Leek Substitute – What Can You Use If You Don’t Have Leeks

Published Categorized as Ingredients, Journal

Leeks are a crucial ingredient to adding extra flavor to pretty much any savory dish. We probably do not even realize what an impact leeks can have on our cooking until we remove it. If you are reading this article it is most likely because you have run out of leeks and need to find a leek substitute you can use in your cooking. 

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In this article we will explore what substitutes you can use for leeks and how to use them.

What Vegetable Is Similar To Leek?

Leeks have a subtle flavor when they are cooked and are very good for us. Leeks contain lots of vitamins and minerals which are great for our body and mind.

There are other vegetables that are very similar to leeks and even closely related. Leeks are part of a family called the allium family which onions, garlic and chives also belong to. This makes all these vegetables  have a very similar taste and they are all great substitutes for leeks. These other vegetables that belong to the same family may have a similar taste but there are other elements like texture and look to consider when picking your perfect leek substitute.

fresh spring onions

Are Leeks And Onions Interchangeable?

The quick answer is yes! Leeks and onions are interchangeable no matter what kind of onion you use as they all have a milder flavor to them that will match a leek perfectly. With some onions you may end up using more than others. 

Onions and leeks are part of the same family and are very similar in size, color and flavor. The most commonly used onions are red and white onions. These are the types of onions that are mostly used to substitute leeks although other onions like spring onions work very well too. 

All of the onions do vary in taste depending on what season we are in and when they were grown. At certain times of the year they can taste quite sweet and mild and other times of the year onions can be sharp and pungent. Therefore it is best to always use a little less of an amount of onion than you would some leek just so you do not overpower your recipe. 

Other great onion options other than the traditional white and red onions would be shallots. Shallot tends to be more or less always sweet in flavor. Shallots can also have a softer, more subtle taste which matches leek, especially when cooked. The only thing to be concerned about when substituting leeks with shallot is that shallot can actually have a richer taste meaning it can pull the flavor of garlic to be more prominent. Therefore if you are also using garlic in your recipes and want to replace leeks with shallots, it may be wise to use less garlic in your recipe.

How Much Onion Do I Substitute For Leeks?

How many onions you use to substitute a leek really depends on the type of onion you are using. If you decide to substitute leeks for spring onions you will be using a lot more spring onions compared to other types of onions you could use. The easiest way to substitute leeks for onions is to use chunkier, fatter onions like white onions or red onions. If you were to use a medium sized white onions this will be enough onion to replace a leek.

Other Leek Substitutes

Can You Substitute Red Onion For Leek?

Red onions can be a very good substitute for leeks but will provide a slightly stronger flavor than a leek substitute requires. Red onions can be used raw and cooked. When the red onion is cooked it naturally becomes slightly milder in flavor. Red onion can be used as a substitute for leeks but it is best to use less red onions than you would leeks to make sure that your onions are not overpowering your dish. 

Out of all of the onions you can choose from, white onions is a very popular choice when looking for a leek substitute. White onions are the mildest form of onion out of all of the onion options. White onions have a sweeter flavor than red onions as they have a white thin skin. If you would like to use white onion as a replacement for leeks then you can match the amount to the amount of leeks that was needed in the recipe. This will help match the flavor that leeks can provide to a recipe.

root crop and scallion collage

Can Celery Replace Leeks?

Celery and leeks do taste slightly different. They also have different textures to each other when they are raw.

Celery tends to be very watery and crunchy, whereas leeks tend to still be crunchy, but firmer and more solid with less water content. Even though celery is very crunchy and solid, it does have a slightly sweet and mild taste. You can fry or boil celery which will take away its crunch, especially if the celery is finely sliced. If you finely slice and cook your celery it can make a great substitute for leeks.

Replacing leeks for celery may be the best substitute if you are very keen on eating ingredients that are good for your health. Celery is very low in calories but does carry along a lot of health benefits as it is full of vitamins and minerals. To use celery as a substitute for leek you will have to soften it with heat and cook it. Normally when you cook any kind of vegetable it tends to lose some of its nutrition. Celery is one of the rare vegetables that can actually retain its nutrients when it is cooked, fried or steamed. This makes it a great substitute for leek not only for taste but for health reasons too.

Can You Substitute Scallions For Leeks?

Just like leek, scallions are part of the allium family along with other vegetables like garlic, onions and shallots. Scallions are a type of onion that can be a dark green color and have hollow tube shaped leaves. Scallions tend to look like very small versions of leeks and they also have a very similar taste meaning that they can make a great substitute for leek. As scallions are a lot smaller than leeks you will need a lot to replace one leek in a recipe. On average, if your recipe requires you to use one cup of chopped leeks you should replace it with one cup of chopped scallions.

Can I Use Fennel Instead Of Leek?

Fennel has a very distinct flavor and some even describe the flavor as slightly like licorice. When used in cooking fennel can actually taste very mild and delicate, just like leek. When leek is used in cooking it can provide a slightly sweet flavor. Leeks eaten raw will taste very harsh. Therefore if you are wanting to replace leeks when it is cooked fennel is good replacement. Fennel will not taste exactly like leeks and can provide a different flavor to your overall dish but is close enough that many people trying your cooking may not even notice that you swapped your leeks out for fennel.

Can You Substitute Leeks For Chives?

Leeks do have a slightly similar taste to chives which means that you can use chives as a substitute for leeks. Both chives and leeks have a delicate flavor and are used in food when they are finely sliced and cooked. Chives also have the same color as leeks which is a bright green meaning that chives will looks similar to leeks in a dish as well as taste very similar. If you would like to substitute chives for leeks then you can use an equal amount of chives to what you would have used for leeks.

Chives

FAQs

How Are Leeks Different From Onions?

Leeks and onions are slightly different but do originate from the same family so in many ways are very similar to one another. Both leeks and onions come from the allium family. Leeks have an appearance of large, overgrown spring onions and tend to have a milder taste compared to red onions or white onions.

Leeks Are Super Easy To Substitute

Thanks to leeks being in a family of vegetables that all taste very similar, leek is actually a very easy ingredient to substitute. You can pretty much pick any vegetable out of the allium family to use as a substitute for leeks in your coking. These vegetables include red onions, white onions, chives, spring onions, fennel, shallots and scallions.

Find more substitutes on the blog:

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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