Leeks are one of those vegetable ingredients many feels are hard to replace. They come with a unique flavor and are flexible so that you can pair them up with almost anything. But even leeks can be substituted with other options if you know how to match their texture and taste. And most times, the replacements are other vegetables and herbs that come from the same family as leeks.
Still, knowing what these substitutes are can be of great help. And it also helps to understand how you can make the switch. By matching their taste profiles, you can easily substitute leeks with regular contenders like shallots, spring onions, and red onions. It won’t even matter if you’re dealing with fully matured or baby leeks. And these alternatives go well in many recipes that call for leeks, including soup mix.
What are Leeks?
Leeks are fibrous vegetables with long stalks and green leaves. They look like fatter versions of spring onions on a more superficial note, except in leeks, the green leaves open at their end. Leeks belong to the Allium family and are closely related to scallions, shallots, onions, garlic, and chives. Their stalks start with a whitish root part that grows out into light green leaf blades. The leaf blades get darker as it reaches the top.
The white portion of leeks is the most edible because of its soft texture. The light green portion can also be eaten, but the darker green part of the leaves is harder to chew. So, this part is usually added to recipes as a flavoring agent. But whichever part of the vegetable you eat, leeks have a pleasant flavor profile. Leeks taste somewhat like onions and garlic, which is expected since they come from the same family. But this flavor is fainter in leeks and combines with a creamy texture that thickens dishes.
Leeks Nutrition Facts
Leeks in Recipes
Leeks can be eaten raw, so they’re a regular feature in salads and sandwiches. They can also feature in boiled, roasted, fried, sautéed, braised, or grilled recipes. But leeks soften quickly and tend to change flavor when cooked for long. For these reasons, they’re added to dishes at the end of the cooking time. Leeks are also rich in vitamins and minerals and can be used as the main ingredient in a recipe or a supporting addition to enhancing taste and texture.
You’ll find leeks to be quite versatile, as they’re used for and added to various recipes, some of which include;
- Roast chicken
- Braised leeks
- Glazed leeks
- Seafood recipes
- Fried eggs
- Rice recipes
- Leek lasagna
- Leek salad
- Slow-cooked lamb
- Bakes and baked goods
- Smoked trout
- Vegetable dishes
- Roasted mackerel
- Grilled leeks
If you ever have to find an alternative for leeks, then rest assured. The good news is that its taste profile and texture can be replicated using them because it has lots of relatives. But note that substitutes are best in recipes that call for leeks as a supporting ingredient. If the leeks play a significant role in the cooking (like braised leeks or leek lasagna), you’ll have to hold off until you have some.
Onions come in various forms, including white, yellow, sweet, and red. And they all have a sweet taste that closely resembles leeks. Onions will infuse the same flavor effects as leeks into your recipes. But the sweetness and texture of each type of onion vary, so you’ll need to keep this in mind.
White onions are the sweetest and are great for stews, guacamole, and salsa. Their thin skin also makes them ideal substitutes for leeks in sandwiches and salads. But white onions tend to lose flavor when cooked for long and excel best in uncooked recipes that call for leeks.
Sweet onions are larger and sweeter than yellow and red ones. They also caramelize impressively because of their high sugar content, but you’ll best use them raw to replace leeks as garnishes or in salads. Yellow onions also caramelize well, but they also hold their flavor when cooked for longer. So they work well in meat dishes, roasts, braises, and other similar recipes. You can also add yellow onions to soups, stews, and sauces.
Red onions have a more balanced flavor and thickness, making an all-around onion substitute for leeks. They work in salads, marinades, salsa, roasts, and even rice recipes. Red onions are perfect if you’re grilling or lightly cooking leeks, and they can also be pickled.
Scallions are also called green onions and look like slimmer versions of leeks. They, too, share the exact white bottom and light green stalks. Scallions also have the mild onion-like flavor as leeks do, so they’re perfect substitutes. But scallions tend to lose flavor when cooked for long, so they work best in raw recipes and as garnishes. If you must use scallions to replace leeks in cooked recipes, put them at the end of the cooking.
Shallots have been called baby onions, but they’re far from that. They’re a standalone ingredient that looks and tastes like onions. But shallots have a more garlicky flavor profile than onion and come in two colors; pink and grey. The herb even grows like garlic, forming cloves that clump to give you a full head. Shallots taste more like leeks than onions, so they’re great for infusing flavor in cooked and raw recipes. But shallots have a more pungent taste, so for every cup of chopped leeks, replace with ¾ cup of chopped shallots.
Green garlic has a milder flavor compared to regular garlic, and for a good reason. It’s garlic that hasn’t fully grown and still has the green stalks at the head. Green garlic is an ideal substitute for leeks if you’re looking for the mild onion taste expected of the latter. And it can be roasted, pickled, or eaten raw in salads and dressings. Note, though, that green garlic doesn’t have the same aroma as leeks. So, you’ll be using it only for its taste.
Wild ramps have also been called wild garlic and, surprisingly, wild leeks. They’re popularly found in North America, so that they may be rare in your area. But if you find them, they make an excellent substitute for leeks in grilled and sautéed recipes. They’re also perfect for salads and can even be roasted before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What can I substitute for leeks in a soup recipe?
Sweet onions, green onions, and shallots can be substituted for leeks in a soup recipe. But this swap is only possible if the soup isn’t based primarily on leeks as the main ingredient. Also, note that while you’ll get the onion-like flavor from sweet and spring onions, shallots will give you a taste that’s closer to garlic.
Are baby leeks the same as spring onions?
Baby leeks look like spring onions, but they’re not the same. Baby leeks are young leeks which is why their lower stem is slimmer than that of mature leeks. Spring onions are also called scallions or green onions.
Can I substitute chives for leeks?
Only if the recipe doesn’t use leeks as a main ingredient. Chives have a milder flavor compared to leeks, so most times, they’re used to add volume, body, and texture to dishes. To use chives in place of leeks, increase the quantity called for leeks by 2/3 in the chives.
Leeks are an exciting addition to tons of dishes, so it’s understandable why finding a substitute becomes essential. So, with any of these handy options listed here, you can still enjoy the fantastic taste and filling texture of leeks in your numerous recipes. Plus, you can even try these alternatives ideas even when you have leeks for a more exciting recipe experience.