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.


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:

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How to Cut and Cook Leeks

rate this recipe:
5 from 46 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
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.



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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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Jeremy

    5 stars
    Roasted Leeks – Spectacular ! Thank you very much for sharing.

  2. shonell

    “Leeks – the unsung heroes of the kitchen! 🌱 So versatile and delicious in so many dishes. Thanks for the cutting and cooking tips, can’t wait to explore more leek recipes. What’s your all-time favorite leek dish?”

  3. Alice

    I’m making split pea soup and I wanted to use leeks instead of green onions or white onions. Do I need to sauté them before adding them to the soup or can I just dump them in raw?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’d would sauté them first.

  4. Aimee

    5 stars
    I’ve used leeks a few times and love them but haven’t understood them til now. Thank you for all this wonderful info!

  5. Lindsey

    So happy to find this recipe! I’ve got leeks on hand because wanted to try cooking with them! Found your recipe online and realized I also have 1/2 bag frozen broccoli and 8 oz of broccolini. Putting it all in a crockpot (I did saute’ all the veggies!) to keep warm while my husband and I go on a bike ride here in Springfield OR! Thanks to all who gave extra tips here. Can’t wait to taste the finished product!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Yum, it sounds delicious!

  6. Fred Harris

    Thanks for these simple pointers.

    I have 3 big leeks, a couple varieties of mushrooms, some 18 % cream, some butter, bone stock, sea salt and pepper. I almost wanna start now but it’s nearly 11pm… Bedtime, work and cook tomorrow. Is it possible to clean the leeks as 1″ thick coins to wrap with bacon and bake at 400 for 30 mins? (Pepper, chili, cumin or turmeric to taste.)


  7. Ba Jan

    5 stars
    Magnificent & excellent recipes.

  8. Sheila Echols

    Leeks are amazing in collard greens

  9. Val

    5 stars
    Thank-you this was super helpful and easy instructions on cooking leeks !

  10. Charley

    I’m so glad I just found this; my husband and friend picked some wild leeks while hiking and brought them home and I’m over here thinking wth do I do with these 😂 Thank you!

  11. Padee from leaptomamaworld.com

    5 stars
    Very helpful article. I don’t often cook with leeks but this article helped me learn more about it. Thanks!

  12. Laurianne

    As a French person, this post really surprised me because we eat leeks all the time in France… and I would’ve never thought about comparing them to onions, to be quite honest ! They are viewed as a normal vegetable here. My favourite way of preparing leeks is to cook them with cream in a pan, served with rice and salmon… Simply delicious !

    • Antonio

      Do you saute them in butter or something and then add cream, or do you start them cold in cream and just bring it all to a simmer? Then do you use it as a sauce poured over the rice?

      • Laurianne

        I usually saute them in oil or butter, a few minutes. They tend to stick to the bottom of the pan, so I always add a bit of water as I go. When they’re cooked (shouldn’t take long), I add light cream, salt and pepper and I leave it just enough for the cream to heat up. I serve it over white rice and pan-fried salmon. I strongly recommend it, it’s divine !

        • Antonio

          That sounds wonderful—thank you for the suggestion! We will definitely try it.

          • Laurianne

            Glad I could help 🙂

    • Charley

      well that sounds delicious!!

    • Shal

      Most online recipes say to only eat the lower parts. Since you use them regularly, do you eat the darker ends like the rest? Or do you use them differently?

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        Hi Shal, I usually cook with the white and light green parts (the tender parts), and I like to save the dark green parts for my vegetable stock.

        • Fred

          So, do you prep the dark green bits for stock? Split, muddle, dice? Or just boil the crap out of them, remove and discard the roughage? Or even blend for a more hearty soup rich in fibre?

    • MinnesotaE

      That sounds awesome!!

  13. Chestina

    Thanks for your assistance. tThs is my first time cooking leeks and you were very helpful.

  14. Kristin

    Thanks so much for making this post! A lot of my new recipes I’ve been trying call for leeks, but I wasn’t sure what made them special compared to various onions. Do you think they add a lot to a dish beyond what a standard onion would? Thanks!

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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.