What is the substitute for leeks? That is the question that many people ask themselves when they don't have any or making a dish when leeks are not in the season.
Leeks are a popular ingredient in soups, stews, and other dishes. When you think about it, there really isn't an easy substitute for them!
They have onion-like flavors but are milder. Luckily there are some options that will still give your dish the flavor you want without having to go out of your way to get leeks! Here is the list of best substitutions for leeks.
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What Are Leeks?
Leeks are a type of vegetable from the Allium family, that belongs to onion, garlic, shallot, scallion, and chives as well. They have a long cylindrical white stalk, green leaves, and look like large green onions. Leeks come in bunches and have dark leaves on the outside. You eat only white base, the lighter green part, and a bit of dark green part of the leaves. It has a complex taste of onion and garlic.
In general, the dark green part is discarded due to its rough texture. But you can saute it or just add in soups or just make stock using it. Leeks are often used in soups, stews, and other dishes because they add flavor and nutrients.
What Do Leeks Taste Like?
Leeks taste like onions but are not as pungent and strong as onions. Probably that is the reason you don't get teary eyes while chopping them and no aftertaste or smell after consuming leeks. They are a mild and sweeter onion-like taste and can be used in a variety of ways.
Cook them similar to onions, saute in butter or olive oil. They can be braised, roasted, grilled, or boiled. However, do not overcook. Leeks tend to get mushy or slimy when cooked for a longer time. Cooking leeks till they are tender is the ultimate goal.
You can add them raw in a salad, make soups, stews, pasta sauces, or simply sauteed. Always wash them nicely as leaves have dirt inside and may ruin the fun of eating them.
Best Leeks Substitutes
Potato leek soup definitely requires leeks to bring out the flavors. But if you do not have it or running out of it then a suitable replacement also works well.
When the leek is not the main ingredient in the recipe, it is easy to replace with other substitutions. Use a 1:1 ratio to replace it. So let's see the best leeks substitutes, how and when to use them.
The basic rule is since leeks belong to the Allium family, you can use any other member of the same family to replace them in the dish.
Shallots taste similar to onions but a bit milder with a hint of garlic. A different type of onion that tastes between onion and garlic. It makes the best substitute for leeks in soups, stews, casseroles, and risotto.
1 large leek (1 cup chopped leek) equals 2 large shallots or 3-4 medium
2. Onion (Sweet or White)
Another alternative is onions. Onions are stronger than leeks but subtle in flavors.
- White Onions are mild in flavors and great when addes raw to dishes like salads, salsa or guacamole. It is a good substitutes for leeks in dishes that don't require cooking.
- Sweet Onion are great for replacing leeks due to their mild flavor. They caramalize well due to their sugar content. Perfect for roasting, making salads, and sandwiches.
- Yellow Onions are stronger in flavors amongst other onion variety. Just slice them and soak in water for a few minutes. This will help in removing the bitterness and the taste will be better. You can use these as a base for soups, stews or puree.
- Red Onions are great to use in salads, pickling, adding in salas or guacamole. A good alternative for leeks in dishes that needs raw leeks. Cooking red onion with butter is also a way to change their taste before using as a replacement.
Substitute 1 large leeks with 1 medium onion. This substitute works great if the leeks aren't being cooked or just added raw into a dish.
3. Green Onion(Scallions) or Spring Onions
Looking for the best substitute for leeks? Check for using green onions also known as scallions. Scallions and green onions are the same. Green onions are harvested at a young age before the bulb formation or coming from a different variety that does not form a bulb.
Scallions or green onions look like a smaller version of leeks and have a similar taste profile to leeks onion-garlic flavors. Since they are smaller in size you may need more scallions equivalent to leeks. Substitute 1 large leek with 6-8 scallions in a recipe. Add them raw in soups, omelet, tacos, or casserole as a garnish. If you are adding in the cooked dishes, then use them at the end of the cooking process.
Spring onions are more developed with the large bulb. Basically, they are mature than scallions and green onions and bulbs can be either red or white. Spring onions have a strong flavor with a garlic onion taste profile as compared to both. Use them similar to scallions, spring onions are another good alternative to leeks in soups. Just substitute 1 cup of leek (1 large leek) with 1 cup of sliced spring onion.
4. Green Garlic
It is young garlic and similar to green onions (scallions). Green garlic tastes like normal garlic with onion-like flavors. Again this substitution will work where leeks are used as one of the ingredients and do not require a large quantity.
Using celery is another option. It is mild in flavors and along with shallots, white onion, and sweet onion, it matches the overall flavor profile that comes from using leeks. Celery is fibrous, fresh in taste, and crunchy whereas celery leaves are a bit stronger in taste.
Using celery tastes completely different, but if you like to experiment and do not mind using it then celery goes well as a replacement.
6. Garlic or Onion Powder
At last, if you are out of any fresh vegetables then onion or garlic powder works well. Both are good in the dishes where leeks are not the star ingredient. Onion or garlic powder may not give you the texture coming out of leeks but can help in some flavoring. Use 1 teaspoon of each or any one of them in the recipe for 1 large leek (1 cup chopped).
Chives do not make a good substitute for leeks due to their subtle flavors. You can still use it as a substitute for leeks where leeks are used as one of the ingredients. You can use the equal amount of leeks a dish has called for.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are related to the leeks and shallots family. They are kind of wild onions and more pungent in flavors. It makes a replacement but is not easily available. If you have ramps then definitely use them as a substitute for leeks.
Fennel is another alternative when you do not have access to any of the listed substitutes. It is more like anise flavor, fresh and mild. If you are not afraid of trying something new, then use fennel. It will definitely provide another different flavor altogether.
Calcots is a type of green onion and belongs to Catalonia, Spain. It is a very famous harvest in Catalonia that they have a festival for it where it is grilled and served with a hot sauce. You can not find it easily outside of Catalonia, but yes Calcots is a great leeks substitution.
Here is an infographic to show what are the substitutes for leeks and how & when to use them.
What to look for in a leek substitute?
All of these substitutions may not give you the right taste like leeks but they work depending on the recipe. If a recipe calls leeks particularly, then you need LEEKS.
Leeks are very unique in taste. Shallots, spring onions, scallions, and onions are your best substitutes for leeks anytime for raw or cooked dishes.
These substitutes will give your dish the flavor it needs without having to go out of your way to get leeks and are easily available. Experiment, choose any, add a little and adjust as you like the flavors.
Must-Try Leeks Recipes
Frequently Asked Questions
1 large leek is equivalent to 1 cup of chopped leek. Shallots, scallions, spring onions, white onions, and sweet onions are your best bet to use as a substitute for one large leek.
When you look for a replacement for leeks, there are a few points to keep in mind. If leeks are used just as one of the ingredients then it is easy to substitute with onions, scallions, green onions, or shallots. But if you making a dish that requires a large number of leeks or a dish where leeks are the star then it is hard to replace them.
Spring onion, green onions, white or sweet onions are great in cooking dishes like soups and stews where leeks are used as one of the ingredients. If a soup requires leeks as a start ingredient then it is hard to replace it. Saute onions or shallots to add to the soup. This may bring some similar flavors.
The darker green parts of the leeks are often discarded. That is not easy to chew or cook. If you still decide to use then better to make stock out of it.
The white and light green part is edible, sweeter in taste, and milder than onions. Any salad recipe or dish that calls for raw onions can be made with raw leeks.
Let me know in the comments if I missed any other good substitutes for leeks. Will add to the list. Thank You.