Leeks are a popular vegetable that is known for being incredibly versatile. They can be used in so many different dishes, and because they aren’t too intense in flavor, you usually don’t have to worry about them overpowering the whole recipe.
But there will come a time when you need to use leeks in a recipe and you won’t have any. When this happens, you might be wondering what the best course of action is and how you can continue making your dish if you don’t have one of the main ingredients.
Well, you will be happy to know that leeks are incredibly easy to substitute in dishes and there are also plenty of different substitutes that you can use too.
We have put together a list of 11 of the best options to use to substitute for leeks and you can find all the answers you need below. Each of these substitutes works better in different situations, so read on to find out a bit more about each of them!
11 Best Substitutes For Leeks
As leeks are a part of the allium family, this means that there are actually plenty of other substitutes for you to use when you don’t have the real thing.
The biggest issue with leek substitutes is that they usually have a more intense flavor than the real thing, so you just need to be mindful of this when you choose your substitute.
Below, we have listed 11 of the best substitutes for leeks that you can try for yourself. Read on to find out a bit more about each of them and how you can use them correctly as a leek substitute.
|N/A or Varies
|Small to a medium-sized handful
|2 garlic cloves
|2 large shallots
|1 medium onion
What Are Leeks?
Leeks are a part of the allium family, so this means that they are extremely similar to and related to garlic, chives, shallots, and onions. When you actually taste them, you can tell even further how closely related to these other vegetables they are!
They are usually sweet and oniony in flavor, which is what makes them perfect for dishes such as soups, stews, pasta, and other related dishes.
The thing that really stands out about leeks though is that they are much milder in flavor than other vegetables in the allium family, and this is another big reason why they are so popular to cook with.
Leeks are incredibly versatile and they will work in practically any dish that you include them in. While they are more popular in things like soups, stews, and pasta, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t use them in other dishes too.
They are great to use when you want to bulk the dish up or experiment with different flavors. Remember, because they are a bit milder in flavor, this means that you usually don’t have to worry about them overpowering any of your dishes.
Nutritional Value Of Leeks
Celery is a great starting point and substitute for leeks because it is perfect for anyone who has an allergy to other vegetables in the allium family.
If you can’t really eat leeks, onions, and garlic or you are making a dish for someone who can’t eat them, then celery is one of the best alternative ingredients you can use.
It does a really great job of replicating the subtly sweet earthy flavor that you would usually get from leeks, and it works especially well in soups, stews, and other related dishes.
Just be mindful when using celery instead of leek because it has a peppery flavor than leeks. As long as you keep this in mind, you should have no issues using it as a substitute.
2. Onion Powder
Onion powder is better for those times when you want to replicate the taste of leeks rather than the texture. If you want your dish to have that leeky mild onion flavor, then onion powder is a great substitute for you to use.
This alternative is best used when you need to use leeks as a secondary ingredient rather than the main thing. It works especially well in dishes such as soups and stews.
It is important to remember that onion powder is much more intense in flavor than leeks, so you should always start with a smaller amount when using it as a substitute. Usually, all you need is a single teaspoon of onion powder for every large leek.
Pronounced as “cal-sots” these vegetables are basically mini leeks, and they are extremely similar to green onions and scallions. They are actually native to Catalonia, which is a northern region in Spain.
They are incredibly popular because they have a sweet and subtle taste, and as a leek substitute, this is exactly what you should be looking for.
The only issue with calçots is that they are actually quite hard to find outside of Catalonia, but if you can find them, you should definitely have a go at using them. Calçots are so popular in Catalonia that the natives have based a whole winter feast on them!
Known as Calçotada, where the calçots are barbequed and then served with a fantastic tomato and pepper sauce.
Ramps are a fantastic substitute for leeks and can be used in many different dishes in place of the real thing. This vegetable is actually quite easy to forage as well, but if you don’t have much experience foraging, you can find them in many different grocery stores and shops.
Ramps are a lesser-known vegetable that is basically wild leeks and they have a fresh garlic flavor. While they are still quite unknown in most parts of the world, they are incredibly popular in the Eastern United States and in Canada.
Ramps are known as wild garlic in the US, but they are actually quite different from wild garlic that is found in the UK.
Chives have a taste that is actually a lot more subtle than leeks, so for the most part, this substitute should only be used when you are struggling to find some of the other ones on this list.
When you don’t have any other options though, chives are great for adding a subtle sweet earthy taste to your dishes, which you would usually be able to get when using leeks.
But don’t write off chives, because when you don’t have access to other ingredients on this list, they can really be helpful in your dishes.
To make the most out of using chives, it is heavily suggested that you use them in combination with other ingredients on this list rather than just by themselves.
There is no recommended ratio when comparing it to leeks either, so it’s best to use a bit more of the chives and taste it as you go to find the perfect amount for your dish.
6. Wild Garlic
Wild garlic is perfect for any dish where you want to replicate the subtle sweetness of leeks. Unlike garlic cloves, the taste found within wild garlic is actually quite subtle, which is why a lot of people actually prefer this option.
Wild garlic is especially great to use as a substitute in soups and stews, but you can really use it as a substitute for any dish that calls for leeks.
What’s more is that wild garlic is actually incredibly easy to forage and you will find it in abundance in forest and woodland areas, so if you enjoy spending time in nature, you should be able to find plenty in the spring and summer months.
This is a fantastic substitute for leeks and it’s perfect for anyone who wants something garlic-based that isn’t as overpowering as garlic cloves.
