Wondering what leeks are? How to cut them, how to prep them and what recipes you can cook? I've got you covered with Leek 101 guide to this tasty vegetable from the onion family.
If you love garlic, onion, and all things green in your food, then this is your post! Leeks are a great addition to any dish because they provide tons of mild onion flavor and a great texture.
Add them to vegetable soups or rice dishes for an extra punch of flavor that will make dinner taste like something from a fancy restaurant!
In this article, you'll learn how to cook with leeks, their health benefits, how to cut leeks, storage and recipes to use them up.
There's more to leeks than potato soup, so I hope this post opens your mind to their many possibilities.
What Are Leeks?
Leeks are part of the allium family, like onions and garlic. They have a cylindrical white bulb and broad leaves and look like a large green onion/scallion/spring onion.
When raw, they have a stronger taste, but when cooked they mellow with a mild oniony sweetness.
The white part is eaten, and most of the tougher dark green thick leaves are discarded. Be sure to wash them well, as the layers can have trapped dirt.
Leeks can be roasted, braised, pan-fried, slow-cooked, steamed, grilled, or used in soups and stews.
When they're cooked for a long time, they disintegrate into a delicious, unctuous soft texture that can thicken the liquid and add flavor.
What Do Leeks Taste Like?
Leeks have a milder onion flavor than green onions or spring onions and they're sweeter.
The flavor depends on how you eat them. When they're raw, they have a slightly grassy mild onion flavor and a slightly chewy texture.
Cooked chopped leeks become sweeter and the mild onion flavor fades further. They soften considerably when they're cooked.
When preparing them, they're usually used as a vegetable base with other ingredients. They provide flavor, but the texture is soft and mushy once cooked, making them great for soups and stews.
How to Prepare Leeks
Leeks need to be thoroughly cleaned before using them in a recipe because by the nature of the way they grow, they can harbor dirt between the layers.
To prep and clean leeks:
- Trim and discard the tough top tough green part and the root bottom. The flavor is in the white part and the pale green. The dark green leaves are too tough to enjoy.
- Cut the trimmed leek lengthways (whole or in sticks) with a sharp knife.
- Run them under cold water vertically, fanning them out slightly, so any dirt is flushed out.
What To Do With the Green Parts
The dark green leaves aren't great for cooking so get trimmed away before using.
As well as the white parts, the pale green parts are edible, so try to use as much of that as you can, only trimming away the tough dark greens.
You can use the dark green leaves in a homemade vegetable stock.
How to Choose Leeks
For the best leeks, look for ones that have bright green leaves, without any brown edges or wilting.
Leeks should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week because they deteriorate quickly.
If they get old they'll look a little shriveled, but you can just strip away and discard the outer leaves and the inside should be fine to eat as long as it looks fine.
You'll know if they're rotten because they stink pretty bad!
How to Cook Leeks
Leeks have a sweet oniony flavor that makes them perfect for soups, stews, stir-fries, casseroles, savory pies and rice dishes.
STEAMED: Small, thin leeks can be steamed whole (not chopped larger leeks or they'll go too mushy). Trim the dark green parts, slice them down the middle lengthways, run under cold water to flush any dirt out, then place them into a steaming basket over a pan of boiling water and cover with a lid. Steam for 5 minutes or until the thickest parts are tender.
Drain and season with butter, parmesan, salt and pepper, lemon juice or any other desired seasonings. A tasty side dish.
SAUTEED: Larger leeks are best chopped. Prepare them as above, then slice into ½ inch pieces and cook for 7-10 minutes in a saute pan with a little butter or oil.
Enjoy them on their own or try stirring the cooked chopped leeks into mashed potatoes, bechamel sauce, or mac and cheese. They're also great on a salad, on toast or over proteins like fish.
RAW: Leeks can be eaten raw, but you'll want to slice them very thinly so they're not tough.
SLOW COOKED: Like onions, leeks also turn out beautifully when slow cooked (in a crock pot or slowly over a low heat in a pot on the stove). They collapse and turn into a soft, sweet tangle. Perfect to add to dishes, or enjoy on buttered toast with a sprinkling of sea salt. Bliss.
GRILLED: I love grilling leeks. The charred taste works so well with their mellow flavor. Steam or boil first, then finish on the grill or grill pan. Cut larger ones or grill young leeks whole.
