Leeks are vegetables, members of the Allium family, same as onions, scallions, shallots, chives, and garlic. It has a long cylindrical stalk and green flat leaves that open out at the top.
The edible parts of the leeks are the white root, and the light green leaves. You can also use the dark green parts. But because of the hard texture, it’s best to add them in stocks for flavor or sautee them.
Leeks have a mild sweet onion taste therefore you can use them in any recipe that calls for onions. They can be prepared in many ways including fried, roasted, boiled, braised, sauteed, or added to soups, salads, and casseroles.
Leeks taste best if they are not overcooked because they will get soft, so add them almost at the end of the cooking time. Always wash the leeks well before use because the leaves can have dirt between which can ruin your dish.
Leeks are a good source of fiber, vitaminB6, vitamins A, C, K, iron, magnesium, therefore if you use leeks you can improve your health. However, what if you don’t have leeks on hand? Can you substitute leeks?
The short answer is yes. You can use white onions, yellow and sweet onions, red onions, shallots, onion powder, or some of the following substitutes. So, let’s dive right into it.
Substitutes for Leeks
You can find leeks substitutes easily because there are many similar vegetables related to them. If your recipe calls for leeks but you don’t have them you can replace them with onions, shallots, scallions, or some of the vegetables mentioned below.
Some of these substitutes can give you different textures or different flavors. However, you can use them and find out what works best for your taste.
1. White onions
They have white thin skin, milder and sweeter flavor than yellow onions. White onions are the mildest of the onions, so they are mostly used in salads or on sandwiches.
You can use them for making salsa, stews, or homemade guacamole. If you want to use white onions as a substitute for leeks use them in dishes that don’t call for cooking. They will be a pretty good substitute.
2. Yellow and sweet onions
These onions are the most widely grown and used onions. Yellow onions are the best onions for caramelizing, or you can use them to make a base for your dish, like soup, stock, stew, or tomato sauce.
They are also good in meat dishes, roasts, braises, and other dishes that require longer cooking. Yellow onions have higher sulfur content which gives them a stronger flavor.
Sweet onions are larger than yellow onions with a big content of sugar, which makes them a good caramelizing candidate.
They are sweeter than yellow onions, so it’s better to use them raw in salads, as a garnish, roasted. Or you can make onion rings (my favorite). If you want to use them for cooking you will not get the same strong flavor as with other onions.
3. Red onions
Red onions are good for salads, marinades, roasts, and salsas, lightly cooked or grilled. They have a sweet and mild flavor so you can pickle them and add them to pizzas, tacos, or fried rice. You can use red onions in cooked dishes too but the onion flavor will be milder.
If you don’t have onions or you want to try them, shallots can be used as a substitute for leeks. Shallots are different types of onions or something between onions and garlic.
There are two types of shallots, grey, and pink. Shallots are formed in a bunch, with a head made from many cloves. Shallots have a sweet onion flavor with a hint of garlic.
They are used in salads, risottos, soups, or stews. Shallots can be used with beans, peas, mushrooms, or roasted with chicken meat. Because of their sweetness, they are great when caramelized.
Shallots flavor is closer to leeks than onions, therefore they are a very good leeks substitute. Use ¾ cup of shallots for one cup of leeks.
Scallions are very similar to leeks by taste and look. They are also known as green onions because they have long green leaves and white stalks. The white root has a sweet onion flavor and the green part has a fresh grassy flavor.
Scallions can be used raw as a garnish in salads, soups, omelets, grilled meats, and tacos. Or you can roast them, grill them use in stir-frys. When they are used in cooked dishes they should be added at the end of the cooking time.
6. Wild ramps
Wild ramps also known as wild leek or wild garlic grow in North America and Canada. They have a purple stem and wide green leaves, with an onion-garlic flavor. You can eat them grilled, roasted, sauteed, or fresh in salads.
7. Onion powder
If you don’t have leeks you can use onion powder as a substitute. It’s perfect for soups, stews, sauces, or other recipes where leeks are not one of the main ingredients.
Maybe you will not get the same flavor as with leeks but it will add a hint of onions to the dish. Use one teaspoon of onion powder for one cup of chopped leeks.
Celery has a mild earthy and peppery flavor, with a crunchy texture, and it can be used in many dishes. It is not the perfect substitute for leeks. However, you can try to use it in salads, soups, or stews.
If you are using it in coked dishes add it at the end of the cooking process because it will get very soft and lose its crunchiness if cooked longer. You can try it, but if you don’t like it use some other substitute.
9. Green garlic
Green garlic is young garlic, and it looks like green onion or scallion. It has a milder taste than the regular garlic, more like an onion.
You can use it in salad, sauce, or dressing, roasted or pickled. Green garlic doesn’t have the same taste as leeks but you can use a smaller amount in dishes instead of leeks to get a similar flavor.
10. Frozen leeks
It’s not the best substitute for fresh leeks, but you can use it in soups, stews, stocks, or other cooked dishes. Frozen leeks don’t need to be defrosted, you can add them to a pan and saute them, or boiled them and then use them in your dish. You will get a similar flavor to leeks.
Are leeks and onions interchangeable?
Leeks and onions are interchangeable, but they have a different flavor.
Can I substitute white onion for leeks?
You can substitute white onion for leeks, but it’s better to use it in uncooked dishes.
Are leeks and green onions interchangeable?
Leeks and green onions are interchangeable, use them at the end of the cooking time for better texture.
If you don’t know what leeks are, and how they taste now is the time to try them. They will give a very pleasant and unique taste to your dish.
Or you can use all these substitutes for leeks if you don’t have them at home, or you don’t want to use leeks. Maybe these substitutes will not give you the right taste of leeks, but they can be pretty close to it. They have a unique taste and can be used in different ways, fried, roasted, cooked, sauteed, grilled, raw in salads, or on top of your pizza.
Try each one of them and use it in your way. You will be satisfied with the taste of your dish, and maybe you will share your recipe with your friends.