7. Garlic Cloves
If you do want something a bit stronger in taste, you can definitely use standard garlic cloves. Fresh garlic will give your dish a much different flavor and tone than leeks though, so it is heavily suggested that you do not use much garlic.
Garlic can easily overpower dishes when it is used in vast quantities. Garlic cloves work especially well in casserole and stew dishes, especially when you are unable to get your hands on leeks.
Just bare in mind that you really don’t need much garlic in the place of leeks, just two garlic cloves in the place of one large leek will be enough!
Garlic cloves are one of the best examples on this list for “less is more” so start will a very small quantity when you use it, taste test, and repeat until you get your desired flavor.
8. Green Onions
Green onions are incredibly similar to scallions, but the only real difference is that scallions are younger and have a milder taste. Green onions are a fantastic alternative to use when you can’t use leeks.
They are especially great in dishes such as salads, stews, soups, and sauces. Green onions have a much more subtle taste than leeks, so you can easily add a small dash of garlic powder or onion powder to compensate for this without ruining the dish.
Because they are a lot more subtle in taste, this means that it’s quite hard to mess your dish up, even if you use quite a big portion of green onions in place of leeks. Always taste test and add in your substitute gradually though, regardless of if it’s more subtle in taste!
9. Spring Onion
Spring onions are another great substitute to use when you need leeks in a recipe, but they have a much stronger flavor and taste, so it is better to use them in a recipe where leeks are not the main ingredient.
Getting the right ratio down for spring onions is quite important, because as nice as they taste, they can easily overpower a dish if too many are used.
This is another substitute you will have to gradually add in and you will also need to taste test to make sure you get the desired flavor without ruining the dish.
Spring onions are also incredibly similar to both green onions and scallions, but the main difference is that spring onions are actually slightly older and they have a round bulb and a much stronger taste than their younger counterparts.
Shallots are quite similar in appearance and texture to onions, but they have a much milder taste.
This makes them the perfect substitute for leeks, because they have a similar flavor profile, and you are less likely to ruin the overall flavor of the dish when you use them as a substitute for the real thing.
They work especially well in dishes such as casseroles, stews, soups, and sauces, so there are plenty of different ways you can use shallots in place of leeks. When substituting leeks with shallots, it is best to use 2 large shallots for every large leek.
As always, just remember to do a taste test as you cook and if you need to add a few more shallots, you can.
For our final substitute, we have included onions on this list. Like leeks, onions are also a part of the allium family, which is why they are perfect to use as a substitute.
It should be noted however that onions have a much stronger flavor than leeks, and they should only really be used if you are unable to get hold of any of the other substitutes on this list. That being said, if onions are your only option, they work really well when used in moderation.
Taste tests are absolutely essential when you use onions as an alternative, and your best bet is to try and get hold of some mild sweet onions. Start with a smaller amount of onions in your dish and do regular taste tests.
Gradually add in more until you are happy with the taste. Your dish won’t taste exactly the same as it would with leeks, but onions can be a great substitute when used correctly.
Popular Recipes That Call For Leeks
This carbonara is a great recipe to make when you want something a bit healthier that also tastes great. The recipe calls for pancetta, but you can easily leave it out if you want a vegetarian option instead.
Leek Risotto is another popular leek recipe that is incredibly easy to make, creamy, and full of flavor. It’s nice and filling too, so you won’t feel the need to snack after you have eaten it.
Hearty and delicious, this chicken & Leek Pie is perfect for those days when you are in the mood for something warm and filling to eat. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s easy to make and you can have a whole pie ready to eat in an hour!
A classic dish, leek & potato soup is incredibly simple to make and it’s incredibly filling and hearty. If you want to make this recipe even better, don’t forget to add some fresh, crusty bread on the side ready for dipping!
Tips For Choosing The Right Substitute For Leeks
Start With A Small Amount
If you are using a substitute that is a bit more overpowering in flavor, the best thing you can do is start with a small amount of it.
Do not put a huge portion of the substitute in your dish, instead, start with a smaller amount, taste it, and then add more gradually until you get your desired taste. Dumping in a large quantity straight away is a surefire way to ruin your dish.
Remember, leeks are mild in taste, so when you are using substitutes with more intense flavor, less is always more!
Consider The Rest Of The Recipe
Whenever you are using a substitute ingredient in anything, it is always important to consider the rest of the recipe as you are adding it.
You especially want to look at the other flavors and seasonings in the recipe to make sure your substitute is going to work well and complement them. A good example of this is looking at dominant flavors and ingredients.
It’s in your best interest not to use a substitute that has a dominant flavor, as this can cancel out the rest of the dish and make it taste unappealing. You always want to include a substitute that is going to complement the dish rather than overpower the other flavors.
Know When To Skip Using A Substitute
This is one of the most important tips we can give you. There will be situations where a recipe calls for leeks, but the only alternatives you have on hand won’t be suitable. This is why it is incredibly important to know when to skip out on using a substitute altogether.
Some substitute ingredients are just too overpowering and they will not complement the dish at all. In these situations, it is in your better interest to just skip out on using a substitute altogether.
You may have to abandon the dish until you can get the real thing, but this is always a better option instead of wasting food or cooking something that just doesn’t taste right!
So there you have it! 11 of the best options to use to substitute for leeks. As leeks are mild in flavor, remember to use these substitutes in moderation, especially when it comes to stronger flavor options.
Use the tips and recipes we have provided for you to make the perfect dish and next time you need to make a recipe that calls for leeks, try using one of these substitutes for yourself!