Say this with us: Leeks are underrated!
Not many people value this vegetable, and we believe it’s because leeks are misunderstood.
Fresh leeks look like a giant version of the green onion, so people (maybe including you) assume they have a similar, or more powerful, flavor.
That’s so not true!
And it’s important to give leeks the credit it deserves.
Whether you’re preparing roasted vegetables, leek soup, or any other particular recipe, read on and learn about the importance of leeks, what leeks taste like, and how to cook them to bring out their fantastic flavor.
- What Are Leeks?
- What Do Leeks Taste Like?
- How to Cook Leeks
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping It Up
What Are Leeks?
Before anything else, you’re probably wondering what leeks are. (*)
This vegetable comes from the alliums, which is an onion family where shallots, onions, and chives come from
Fun fact: Leeks look like green onions or scallions. They were also one of Wales’ national emblems, seen as a symbol of good luck! (*)
Leeks don’t grow bulbs completely, separate from the green leaves growing above ground.
Rather, leeks would grow into stalks, with the layers densely wrapped around one another from top to bottom.
Think of leeks as robust celery, as they grow in a similar manner, with stalks compacted around one another, getting thinner once they hit the middle. However, leeks have wide and flat leaves, so expect them to be denser than celery and receive more leaves per leek than celery stalks per bunch.
What Do Leeks Taste Like?
So, what do leeks taste like?
In general, the leek features a sweet, earthy taste with that mild onion undertone since they come from the onion family.
Expect this vegetable to taste much sweeter than an onion, whether eaten raw or cooked.
We appreciate the delicate flavor profile, which tastes more complex yet less astringent than any regular onion. That said, the texture and flavor change depending on what part you consume and how it’s cooked!
1. Raw leek stems
Raw leeks will have a grassy and herbal flavor to them. Furthermore, there’s a firm and crunchy texture.
We appreciate the first few bites, which tasted cool, crisp, and a bit sweet. But after the third or fourth bite, the onion taste will intensify, and it wouldn’t feel as enjoyable.
If you do want to eat them raw, we recommend using them on salads, sandwiches, or burgers. The flavor won’t feel as intense!
2. Boiled leek stems
After you cook leeks, they taste sweeter with a soft onion flavor. We’ve heard people eating an entire plate of boiled leeks since they don’t taste as intense as green onions or other varieties from the onion family!
When boiling leeks, you’ll have a softer and more palatable texture with a subtle savory aroma.
3. Fried leek stems
We highly recommend frying or sauteing leeks in butter or oil. The vegetable’s natural sugars will caramelize excellently, with the texture turning buttery and silky with a creamier mouthfeel.
Think of it as a less mushy version of fried zucchini. You can also roast or braise leeks for a crispy exterior.
4. Fried leek leaves
We weren’t a fan of the leaves. In fact, we recommend cutting any tough, thick leaves to discard or use for stock.
But once you fry the leaves, they taste like the stem, just a bit crispier. The leaves weren’t tough, and it actually tasted great, though a bit stronger than stems.
We suggest chopping your leeks’ leaves finely, frying on high heat until it reaches a crispy texture. Use this as a garnish over your savory dishes like fried rice or in soups.
5. Raw leek leaves
The leeks’ dark and light green leaves have a bit more flavor than their stem. They also have a tougher texture. If you slice them thin enough, they will work on salads.
Remember that older leeks have tougher leaves, so check them beforehand.
How to Cook Leeks
There are different steps to follow when cooking leeks:
1. Prepare Leeks
Expect a slightly tedious process to prepare leeks as they grow from sandy soil. As such, the dirt would accumulate in the leaves, which you don’t want to add while cooking with other vegetables or meat!
Before cooking leeks, it’s important to clean and cut them properly. You want to enjoy leeks without part of the leek field in your food!
If you slice leeks into half-moons or rounds, we recommend cutting off the dark green parts first, starting from where they begin branching out from the main stalk.
Those leaves are more fibrous and tougher, so they won’t feel pleasant to eat.
Pro-tip: Wash the dark green leaves and save them! You can use them to add flavor to soup broth.
Afterward, pull off the leaves’ outermost layers, at least 1-2 inches deep. These are stringy and tough to consume. After doing this, you will see underlying dirt to wash off.
At this point, you removed most of the dirt, so it’s time to cut and clean leeks once sliced.
2. Cut Leeks
After preparing leeks, the next is to cut them appropriately.
For sliced leek rounds, chop off the bottom where the roots grow. Continue chopping small slices until you cut the entire leek.
For half-moons, slice the roots, then cut the leek in half lengthwise. Turn the halves over, so the late side faces the cutting board. Slice them usually for the half-moon shapes.
Once you have chopped leeks, place them in a bowl of cold water. Separate the pieces with your hands, also removing any remaining dirt.
Afterward, remove the leeks by pulling them up and out of the bowl. Don’t pour them into a strainer since the dirt would end up going back to the leeks.
