DIY Food

How to Mince a Shallot

July 12, 2012

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Now that you've mastered chopping onions, here's how to mince a shallot.  


Earlier this week, our Assistant Editor Nozlee showed you how to get cozy with one of the most important skills in cooking: how to chop, slice, and dice an onion.

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Now I'm going to demonstrate how to mince its sweet, punchy little cousin: the shallot. The process is very similar, just done in miniature. If you know how to cut up one, you can probably do the other -- but there are a few things to keep in mind.

What exactly do you mean by shallot?

Each whole shallot contains multiple lobes that can be all sorts of different sizes -- just like garlic cloves. Some recipe writers explain that they mean a single lobe, or better still describe the amount they're looking for in tablespoons or ounces. Most don't. This is where you have to get smart.

Think about your end result, then wing it.

I don't care if you went to cooking school -- everyone's "finely chopped" is a little different; as is their medium dice, their mince, their thinly sliced.

What you can always do is think about what the end product will be, and make plans for the shallot you want to be eating. If your minced shallot will go raw into a salad dressing, you might want to mince it a little finer and use a smaller lobe. If you plan to sauté it in butter till it's mellow and rich for succotash or risotto, a larger cut is probably fine, and you can throw in a lot more.

Without further ado: How to Mince a Shallot, Step by Step

Grab a sharp paring knife. To mince that shallot, first trim off the root end.

Then slice in half length-wise.

The skins should roll away easily now, though every once in awhile, you'll get a stubborn papery skin (if you know a good trick for those, let us know in the comments!). Trim that dried out tip while you're at it.

Lay it flat and (carefully!) make even horizontal cuts in your shallot, leaving the root end intact to hold it all together.

It should look like a relatively even stack.

Next up: a row of vertical slits, again leaving the root intact.

Almost there! Know where we're going next?

The last official cut: chop it off in even rows, vertically again, but at a 90 degree angle from your last cut, moving toward the root.

Then you can leave them as is, in neat 1/4-inch bits. Or for raw preparations like salad dressing or salsa verde, I like to run the knife through a few more times, to mince them to "smithereen" stage.


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Trillinchick
  • Greenstuff
  • aargersi
  • Kayla
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Trillinchick July 22, 2012
For sure, keep those fingers tucked in! I learned a slightly different way in a knife skills class (I was not top student!). Leave the root end of the onion on, and it works as an anchor. Slice the otherwise naked onion in horizontal slices from the opposite end of the onion. Turn the onion 180 and dice , hacking off the root (actually part the last dice stroke action). Retaining the root end keeps the slices from sliding merrily and potentially dangerously to the digits. It also helps to put the onion - or in this instance, shallot - in the freezer briefly (just don't forget it!), since the juice adds to the slipperiness. Voici! Slice and dice with ease and success - and no unappealing red tinge to the veg. Cheers!
Greenstuff July 12, 2012
If you weren't sure about whether to include this after the onion advice, I'm imagining that Nora Ephron's "Shallot-of-the-Month Club" remark that's been making the rounds this past week pushed you over the edge. Good one! And I actually remember the Shallot-of-the-Month Club.
aargersi July 12, 2012
What do you do with the butts? I always cut all the way through and then hold on while I slice so I use the whole thing ...
Kristen M. July 12, 2012
Good question! I still use them -- I just even them out with a few extra strategic slices at the end, which is especially easy if I'm already on the way to smithereens.
Kayla July 12, 2012
Yes, carefully! I got a little too enthusiastic about cutting onions and made a good slice... into my thumb.

In any event, I adore these tips and tricks. I don't think I'm quite on the level of the other lovely cooks here on food52, but I'm working on it! Perhaps more slowly and carefully, now.