Cipollini Onions Vs. Shallots: Navigating the Best Choice for Your Recipes

Cipollini onions and shallots are closely related members of the Allium family of vegetables. With shallots being a variety of onions. However, that’s not all you need to know when comparing the two. Read on as we explore the differences between cipollini onions vs. shallots.

What Are Cipollini Onions?

Cipollini Onions

Cipollini onions are small, spherical Italian onions with squashed-looking heads and bottoms. Usually, they’re around 1-3 inches in diameter with thin yellow outer skins.

As an onion, they are both a type of yellow onion because of their color and appearance, but they’re also sweet onions because of their mild flavor and notable sweetness. The cipollini onion has a tender texture.

They are most often used in soups, stews, and sauces. You’ll usually want to braise cipollini onions in most recipes earlier in the cooking process as they make fantastic bases in slow-cooked dishes.

What Are Shallots?


Shallots are a botanical onion variety that is used in cuisines worldwide. They are common in English, French, Asian, Italian, and even Indian cuisine.

With a unique, elongated shape, the shallot has a distinctive appearance. They are typically around 2-2.5 inches long and about 1-1.5 inches across. The skin can be yellow/brown, grey, or red, while the inner flesh is often tinged with green, red, or magenta colors.

Another thing that sets the shallot apart from most onions is that the bulbs are more similar to garlic. The shallot has multiple closely clustered bulbs, whereas other onions have a single large bulb.

Shallots have a milder flavor than regular onions, delicate sweetness, and sometimes a notable sharpness best describe the taste of a shallot. Shallots are known to have a crisp to firm texture.

You can use them in soups, stews, casseroles, marinades, sauces, and other similar dishes. However, the shallot is also widely used for pickling, salads, salsas, and vinaigrettes.

What’s The Difference Between Cipollini Onions and Shallots?

Cipollini OnionShallot
A type of yellow onion and sweet onion.A variety of onions.
Best for soups, stews, sauces, and relishes.Best for sauces, marinades, pickling, and salads.
Tastes mild and sweet.Tastes mild and sweet.
Small spheres that appear golden-yellow.Small and elongated with a variety of skin colors.

Cipollini onions and shallots are both similar in how they are more versatile than regular onions. This is because they both taste mild and sweet.

You can use them both in the same dishes, making ideal substitutes for one another in most situations. However, when it comes to texture, things are different. The cipollini has a more tender texture than shallots which are crisper. This makes shallots a better choice for salads and when pickled.

They are a similar size, but the shapes are different, as well as the texture. Unlike most onions, shallots have several clustered bulbs, whereas the cipollini is more regular for an onion with a single inner bulb.

  • Size: Both of these onions are no larger than 3 inches, with both having a rough media diameter of around 2 inches.
  • Appearance: The shallot is elongated with multiple inner bulbs that, like the skins, can vary in color. Cipollinis have a more spherical shape and can look “squashed,” but the skins are almost always a golden brown or “yellow.”
  • Taste and texture: You won’t find a big difference in the taste as both onions do taste mild and sweet. However, the texture is different as cipollini onions are tender while shallots are crisp.
  • Culinary uses: Both the cipollini and shallot can be used in slow-cooked dishes and are often braised at the beginning of a dish. Still, shallots are more versatile because their crisp texture affords them more utility in salads, salsas, and pickles.


The main difference when comparing cipollini onions vs. shallots is the texture, appearance, and culinary versatility. They can be substituted for one another in many dishes in similar quantities due to their similar taste and size. However, shallots are usually more readily available in stores because of their popularity.