Leeks are low in calories, but they're still filling thanks to their fiber content. They provide more than one-half of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and 100% of your recommended allowance of Vitamin K.
They also provide significant amounts of potassium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus - all important nutrients for building strong bones!
What Flavors Go With Leeks?
The mild sulfurous oniony flavor of leeks pairs well with many different complementary ingredients.
Try it with garlic, lemon, tarragon, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, and parsley.
They also work well with butter, cream, and cheeses such as goat's cheese, parmesan, cheddar, gruyere.
Leeks are available year-round, but they're best during the wintertime because their flavor is milder than other vegetables.
In the US, they are available from January through April and then again from September to December.
In the UK, they're harvested from autumn through to late winter.
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We hope that you've enjoyed this guide to leeks. Be sure to also check out my guide to broad beans, also including prep, info, and recipes.
For more kitchen tips, check out my guides to how many ounces in a gallon, how many ounces in a quart, and cups in pints, ounces, quarts and gallons.
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Now that you know all about leek vegetables, from how to cut them to what they are, here are some recipes for you to try them in! The classic recipe is Potato Leek Soup, but there is so much more that you can do with them, from Grilled Leeks to gratin.
Now that you know all about leeks, here is a selection of tasty recipe for you to use them in! They're all vegetarian or vegan.
Potato Leek Soup is the classic recipe for using up leeks. It's creamy, velvety, and absolutely delicious. Plus, it's so easy to make!
In this easy side dish, tender leeks are smothered in a homemade cheese sauce, then topped with seasoned parmesan breadcrumbs and baked until golden.
This tasty warm salad is full of tender leeks, feta cheese, white beans and crunchy pumpkin seeds. It's livened up with a honey mustard dressing too!
This simple side dish makes the most of the flavor of leeks. Simply sautee sliced leeks in butter and seasonings, and serve! Quick, easy and delicious.
Grilling leeks makes gives them an exciting and delicious texture and wonderful charred taste that works perfectly with the subtle onion flavor. Perfectly dressed with lemon and parmesan.
Vegan Pie with Creamy Leeks & Mushrooms
Creamy mushrooms and leeks encased in a crispy, golden pie crust. Delicious, filling and a great choice to serve to both vegans and meat-eaters!
Leek & Onion Puff Pastry Tart
This leek and onion puff pastry tart is a wonderful, subtle recipe that highlights the complex flavors of the leeks and Camembert cheese. Perfect as a main with a salad, or cut small as an elegant appetizer.
Leeks And Cabbage Recipe
You only need 3 ingredients and 20 minutes for this buttery leeks and cabbage recipe! It is great for a side on roast dinners, holiday meals or with pasta. And it's so easy to make and tastes incredible!
Spinach and Leek Filo Pie
This very tasty filo pie is similar to spanakopita but contains leeks as well as spinach. It is easy to make and makes a perfect veggie lunch or dinner. The crisp filo topping adds a wonderful texture to the creamy green vegetables.
Vegan Pot Pie with Jackfruit and Butter Beans
This vegan pot pie is filled with creamy jackfruit, butterbeans and leek, and topped with crispy slices of potato- the ultimate comfort food! It makes a great cosy dinner that tastes incredible.
Creamy Leek Pasta
You only need 5 ingredients for this Creamy Leek Pasta! It's total comfort food and easy to make. The creamy leek sauce is perfect on top of pasta, or even mashed potatoes. A delicious midweek dinner.
Risi e Bisi
Risi e Bisi (Italian Rice and Peas) is a simple dinner similar to risotto but with none of the endless stirring. With sweet flavour from leeks and green peas it’s a meal that the whole family will love! Tasty as a main course or a rich side dish.
Vegan Pierogi with Potato and Leek
You love this dish! Vegan Pierogi with Potato and Leek is perfect as an appetizer or a side dish. Topped with caramelized onions or shallots, these little vegan dumplings are easier than you think.
Great post and we love leeks and that looks delicious!
Very informative! I'll sure be making some of these recipes soon!
So many helpful leek ideas and recipes to try!
This was such an informative article! I'm going to try the creamy leek pasta ASAP. It looks super delicious!
This was so helpful and interesting to read. My hubby and son love leeks especially in stir fry! I never knew how to properly store them until I read about it. Thanks!