How to prep (and use) leeks

by admin on December 19, 2006 · 22 comments

Leeks are underappreciated and underused. Their flavor is mellow, complex and more subtle than other members of the onion family, and they go tender and silky when cooked.

They’re known for their role in potato and cream-based soups (like vichyssoise) and in winter stews. They’re delicious raw and sliced thin in salads, stir-fried with beef (or anything, for that matter), simmered in water and served hot or cold with a vinaigrette, braised whole in wine or stock, or brought in anywhere you’d use an onion.

Leeks are dirty. They grow up building layers that trap the sandy soil mounded around them to keep them straight and white. So whether you’re keeping them whole or slicing them thin, clean them really well. A sandy dinner is a deal-breaker. Here’s one approach:

Cut off the tough dark green leaves an inch or two above the white part of the stalk. Save those leaves for stocks or broths.

Cut off the root right where it joins the white base, keeping enough fibrous material to hold the leek together.

Cut away and toss the coarse outer layer of green, exposing the tender green you can use.

Cut the leek in half lengthwise, either all the way through the end, or just below the end if you want to cook it whole (tied together with kitchen twine).

Swish the leek around under water, using your fingers to pull apart the layers. Look through each layer to be sure you find all the sand. This works under running water too.

Now just slice the leek crossways as thick or thin as you like. This is best for dishes like soups and stews where the leek will disappear into the dish. The longer the cooking time, the thicker the slice.

Or slice them lengthwise as thick or thin as you like. I like this cut for stir-fries.

If this is too much, you can take the short cut. Just prep them, sand and all, rinse them well in a colander submerged in a bowl of cold water, then pat them dry.

Now that you know how to prep them, try some of the delicious leek recipes at

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 19, 2006 at 8:22 pm

leeks are great, I live in Japan and they are used all over the place here. Try dicing ‘em real small then sprinkling them on some chilled tofu, drizzle with soy sauce and shredded ginger.

Amanda December 19, 2006 at 8:23 pm

Leeks are so underrated (at least in my kitchen). I really want to cook with them more, so thanks for this reminder. =)

brys December 20, 2006 at 3:13 pm

Thanks a lot for the suggestion anonymous, that makes perfect sense. I hadn’t thought of using them in place of green onions but that sounds delicious. I can see how their mild flavor would work great raw in soups.

brys December 20, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Glad you found it useful Amanda. They’ve been underused in my kitchen, too.

Anonymous December 22, 2006 at 12:02 pm

I love leeks, and just made a potato-leek soup two days ago. I cleaned by trimming off the tough green end, but leaving the root end attached, quartering lengthwise until about midway through the white part; then swishing in a bowl of water, fanning the leek with my fingers. (For a large amount of leeks you need to change the water in the bowl a couple of times.) Then I cut off the root end and chopped.

youngchef January 20, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Thank -you so much I have been looking for a good leek website and yours is great.

PickleMan October 27, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Awesome! This is Leek 101! Thanks for this. Beautiful pics.

Didier December 16, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Really nice. I accidentally purchase leeks instead of spring onions. And I was confuse on how to cut them. This website helped. Thank you very much! :-)

Jillian January 1, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Thank you so much for this demo, it is really helpful!

chip January 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Glad this has been so helpful. Let us know what other “how to’s” would be helpful for you in the kitchen!

mary pat October 9, 2008 at 5:15 am

Thank you so much for the information! So helpful! I have been making a leek, potato, and carrot soup that I end up using an immersion blender before adding cream. But I definitely want to try the stir fry ideas!

Rachel October 31, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Thanks so much! I would have really messed up a soup I’m about to make if I hadn’t read this…..I figured I used the green parts at the top, and I wouldn’t have known to rinse them so well. Much appreciated!!

MeLisa December 29, 2008 at 12:24 am

THANK YOU! I have really gotten into cooking receintly and found many recipes calling for leeks. I had no idea what they were. Now that I have seen this I’m glad I didn’t try to figure it out on my own…it would have been a very gritty meal. Or knowing me, I would have tried to cook the big fat green parts. LOL!

Lynn Early February 18, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I was stuck on a recipe, I never cooked with leeks. Your fabulous blog – with great photos – saved the day !

Jacinta Adame February 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Thank you for the much valued info on leeks. Mystery unravelled.

Linda June 13, 2009 at 2:58 am

I bought leeks for the dish that I am just about to make, but I didn’t know how to clean them; your information has helped me. Thank you!

Emilia June 21, 2009 at 12:59 am

Great forum. Thanks for the info. I bought them because my friend told me to use them for a Venezuelan salsa recipe, and really did not know how to use them. LOL :)

Patti March 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Just bought leeks for the first time for stir fry tonight…found your site to figure out how to prep and cut them. Thanks for the tips! Can’t wait to see what it does to my stirfry…

Steve Goldschmidt March 27, 2010 at 4:15 am

I have been using Leeks for my family favorite Chicken Soup for years. My two secret inigredients are Leek and Dill. Together they have a delightfull and unique flavor. I never did try the dark green tops, though but now I will. I always cut and rinse leeks under the faucet. Thanks for the tips.

Joe April 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

Thanks for posting this information. I had never cooked leeks before and had no idea how to cut or cook them. The screenshots were extremely helpful.

ken faircloth May 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

Have garden with hundred leeks. Cultivated from bulbs last two years. How do I tell if my leeks are the wild leek or domestic leek? Very onion/garlic smell !

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