When cooking whole leeks, slice off its bottom carefully, removing fur-like roots but not the bulb. Slice your leek down lengthwise, beginning 1-2 inches up from the leek’s bottom.
Afterward, rinse it in cool water, with the bottom facing up for the dirt to flow into the sink. Pull the leaves apart, rubbing dirt away.
3. Cook Leeks
After you’ve cut leeks, it’s time to use them for your recipe! While you can eat leeks raw for the crisp texture, you will also love them when cooked!
You get a creamy and buttery texture bringing depth to many dishes and sauces.
Leeks would temper salty dishes excellently and lighten heavy cream soups or sauces. That’s why potato leek soup with bacon is a popular dish featuring leeks!
You can also roast leeks, which brings out the mild onion flavor you’re looking for.
It also slightly caramelizes natural sugars so the outermost leaves will be crispy while the inner layers become like buttery mash. It’s excellent for potato soup and other fun recipes!
Besides that, you can braise leeks or saute them into a stirfry, though you lose the flavor sauteing them from the sauces and seasonings used.
4. Store Leeks
If you have leftover leeks you’d like to use another time, there are ways to keep them fresh. Follow these steps:
Shake your leeks to remove the soil, then rinse and drain them. Damp using paper towels, then wrap the leeks to keep them as fresh as possible.
You can also place leeks in a perforated plastic bag to place in the fridge.
When stored in the fridge, leeks can last. For up to ten days. However, they start to yellow after day seven. If that happens, trim them down to prolong the freshness for a few more days.
Pro-tip: Freeze leeks so you have them prepared for your dishes all year long! Clean and cut leeks in small rings, then blanch them in boiling water for 40 seconds. Place them in cold water right after then dry them using a paper towel. Freeze the leeks on a baking tray then place them in a freezer container, covered well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know about what leeks taste like and how to cook them well, learn more from our frequently asked questions!
1. What’s the difference between leeks and green onions?
We hear people mistaking leeks with green onions, and we can’t blame them. However, it’s important to note the differences between green onions, leeks, and other varieties, so you know which one to use for your next recipe.
Leeks are like large green onions, but they don’t come from the same plant.
Do leeks taste like green onions?
Unlike green onions, leeks also are larger and have a milder flavor. Furthermore, they have wider, thicker, and more fibrous leaves without any bulb at the bottom.
2. What are great recipes to use with leeks?
You can use various cooking methods with fresh leeks, like sauteing, roasting, adding to soups, stews, or sauces.
Pro-tip: Roast your leeks by slicing them in half lengthwise, then coat in olive oil with a basting brush. Add other preferred herbs, spices, or garlic for flavor. Roast your leeks in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees F, then season with salt. They are a delicious appetizer or snack!
Here are a few recipes featuring leeks:
- Leek Tart
- Cauliflower soup
- Roast garlic, potato, and leek soup
- Buttered leeks
- Pancetta-wrapped leek gratin
- Scalloped potatoes
- And many more!
3. What Parts of Leeks are Edible?
You can consume the white and light green parts of leeks, which look like stems. While you can eat the dark leaves, they taste more bitter and can ruin a dish.
If you want to use the entire vegetable, you can cook the dark green part, so they become tender and less bitter.
Pro-Tip: Do not buy larger leeks with dark green tops and no roots. These are older and would have unpleasant flavors. The same would go for leaves with yellow ends. Look for fresh and firm leeks for the best outcome for recipes.
4. What can I use to substitute leeks?
If you need a substitute for leeks, then you can use onions. However, expect a bolder and more unique flavor. We recommend using white onions since they are closest to leeks and have the mildest flavor of the bunch.
Can leeks be substituted for onions?
Yes, you can also use leeks as a substitute for onions when needed. It’s a good option if the onion-y flavor is a bit too aggressive for you.
5. What are the nutritional facts of leeks?
One raw leek with the bulb and lower leaf section (weighing about 89 grams) would have the following nutritional values:
- 54.3 calories
- 12.6g carbs
- 1.6g fiber
- 3.5g sugar
- 0.3g fat
- 1.3g protein
- 30% vitamin A
- 18% vitamin C
- 52% vitamin K
With these basic nutritional facts in mind, are leeks good for you?
Yes! Leeks also have health benefits, as they are rich in vitamins A, C, and K! These are great for your eyes, immune system, and bones.
Fun fact: Leeks also have kaempferol, an antioxidant with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties!
6. Can you eat raw leeks with olive oil?
Yes, you can eat raw leeks. We love leeks on salads! But there are so many other ways you can take advantage of leeks, with more people enjoying this vegetable when cooked.
Wrapping It Up
From its health benefits to delicious onion flavor, leeks are an amazing vegetable you will surely want to add to your recipes.
Leeks have different tastes according to the way they are cooked but expect a delicious taste, provided you prepare them excellently.
We hope we answered your question, “what do leeks taste like?”