Leeks have a delicate flavor that’s perfect for the transition from winter into spring. Milder and softer than their onion cousins, they’re often included in the classic French mirepoix, which forms the base of soups and stews. Leeks can also be the star of the show when prepared simply, cooked whole and served as a side dish. Here are our best tips and tools for working with them—plus a few of our favorite recipes for winter and spring.
Shopping + Selection
Look for leeks on the smaller side, with firm, dark green leaves and roots that are pliable and light in color. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Come spring, check your local farmers’ market for wild leeks, or ramps. Their bulbs have a garlic-onion flavor, and the stems are more delicate. Make the most of their super-short season by sauteing ramps whole in oil, grinding them into a pesto, simmering them in soups or pickling them.
Preparation Tips and Techniques
Since they grow partly underground, leeks need more than a quick rinse under the faucet. Trim off the roots and the tough, dark green tops of the leaves. If the outer layer is wilted or discolored, peel it away and discard. Quarter or halve the stalk lengthwise. If using the leek whole, leave the root end intact. Rinse them well under cold running water, separating the layers and rubbing the leaves to remove any silt between them. If a recipe calls for sliced leeks, slice the white and lighter green parts crosswise. Here’s your toolkit:
- Shun Classic Chef’s Knife for halving and slicing
- Glass Prep Bowls for rinsing and submerging in water
- Stainless-Steel Colander for draining
- Boos Cutting Board for chopping
Cooking with Leeks
Gentle cooking preserves the tender texture and flavor of leeks, so they’re often used in soups, salads and dishes with potatoes or rice. They are also served alone as a side (see our recipe for Grilled Baby Leeks with Chervil and Chives), drizzled with vinaigrette or cooked into quiches and gratins. Young leeks can be harvested as shoots and used raw, like chives.
See a few of our favorite recipes below, and check out even more ideas for leeks at williams-sonoma.com.
|Barley-Leek Soup with Chicken Meatballs
Leeks add a subtle sweetness to this make-ahead soup, which is plenty hearty thanks to the addition of pearl barley and chicken meatballs.
|Baked Cod with Leeks, Morels and Bacon
Here, elegant, earthy morel mushrooms partner with smoky bacon and caramelized leeks to create a sophisticated baked fish dish.
|Ham, Leek and Gruyere Quiche
Ham and Gruyère cheese are a classic quiche combination, but they also benefit from the subtle flavor and silky texture of sautéed leeks.
|Cod, Leek and Potato Gratin
Potatoes doused in creamy sauce are always comforting, but the addition of firm white fish and sweet, oniony leeks make this a dish a particularly memorable one. Add a big salad and a bottle of white, and you have dinner.
|Lasagna with Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms
Leeks add a mild bite to this spring-themed lasagna, which is flavored with asparagus spears and morel mushrooms.
|Baked Leeks with Bread Crumbs
Showcase the springtime vegetable with this beautiful gratin, bursting with flavor. It works well as a first course, a main course or a side, and it can be baked in individual baking dishes or a single large one.
Hi, the article: “Ingredient Spotlight: Leeks: was excellent. It was very informative and interesting. I have spent many years working as a professional chef and found the article refreshing and reassuring. I have used leeks instead of onions and shallots because of the similar flavor and texture. I believe that leeks are truly a unique and wonderful flavor and I just love them. All of the recipes in the article are excellent and I intend to use them in the future. Thank you very much. Thomas Caulfield