What are Leeks? (And How to Cook Them)

Leeks add sweet, oniony flavor to soups, stews, pastas, and more! Read on to learn how to cut and cook them, and find some of my favorite leek recipes.

what are leeks

Ever heard of potato leek soup? I thought so! But how often do you cook leeks in other recipes? Have you tried them in pasta, stuffing, or risotto? Have you eaten them on their own? If I had my way, we’d all be eating leeks way more often. They’re incredibly versatile, adding unique, sweet, and mild onion flavor to a huge range of dishes.

To spread the leek love, I’m sharing my go-to methods for how to cut, clean, and cook leeks below, as well as my favorite leek recipes. If you have a leek in your fridge right now, I hope you’re excited. This veggie seems humble, but there’s so much that it can do!

What are Leeks?

Leeks are alliums, so they’re related to garlic, chives, shallots, and onions. Tasting them, you can tell. They have a sweet, oniony flavor that adds depth to soups, stews, pastas, and more! I’ll share more of my favorite leek recipes in the post below, but generally, I use them as I do onions and shallots, to build flavor at the start of a recipe. However, because they’re milder than most other alliums, I also like to enjoy them on their own. Grilled or roasted, they make a surprising, delicious side dish. Heads up – if you choose to serve them this way, look for really fresh, peak-season leeks. They’re at their best in the fall and spring.

Halved leeks on a cutting board

How to Cut Leeks

How you cut leeks will vary based on how you cook them. This method for how to cut leeks is the one I use most often. It works perfectly anytime you sauté leeks, as you would for a soup, pasta, or risotto. Here’s how it goes:

First, slice the leeks in half lengthwise.

Dark green tops separated from white and light green parts on a cutting board

Then, chop off the stringy roots and dark green leaves. You won’t use the tough tops in most leek recipes, but still, don’t toss them! They add delicious oniony flavor to homemade stock. Store them in an airtight bag in the freezer until you’re ready to make some.

How to cut leeks

Next, continue chopping the white and light green parts. Lay them cut-side-down on your cutting board, and cut them into thin half-moons.

Chopped leeks

Now, you might find that your leeks are pretty dirty inside. That’s totally normal! Leeks are often filled with dirt and sand, so cleaning them is an important part of the cutting process.

Once you’ve cut all the leeks into thin slices, add them to a colander. Rinse them under cool running water, tossing them to remove any dirt or debris. When the chopped leeks are clean, use a paper towel or kitchen towel to blot them dry before you start to cook.

Chopped leeks in a colander

How to Cook Leeks

Now you know how to cut leeks, but what about how to cook them? My favorite methods for how to cook leeks are roasting, grilling, and sautéing. As I mentioned above, you’ll cut them a little differently for each cooking method:

  • To grill them, slice them in half lengthwise, rinse and dry them well, and grill both sides on medium-high until they’re well-charred and tender.
  • If you’re roasting them, halve them lengthwise, chop them into 1-inch chunks, and wash them using the method described above. Then, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 425° for about 20 minutes, or until they’re tender.
  • To sauté them, follow the cutting method described above, and warm a glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes.

In each of these methods, you’ll only use the white and light green parts of the leeks, not the dark leaves. Still, don’t toss those tops! They add delectable flavor to homemade vegetable stock. Find my recipe on page 106 of Love & Lemons Every Day.

leek

Favorite Leek Recipes

With these basic cooking methods in your back pocket, you’ll be able to enjoy leeks as a side dish or add them to any leek recipes you like! Need some ideas? Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

What are your favorite leek recipes? Let me know in the comments!

More Vegetable Basics

If you loved learning how to cook leeks, check out one of these vegetable guides next:

How to Cut and Cook Leeks

rate this recipe:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Serves 4
Leeks add sweet, mild onion flavor to soups, stews, and more. These are my methods for cutting and cooking them. See the blog post above for some of my favorite leek recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch leeks
  • extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

How to Cut Leeks

  • Chop off the stringy roots and dark green leaves. You won't use the tough tops in most leek recipes, but I love to save them for vegetable stock.
  • Slice the leeks in half lengthwise. Lay them cut-side-down on a cutting board, and cut them into thin half-moons. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cool running water, tossing to remove any dirt or debris. Use a kitchen towel to blot them dry before you start to cook.

How to Cook Leeks

  • To sauté: follow the cutting method described above, and warm a glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, a few pinches of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes.
  • To roast: chop into 1-inch chunks, and wash them using the method described above. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 425° for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they're tender.
  • To grill: slice in half lengthwise (skip the chopping step above), rinse and dry them well, drizzle with a little olive oil and grill both sides on medium-high until they're well-charred and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

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A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.