The ancient plant from the Mediterranean land with long green leaves, bigger than the ordinary scallions that grow up to two feet long and two inches thick, is called leeks. People sometimes refer to it as the giant scallion. It’s an onion family that possesses a mild, sweet, onion-like aroma and flavor. In Europe, leek stalks are often cooked in soups and stews that mostly complement with potatoes and other vegetables.
Leeks belong to the family of Alliums or also known as the onion family. Sometimes, leeks are mistaken as scallions, though they belong in the same family, they are still distinct. The leaf sheaths are often mislabeled as stem or stalks are the edible part of leeks. The outer layer of the leaf sheaths is tough and green in color, while the inner layers are soft and white.
Leeks are nutritiously delicious! The taste of the leeks is slightly sweet, with a mild onion flavor. Younger leeks have a more delicate flavor and texture. It is low in calories yet high in fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, and K, and the minerals magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and folate.
What are leeks for? Leeks is prepared in different cooking methods. Be it sauté, roast, steam, stir-fry, or fry. It all depends on your recipe.
The leeks’ dark green fibrous sheaths are usually added to give flavor to side vegetables or stocks of simmering vegetables or shellfish, and it also suits well with creamy cuisines. Some put it in the bamboo steamer if they’re cooking bus and dumplings. Other cooks line the green leaf sheaths in a roasting pan and place their chicken or meat for roasting. Plus, leeks are also chopped in salads or use as garnish. If you slice it thinly and fry it in hot cooking oil, you’ll have crispy leeks.
There are people who just merely like eating leeks raw. If you’re curious how it would taste like compared to the cooked leeks, make sure you take the whitest portion of the bulb and slice it thinly. And expect that the flavor will be a little more intense compared to cooked leeks.
Hence, leeks can stand as a vegetable dish alone or serve as an essential ingredient to main and side dishes.
Leeks do not grow all year around. Its season is usually during fall and spring. Not many groceries would sell these greens because not too many shoppers are familiar with its use, which doesn’t last long. If your recipe needs leeks, but you don’t have it, you can easily find alternatives. Maybe you already have it in your kitchen or can do a quick drive to the groceries to get some. Though these suggested substitutes may not give you the precise taste of leeks, we believe these ingredients are good enough to replace them.
Substitutes for Leek
1. Frozen leeks
Before you jump to other alternatives, try to check if the stores have frozen leeks in their freezers. The frozen packed chopped leeks are still good enough for soups.
2. Onion powder
When you’re out of the fresh onion option, you can try onion powder in your recipes. The downside of using this condiment is that it won’t give your dish substance as to how leeks can create.
Use onion powder if you are cooking soups or stews that only require a small amount of leeks. A teaspoon of onion powder is good enough to substitute one cup of raw leeks.
Shallots grow like garlic bulbs that are divided into cloves. The bulb has a distinct candle-like shape that sets them apart from onion species. They come in reddish or copper brown color.
Chefs around the world prefer to use shallots as an onion and leek substitute. Shallots are described to have a sweet combination of onion and garlic. That provides a similar delicate texture that cook leeks can produce. So, overwhelming the flavor of your dish is not that much to worry about when you use shallots.
In terms of cost, shallots are usually expensive. Some food establishments see it as an ineffective substitute for cooking soups and stews in bulk.
A cup of leeks is equal to ⅔ to ¾ cup of shallots. Slice the shallots and add them to your dish.
Scallion, also known as spring onion or green onion, is considered the closest alternative for leek in flavor and appearance. They’re simply just the immature plant for growing onions. These are harvested before the onion bulb matures.
This is best used in making salads, garnishes, or other dishes that need fresh leeks.
5. Onion Bulbs
Onion bulbs have a strong and pungent flavor. These can work as your substitutes and try to see which kind of onion bulb you think will work on your dish. Test each type of onion before you dump it in the dish you’re cooking. Make sure they are not too strong for your recipe. Check out the following onion bulbs and choose:
6. Red onions
Knowing that leeks have mild onion flavor, you better be careful when using red onion as a substitute. Some would tell you to stay away from this intense kind of onion better because its flavor is sharper than leeks. Since these are the typical types of onions you can get most of the time, try to cook it in a small amount of fat before adding it to your dish. Sauteing these kind onions will temper the flavor and bring out its sweetness. Or, you can simply add raw slices of these in smaller amounts.
7. Sweet onions
These kinds of onions are milder compared with red onions. With these substitutes, a 1 is to 1 ratio will do by weight or by volume.
If the taste and flavor in a dish are more relevant, you can try garlic in place for your missing leeks. Take note that garlic tastes strong and pungent. So, make sure you’re adding a fewer amount of garlic into your cooking. A few amounts of roasted or chopped garlic can do the trick to give you a unique aromatic dish. However, don’t expect your dish will have the same texture as how leeks can do in a recipe.
Who says celery? Why is it here?
Believe it or not, some people cannot tolerate foods belonging to the Allium family – onion, shallots, garlic, and more! Does that mean they’re vampires? Well, not necessarily. Be aware that some people are allergic or sensitive to it. On the other hand, some people just despise the taste of dishes that have these ingredients. This is why celery is here for them.
Celery, an aromatic vegetable, can serve as a substitute for leeks or any other items belonging to the Allium because it provides a rich flavor and aroma in your cooked dish. You can add this aromatic vegetable to your stock, au gratin, salads, soups, pasta, and roasted dishes.
Alternative ingredients for leeks are quick to find, and it’s always available all year round. Leeks look like a giant scallion producing mild and sweet onion-like flavor to dishes such as soups, stocks, salads, sides, and main dishes. It can stand as a vegetable dish, and it can also use for garnishing dishes.
In choosing the alternative for fresh leeks, make sure you know which feature of the dish you want to emphasize.
You might be able to find frozen chopped leeks in the grocery store quickly.
Onion bulbs, shallots, and garlic are good alternatives for giving your dish a pleasant, delicious aroma.
If you aim for a dish to have a mild onion flavor that gives an excellent texture to your recipe, use shallots.
If you’re out of any fresh Allium ingredient, use onion powder.
And if you’re preparing a dish for picky eaters or are intolerant to Allium, celery is your option.