Leeks are a delicious, tall vegetable with a mild onion taste that are part of the allium family. Sometimes they can be difficult to find or expensive if not in season. If you can't find leeks for your recipe, here is a list of the top 10 best substitutes for leeks for whatever type of dish you're cooking.
Leeks are popular in egg dishes, soups, stews, gratins and stir-fries. They are usually cooked but sometimes marinated or pickled. These options are the best leek substitutes whether you're looking for similar flavor, appearance or texture.
What Are Leeks?
Leeks are members of the Allium family. Other members of the onion family include red, white and sweet onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, ramps (wild leeks) and chives. Leeks have long white stalks with dark green leaves on top, and a mild, sweet flavor that is more nuanced than an onion.
Leeks are the star of many recipes like potato leek soup, cock-o-leekie soup and leek gratin. They are also delicious and popular in quiche, frittata and other egg dishes.
The white part and pale green parts of the leek are the most commonly used in cooking. The darker green part can be tough and fibrous but is great for soup stock. Farmers usually hill up the dirt around the bottom of the leeks as they grow, to increase the amount of the tender white base.
The Best Leek Substitute
While all members of the onion family generally make a great leek substitute, there are a few more leek alternatives that work well for dishes that need the texture or a sweet vegetable flavor. If leeks are the main ingredient in the dish, choosing another member of the allium family will give you the best results. For recipes where leeks provide a supporting role, there are some other veggies that can be used in their place if it's texture you're looking for. Here is a comprehensive list of the best substitutes for leeks. These are all easy to find at any local grocery store.
List Of Best Substitutes
- Scallions/Green Onions and Spring Onions - These are the best substitute for leeks in most recipes due to their mild onion flavor. Scallions, also known as green onions, are a close relative of leeks and have a similar flavor profile. Spring onions are almost identical in appearance and flavor but have a more pronounced white bulb at the bottom. The white or pale green bottoms and tall, green tops are all used. Scallions are are much smaller so an entire bunch is often equal to one large leek! With a delicate texture, they are perfect for garnishing dishes or adding to salads and a great option if the recipe calls for raw leeks. Green onions are also a good substitute for leeks in stir-fries and delicate egg dishes. Use an equal amount of green onions or spring onions when substituting them for leeks.
- Onions (Red onions, white onions, yellow onions and sweet onions) - Regular onions are a staple in most kitchens. They're a great substitute for leeks in many dishes, especially long cooked recipes or recipes where leeks are the main ingredient (like this caramelized onion dip). This type of onion is a round bulb with a papery skin that gets discarded. They have a similar texture and a slightly stronger taste, but add a nice depth of flavor to long-simmered dishes like soups and stews, and add good flavor and texture to stir-fries. For best results, use sweet onions or red onions for a milder flavor and yellow or white onion for a stronger taste. Raw onion tends to be much stronger so it is best used in cooked recipes. For one cup of leeks, use ¾ cup of regular onions.
- Shallots - Shallots are a smaller member of the Allium family. From a minute 1 inch diameter to 3 inch large shallots, they are stronger in flavor with a bit of sweetness, spice, a hint of garlic and a finer texture. Shallots can be used in place of leeks but in smaller amounts. They are a great choice for adding depth of flavor to sauces and salad dressings as well as any cooked casseroles, soups and stews. Uncooked shallots are stronger tasting so use them in moderation. Due to the strong flavor, use ½-3/4 cup of shallot per cup of leeks called for in your recipe whether cooked or raw.
- Wild Leeks aka Wild Ramps -A perfect leek substitute, wild leeks, also known as ramps, are a seasonal delicacy that can be used in place of regular leeks in almost every recipe. With their similar flavor profile, you get the true taste of leeks but they're more pungent and earthy. Part of the onion family, wild leeks can be used in any recipe that calls for leeks and are delicious when grilled or roasted. With their similar taste, use an equal amount of wild ramps as you would regular leeks. Ramps make a delicious potato leek soup.
