablespoon of chopped shallots is high in potassium, vitamin A, and folate.

Makes 6 servings
2 pork tenderloins
(about 1.5 lb total)
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Sauce (makes about 2/3 cup)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp unsalted butter
4 large shallots (about 1½ cups), sliced
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1–2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried rosemary or 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

For the sauce:
Melt olive oil and butter in heavy skillet over low heat.
Add shallots, stirring until softened and starting to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
Add wine and reduce over moderately high heat to ¼ cup.
Add chicken stock and reduce to half.
Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute.
Season with salt and pepper.

For the meat:
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Rub pork tenderloins lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat; coat pan with cooking spray.
Add pork to pan and brown on all sides, then place pan in oven and bake until meat thermometer reaches 155° and meat is slightly pink.
Tent pork with aluminum foil and let stand 5–10 minutes. Slice and serve with sauce.

Per serving: 197 calories, 25 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 5.3 g fat (1.8 g saturated fat), 77 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber, 150 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 24%.


Show Sources

SOURCES: Beuchamp, Kimberly, ND, “Choose your onions wisely,” in Medfinds; Langley, Susan“Some onion varieties can boost anti-cancer benefits, Cornell scientists say,” in Cornell Chronicle (Cornell University newsletter) October 7, 2004; Formula for Life: “Shallots”;Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs: “What they are and how to grow them.”

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