Distinguishing Leeks from Onions

Leeks vs Onions

Onions are a staple in kitchens worldwide, used both as a vegetable and eaten raw in salads. They have a pungent smell but are used in cooking to enhance the flavor and aroma of various dishes. There are many different types of onions, including green onions which are popular in European and Chinese cuisine. Leeks may cause confusion due to their similarities with green onions. However, there are subtle differences between them that prevent leeks from being substituted for onions in many recipes.


Onions are a flowering plant belonging to the genus Allium, which also contains garlic and leeks. The edible bulb of the onion plant is used universally in cooking or as a raw vegetable. The stem and leaves of the onion plant are also used in cooking in many parts of the world. The most common and popular type of onion worldwide is the red onion, also known as the common onion. Onion bulbs are known for their health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, reducing cholesterol levels, and having antioxidant properties. However, most people enjoy consuming onion bulbs for their taste and aroma. The paste of onion bulbs is used to thicken curries and add flavor. The characteristic feature of red onions is their multilayered structure. They have a pungent smell and cause tears when being cut into pieces.

One variety of onions is the green onion or scallion, known by different names such as spring onions, baby onions, salad onions, gibbons, etc. These varieties have smaller bulbs that are not fully developed. The leaves are hollow from inside and are edible. These varieties are milder than red onions and can be used cooked or raw.


Leeks are plants that belong to the genus Allium family. They are a symbol of Wales, and Welsh leeks are popular throughout Europe for their taste and aroma. Leeks do not produce a strong bulb and have long, cylindrical leaves that are crunchy to eat. People often mistakenly refer to the bundle of leaves as the stem of the plant. The part of these leaves just above the root or bulb and light green in color is edible, though people also consume the hard and dark green part of the leek leaves.

Key Takeaways

  • Both green onions and leeks are part of the same onion family, but leeks are larger and milder in taste and aroma than green onions.
  • Leek leaves are harder to cook than green onion leaves, which can be easily cooked.
  • Green onion leaves can be eaten raw, but leeks must be cooked before consumption. Leek leaves also need to be blanched due to mud and dirt hiding between them.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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