A Chefs Guide To The 10 Best Leek Alternatives
The subtle mild onion flavor of leeks lends itself well to numerous applications for chefs, but it’s not one of those vegetables that are ever on the top of anyone’s produce order lists.
Leeks are also notoriously dirty, requiring a good scrubbing to remove dirt between their tight leaves, and they are also relatively expensive compared to other alliums with a similar flavor profile.
Luckily, they have a flavor profile that can easily be substituted. So, if you are tired of scrubbing and prepping leeks, your wholesale produce supplier is out of stock, or you are looking to save a buck, here is a look at the 10 best alternatives to leeks.
Shallots are by far the best alternative on this list as they have the closest flavor comparison to leeks. Shallots, similar to leeks, have a delicate mild onion flavor with a hint of garlic and could be used as a substitute in any cooked dish you would use leeks. Simply substitute one large leek with about six to eight shallots.
While leeks might look like overgrown scallions, their flavor profiles are a bit different, yet easily interchangeable in cooked and raw dishes. Scallions have a sharper taste that is likened to pepper and spice. Leeks, on the other hand, have a taste that feels more oniony, but tastes more garlicky when cooked.
There’s also a big difference in how each vegetable should be cooked. Leeks are the perfect veggie for things like braising, sautéing, and baking. Whereas scallions are best when they are grilled, added to a stir-fry, or in salads.
If you are looking to substitute onion leeks with something a bit different from the rest of the flavor profiles on this list, fennel is a great option. Although fennel has an anise essence to it, it can still be used in place of cooked leeks in most recipes if you are in a pinch or trying out new flavor combinations.
Fennel is a cool weather crop, usually harvested in early October and into spring. Making it a great spring produce item to add to your menu.
Another great leek alternative is celery. Celery is usually pretty inexpensive and available year-round. Celery also matches the general flavor profile of leeks pretty well and will also add a similar texture to dishes. Celery stalks will be milder in taste as compared to the leaves, which are a bit stronger.
Ramps, also known as wild spring onion or wild leeks, are related to the leek and shallot family, and make for another great substitute for leeks.
Ramps look like scallions, but they’re smaller and slightly more delicate, and have one or two flat, broad leaves. They taste stronger than a leek, which generally has a mild onion flavor, and are more pungently garlicky than a scallion.
They are hard to come by, but should you encounter them on your wholesale vegetable orders, they are definitely worth a buy. Ramps are great roasted, grilled, sautéed or used raw in dishes like salads or pesto. Or simply use them as you would leeks or spring onions.
The leek is a member of the onion and garlic family but is milder than either onions or garlic. Substituting garlic for leeks will add the needed depth of flavor to a dish that leeks would have provided. But as garlic is a lot more pungent than leeks, use garlic sparingly when substituting.
Green garlic is young garlic that has been pulled out to thin crops. This gives green garlic a much milder taste than mature garlic, making it an ideal replacement for leeks. Green garlic can be hard to come by, but it is growing in popularity and becoming a crop in its own right. When substituting green garlic for leeks use about ¼ cup for every one cup of leeks.
When looking to substitute leeks, chives are another great option. Although these two vegetables might look similar, their flavor profiles are slightly different, with chives packing more of a punch than the milder leeks.
As long as leeks are not the main ingredient in a recipe you are trying to replace, chives will definitely do the job and add another level and depth of flavoring to your recipes.
When leeks are cooked, they become sweet and mellow, while chives have more of a sharp and pungent taste. When substituting with chives, use ¾ of a cup to one cup of leeks.
Garlic Or Onion Powder
If you really find yourself in a pinch and can’t spare, or don’t have, any of the substitute vegetables on this list, a good last resort is using garlic or onion powder.
Both will work well in dishes where leeks are not the star ingredient and used as a base for flavor. Bear in mind that onion or garlic powder will not give you the texture of leeks, or any other substitute vegetable for that matter, but can help improve the flavor. Use one teaspoon of each or any one of them in the recipe for one large leek.
Sweet or White Onions
Lastly, the most common substitute for leeks is the ultimate kitchen staple; onions. White and sweet onions are the best alternatives for leeks, due to their mild flavor. White onions are great to replace leeks in dishes you would have used raw leeks in, like salads. Sweet onions are better suited to dishes that require cooked leeks. Due to their high sugar content, they caramelize well, making them perfect for roasting or sautéing.
As a general rule of thumb substitute one large leek with one medium onion in any recipe.
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