- Chives - Chives are the most mild of the onion family but make a great option when you don't want an overwhelming onion flavor. Both regular chives and garlic chives work well as a leek alternative for delicate dishes like quiche, omelets, sauces, garnishes and dips. You swap them at a 1 to 1 ratio or to personal preference. These delicate onions are fantastic in egg recipes. (Check out the differences between regular chives and garlic chives!)
- Fresh Garlic + Garlic Scapes - Fresh garlic is a good alternative for deep, rich dishes. Also part of the allium family, it has a stronger, more pungent flavor. With it's unique taste, it is best used in moderation because it can easily overpower other flavors. If you happen to have garlic scapes, fresh green garlic or find wild garlic, it makes an even better leek replacement with edible greens that have a more mild garlic taste and a more onion-like flavor than garlic cloves. Excellent in meat dishes and pasta sauces, garlic has a buttery texture if slowly sauteed in olive oil or butter. Garlic's unique flavor makes it a good choice for using in deep flavored roasted meat dishes, soups, and roasted vegetables.
- Onion Powder and Garlic Powder - Obviously onion or garlic powder won't have the same texture or bulk as leeks but if you just need the flavor, a little of these seasonings will do the trick. One teaspoon of garlic or onion powder will go a long way to adding some leek flavor. This works best for cooked, stewed and simmered dishes. I don't recommend using these in place of leeks in dishes that won't be cooked. 1 teaspoon is usually enough to add a good onion flavor with these dehydrated and powdered leek subs.
- Celery and Celery Leaves - Celery is a mild vegetable that has many of the same culinary uses as leeks. This makes them an easy substitute for cooked recipes. If using the celery leaves, add them in at the end of the cooking time to preserve their mild, fresh flavor. In terms of flavor, celery has a milder taste and is hard to give an exact amount to swap for leeks. Use your judgment depending if you need cooked depth of flavor or a some added volume in your recipe. Use ½-1 cup of celery per cup of leeks called for in the recipe.
- Carrots - Carrots may seem like an unlikely substitute for leeks, but they have a similar sweetness and depth of flavor that can add just the right amount of vegetal sweetness to your recipe. With a firmer texture than leeks, they can be sliced thinly and sautéed to soften and mellow the flavor. While carrots have a sweeter flavor, they often work well and are a good source of vitamins and nutrients, making them a healthy replacement for leeks in soup and casserole recipes. You can swap carrots equally for leeks. Got carrots? Try carrot pumpkin soup or carrot and date salad.
- Bok Choy - Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that has a slightly sweet and mild flavor and tender texture. While it doesn't have an oniony flavor, it's a great substitute in dishes that need the texture of leeks. Bok choy is an excellent substitute in stir-fries, salads and casseroles where it adds nice crunch and bulk to dishes. Use an equivalent amount of bok choy as you would leeks.
- Fennel - Fennel has a sweet, mellow flavor with a texture that is somewhat similar to leeks. While it may not be a perfect substitute in all recipes, it has a crunchy texture and a licorice-like taste that pairs well with fish, chicken, and pork. Fennel can be sliced thinly and sautéed, added to roasted vegetables, and stews. Fennel's distinct flavor and crunch cooks down into a more delicate flavor and softer texture somewhat similar to cooked leeks. (Fennel is great in this apple fennel salad too.) Swap it out using ½ cup-1 cup per cup of leeks.
What Tastes Closest To Fresh Leeks?
Of all the substitutes for leeks, the closest in taste and texture are vegetables in the allium or onion family. Ramps, green onions, spring onions, shallots and sweet onions are the best options to replace leeks in your recipe.
What Looks the Most Similar?
When it comes to appearance, green onions and ramps are the closest substitutes for leeks. They have a similar long, thin shape and pale green color, and can be sliced thinly to resemble leeks. However, they have a milder flavor and may not add the same depth of flavor to dishes. Celery, bok choy and fennel can mimic the texture of leeks well.
I hope this list of leek substitutes has helped you finish your recipe with great results!
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