I am well aware that some of you are searching for a leek substitute because either you don’t like how this bulb vegetable tastes or because you can’t find it where you live.
Even so, I want to make sure that in some cases a leek substitute won’t work that easily. At least that’s what I think. You can still go ahead with a replacement and see how that turns out.
Let me give you an example: if you want to make a mushroom and leek pasta, just like the name suggests, there are just 2 main vegetables in this recipe: mushrooms and leeks. You can’t just replace one of the stars that easily. The same goes if you want to make bacon and leek pasta.
Therefore, if the name of the recipe is x vegetable and leek pasta/soup/pie etc., then the substitute you’re looking for might not exist and you actually need that particular main ingredient.
If you still want to go for a leek substitute in cases like these, the only one I recommend is chives. Or maybe scallions (green onions).
The same goes if it’s a recipe for some type of meat and leeks.
Leek Substitute: My 8 Recommendations
If this vegetable doesn’t have that big of a role in a recipe, like I gave you the examples above, let’s see what sort of leek substitutes you can use.
Since it has a white bulb and green leaves, first you should look for the green members of the onion family and then move on to those that are just bulbs.
You can use a 1:1 substitution with all these vegetables. You don’t have to worry about quantity adjustment.
1. Chives (best leek substitute)
If you want to make a salad that also contains leeks you can easily use chives as a substitute. Leeks have a pretty strong flavor when eaten raw and some of you might not like that.
Chives have a more mild onion-y taste that will be perfect for those who don’t like strong flavors.
Chives taste very similar to leeks so they’re one of the best substitutes to go for.
Plus, you can grow chives in a pot indoors, like you would with basil and other herbs. It’s actually a herb from a botanical point of view.
There are also garlic chives if you want a tender substitute with subtle garlic flavor.
2. Green garlic
I love the flavor of green garlic. It definitely tastes like garlic but not as intense.
The bulb and the leaves are not as tender as what we get with green onions but they’re so flavorful.
In terms of appearance, green garlic is the closest to leeks but their flavor profile is completely different.
If you’re using green garlic as a substitute, the end result will be quite different but you might love it even more.
However, if the recipe already includes garlic cloves, then don’t use green garlic on top of that. That will be too much. In that case, use chives, green onions or shallots as substitutes for leeks.
3. Green onions (scallions)
If you could get red green onions, that would be wonderful. But those are very hard to find in some places.
Green onions can be found anywhere, even when they’re out of season. It’s much easier to find green onions at all times than it is to find leeks or green garlic.
They’re also sweet and don’t have a strong onion flavor. Both the bulb and the green leaves are nicely tender and they’re perfect, whether you want to eat them raw or cook with them.
4. Pearl onions
To convince you that pearl onions are a good substitute, I just have to mention that they are a close relative of the leek.
They’re also as cute as a button, which is another name by which they’re known.
Their flesh is firm, juicy, and crisp.
Moreover, they have a mild onion taste and are deliciously sweet.
I just love shallots. They have a really sweet taste and a delicate onion flavor. I love cooking with them and just how adorable they look.
If there’s one cuisine that truly appreciates how awesome shallots are, it’s the Thai cuisine. That is just one of the reasons why I love their dishes.
6. Red onions
Red onions are like shallots, very sweet but with a more powerful onion taste. I love these, too, especially when it comes to roasted vegetables.
Red onions and shallots can be used interchangeably but they also have quite different flavors.
Red onions would be my least favorite leek substitute but if you really can’t find any of the above vegetables, use this one.
7. Yellow onions
Can we have a discussion about pretty much all the members of the onion family without talking about the most used vegetable from that family?
Yellow onions can be found in almost any house around the world. They’re basic, easy to purchase, and affordable.
We all know how to cook with them and some of us might even like them raw from time to time.
I’m not saying that this is the perfect leek substitute but, just like I said about red onions, if there’s nothing else to use, then use a vegetable that you always have in the kitchen.
8. Onion powder
This would definitely be a last resort for me. When we’re using leeks in dishes, we’re not only using it for its unique flavor but also for its vibrant green color and its nice texture.
All these things cannot be replaced so simply by throwing a teaspoon of onion powder. If you just want to make a dish have a bit of an onion flavor, you can definitely use this dry ingredient as a substitute.
The same goes for garlic powder. In the end, these 2 powders are definitely more suited for dry rubs, spice mixes, batters, flour coatings, etc.
I could see onion powder being used as a substitute for leeks in cream soups or maybe even in stews.
Otherwise, I think you should focus on the above leek substitutes that offer both substance and depth of flavor.
What leeks taste like
Leek is a vegetable that belongs to the onion family. Actually, the definition for this bulb vegetable is that it tastes like an onion but with a sweeter taste and with no sight of tears when you’re chopping it.
It also looks like a much bigger green garlic. The same white bulb that’s delicious and sweet and the same beautiful green big flat leaves that have an even more intense taste.
I’m not the biggest fan of leeks, in my opinion their taste has little in common with an onion. They have their own unique flavor that can be really good cooked in dishes. I just don’t like tasting it raw.
By the way, search for how to clean and cut leeks if you’ve never cooked with them before because they can be full of sand everywhere. It’s as straightforward as washing chives or green onions. If you don’t want to go through all the trouble, just use a leek substitute.
Popular Leek Recipes
Let’s see how we can use a leek substitute based on what we’re cooking.
Potato leek soup
If you have chives, I recommend using them as a leek substitute for a potato leek soup.
Most recipes will call for x large leeks, not many will express quantities in cups.
We can consider that 1 large leek is the equivalent of 1 cup of chopped leeks.
You can substitute 1 cup of leeks with 1 cup of chives.
Thus, if you make a recipe with 4 large leeks, you’ll have to chop about 4 cups of chives. 5 cups if you want a stronger flavor.
Green onions can also work. If the recipe calls for 4 large leeks, I would chop 8 to 12 green onions, depending on the size of the green onions. Maybe even 15, depending on how strong a taste you want to get.
In the end, if you don’t have neither chives nor green onions, make the recipe with regular gold or red onions. Add 2 big onions or 4 medium onions instead of 4 large leeks.
Sautéed leek with bacon
My first recommendation is still chives. Green onions or green garlic would be other possible substitutions for this recipe.
Caramelized leek and mushroom rice
If you can’t make it with green onions or chives, I recommend using shallots because they have a more mild and sweeter taste and regular onions.
For the green effect, you can add some peas or maybe even some green beans. Or just use parsley at the end to add a pop of color.
Mushroom leek pizza
Make it with either shallots, chives or green onions.
Braised leeks, peas, and lettuce
It’s another recipe that will benefit from our three main leek substitutes: chive, green garlic, and green onions (scallions).