Spring Onions vs Shallots

It’s an age-old debate in kitchens, restaurants and supermarkets across Australia: what’s the correct name for this delicious variety of onion that brings flavour to so many dishes?


It’s one hot topic in the 12WBT Forums too! Read on as we crack the case…

Firstly, it’s a country-specific thing

The debate of dual-named vegetables usually spans different countries, and is evident in arguments surrounding things like: aubergine versus eggplant, or courgette versus zucchini.

But this confusion is also happening in our own backyard, and if not resolved now, things could turn ugly. We’ve all witnessed the rockmelon vs cantaloupe debate of recent years. Now the spring onion/shallot saga has come to light in the 12WBT office. Who knew such confusion ran along state lines?

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The verdict

We spoke to experts, did some (very thorough, of course!) research and asked our members. The general consensus? It depends what Aussie state you live in.

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In NSW, the long, green, thin variety of onion (as shown above) is called a shallot. The more bulbous variety on the left is knows as a spring onion. 

In many other states, such as Queensland, it’s the other way around. It makes for a confusing conversation!

Note: in the US they call the green, thin variety (the type we at 12WBT call shallots) green onions or scallions. But that’s a whole separate discussion!

What do you call spring onions and shallots? Enter the debate in the comments below! If you have another food debate you’d like us to investigate, let us know.


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  1. Well that certainly clears up a long ongoing “muse” I’ve had for years!

    Do find it quite hilarious it has a devoted article, but as a compulsive “Google researcher” I must say, I will certainly sleep more soundly tonight 🙂

  2. It’s a pointless argument, because a shallot is a shallot. Not a spring/green onion.

  3. I think I’ve solved the mystery. Plant French shallots and they grow into green shallots.

    My mum used to grow shallots. They weren’t young onions nor young leeks because they grew in a bunch for years and we just cut them when we wanted them. I tried planting green shallots from the store but they grew into leeks. But recently I planted fresh shallots (like brown onions but prone to dividing) and the green plants are just what I remember shallots being.

    So I think the issue is not confusion about species but confusion about when they are harvested: green or brown.

  4. I got caught out on this too. The shopping list said 2 shallots so I bought two shallots – small brown onions tapered at the ends. This is what the rest of the world outside of NSW/Vic thinks a shallot is. Those green and white things are spring onions/scallions.

  5. This really matters, for the two types are quite different in strength of taste as well as texture. I was reading a recipe I had planned to use for dinner which said “spring onions (eschallots)” so I bought shallots, which look like large purple-toned garlic. When I commenced making the recipe, I noticed that the onions were to be added to the egg & cream sauce, but only a third of them, then the remainder added just before serving. It was then that I realized that what they really intended for the recipe was scallions, otherwise there would have been too stringent a taste because the late-added onion wouldn’t have cooked. This is more common with the much milder green onion/scallion. It’s a good thing I had a bunch in my garden!

  6. The ones on the left are what Kiwis call spring onions and the ones on the right are spring onions left in the ground too long. Shallots are like small brown onions like they use in French cuisine. 🙂

  7. I’m 65 grew up in NSW and have always believed the thin ones on the left to be ‘shallots’ and the ones on the right to be ‘spring onions’. However it does seem to be wrong, and they should be called ‘spring onions’ as the true shallot does seem to be the brown-skinned small onion. The problem is, if they’re ‘spring onions’ what is the correct name for the larger bulbed white onion on the right? Is it just a larger spring onion? The main problem is that when we read a recipe it seems we need to find out where the writer of the recipe comes from in order to understand what they mean when they use these terms.

  8. From the Woman’s Weekly website: GREEN also known as scallions or (incorrectly) shallots; immature onions picked before the bulbs have formed, having long, bright-green edible stalksRED also known as spanish, red spanish or bermuda onion; sweet flavoured and purple-red in colour
    SPRING vegetables with small white bulbs, long green leaves and narrow green-leafed tops; slightly sweeter then green onions
    POWDER made from ground dehydrated onions
    BROWN AND WHITE are interchangeable. Their pungent flesh adds flavour to a vast range of dishes.
    PICKLING also known as cocktail onions; are brown baby onions, larger than shallots. Used raw pickled in brine or cooked in stews and casseroles.
    SHALLOTS also called french shallots, golden shallots or eschalots; brown-skinned, small, elongated member of the onion family.

    1. Exactly! This is what shallots are – the small brown Frenchy things. The fact that most French recipes like coq au vin call for shallots is a dead give away!

      1. I know! I swear one Australian got the name wrong and then everyone else just copied!!

  9. NEITHER OF THEM ARE SHALLOTS! See: Also, I would say the definitive word on shallots vs spring onions: To be technically correct the ones on the left are called a ‘green onion’ in Australia, or a scallion ( It seems one person said it wrong and it stuck. I think the term spring onion is a colloquialism, and for me refers to the onions on the left, the colloquialism for the onions on the right is a summer onion.

  10. In South Australia, the long long thin ones on the
    Left are Spring onions. During my first week of 12wbt, I brought a bag full of shallots (look like small onions, purple in colour) As I was under the impression I needed 2 whole shallots in my coleslaw. I made my coleslaw and thought to to myself, wow that so much onion, I couldn’t even eat it as it was way too overpowering. I have since made the coleslaw again, using Spring Onions and it was amazing.
    Very confusing, but I now know to double check what ‘shallot’ the recipes ask for.

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