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Sep 24, 2012 08:52 AM

Feel foolish asking, but difference between scallions, green onions and leeks??

I feel very foolish that I don't know the answer, but are they interchangeable? I think green onions and scallions are the same, but leeks are milder?

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  1. Scallions and green onions are the same thing. Leeks are larger and have a milder, sweeter flavor. They are also excellent for braising, sauteing, baking, etc., whereas green onions can get a little slimy when cooked (although you can certainly grill them or throw them into a stirfry, you probably wouldn't want to make a side dish of braised green onions).

    1 Reply
    1. re: biondanonima

      Actually Molly Steven's has a great recipe for braised green onions - but I think ultimately green onions are best when cooked very lightly or for a long time.

    2. Scallions and green onions are two names for the same thing -- so yes, they're completely interchangeable.

      Leeks are a different plant altogether, and are best used in cooked dishes -- they're milder than onions, but a much different flavor.

      heres a short-and-sweet summary of the onion family:

      1. I personally agree with people who say Green Onions and Scallions are the same thing but a Jamaican woman here at work insists they're different. Saying that "Scallions" she would get back home were so much better for Jerk than the "Green Onions" she picks up here.

        Now, a little Googling will tell you that the predominant opinion is the only differences between the two is spelling and pronunciation.
        Geographically the term changes from place to place but it's the same thing.


        1. Scallions look like mini leeks, i.e., they are straight up and down. Green onions are the same as spring onions and are bulbous. If left alone to grow to full size, then dried, they will be onion-onions. I was recently told by a reliable authority that green onions are called scallions in New York, but it's a regional thing. Actually I have never seen green onions in New York, so I may have that wrong. I have only ever seen scallions. In Rome, where I live, I never see scallions, only green onions. They are definitely different.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mbfant

            Interesting - we use the terms interchangeably here, but I know what you're talking about when you say green onions - I see them whenever I'm in Germany. They look like scallions on top but the white part is more bulbous. They taste (to me) the same as scallions, though, and I thought they were simply an European breed, since I never see them in the US.

            1. re: biondanonima

              I *think* they're just a scallion that's been allowed to mature a little more -- I use the tops interchangeably and don't notice any difference.

            2. re: mbfant

              In the US it's a geographic thing, or used to be: scallions on East Coast, green onions on the West. The green onions I get in California are not bulbous - those are called Spring Onions here. I don't know where the names change - it may be where the shape of butter sticks changes from short and squat to long and narrow.

              BTW, if you're growing onions, they go through the scallion/green onion stage to spring onion to bulbs as they mature.

              1. re: mbfant

                Yes. In the US "scallions" and "green onions"/"spring onions" do tend to be used interchangeably as so many here have said, and many farmers at Farmers' Markets think so too. Technically there *is* a difference, depending on one's source and as you comment on. I have found the "true" straight-up-and-down (no "bulbing" whatsoever) scallions (a French variety/breed) offered by a single grower at one of the winter Farmers' Markets here in my area, and have never found them anywhere else.

                For practical purposes, the three terms in the US *are* interchangeable since it is almost impossible to find the "straight-up-and-down" type here as I related.

              2. I always considered scallions and green onions to be the same thing until I started shopping in Mexican grocery stores here in So Cal. Scallions are the straight skinny things and green onions are bulbous, I think just underdeveloped regular onions pulled young since I can also get red ones.

                1 Reply
                1. re: escondido123

                  I've occasionally seen a 'Mexican salad onion' that has a small bulb.