How To Use Leeks And A New Favorite Recipe

What do I do with leeks?

That is a question I get often.

And I'm not surprised.  I didn't grow up with leeks.  Why not just use onions, right?

Well..... first off, not to get off topic, but don’t they look amazingly appetizing?

The long, slender, sleek look is in, right?

And their attractive blue-green and white contrast and palm-like fans at the top make leeks unarguably one of the most gorgeous specimens of the vegetable world.

Their nutty taste is equally intriguing!

You will likely admire their beauty, but when it comes to knowing what to do with them, quite possibly, you might be stumped.




What are leeks?

Let’s start at the beginning and answer the question, “What are leeks?”

Because they are likely as unfamiliar to you as they were to me when I started eating locally grown farm fresh food.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever had leeks, and I definitely knew that I never had cooked with them!

Leeks are part of the onion family, but there the similarity ends. Their flavor is anything but assertive. Leeks are subtle and refined with a seductively nutty flavor. Their texture is something a little different as well. And their aroma when cooking! Yum!

But there is a trick to be successful with leeks, because…



How to prepare leeks

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Leeks are dirty.

If you’ve ever seen them growing in the ground you’ll know why. They have many layers that fan out at the top and can collect dirt that can lodge between the layers.

So the biggest trick to loving your leeks is to clean them well to remove the grit before eating.

I promise you, you’ll love them better that way! ;)

To clean your leeks:

  1. Remove the root end and the dark green fan tops. The white and light green parts are what you want. You can use the tops for making homemade vegetable broth. Here’s my tutorial on how make your own broth using scraps.
  2. Slice your prepared leek in half lengthwise.
  3. Hold under cold running water to rinse between the layers.

There! You’re ready to proceed with a recipe!


What do I do with leeks?

A good question and one we get from lots of new CSA members.

Sure, we’ve all heard of Potato Leek Soup. But, what else? Hmmm…

I’ve put together a great list of a few of my favorite ways to use leeks (besides above mentioned quintessential soup and just putting them in everything from meatloaf to shepherd's pie, etc.) and a couple great new ways that I just tried this week!

Hopefully, you’ll find your new way to loving leeks here!



6 Creative Ways to Use Leeks + Recipes


#1.  Use Leeks In Soups

So, you all probably have heard of Potato Leek Soup!  But, did you know that you can put leeks into just about any kind of soup?!  Substitute for onions or throw them in in addition!  


Curried Carrot, Leek and Apple Soup

This recipe is another variation on the basic way that I make soup. You can really add any veggie ingredients you want with the same form so if you don't have one substitute another. This would be good with cooked winter squash instead of carrots.

  • 2-4 TBLS oil or butter
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons curry powder, to taste
  • chicken broth to cover
  • coconut milk to taste (I use 1/2 can)
  • salt to taste

Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium. Add leeks and saute until becoming tender, about 5-10 minutes. Do not brown. Add carrots, apple, garlic, curry powder, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until carrots are very tender. Add coconut milk and heat through. Puree until smooth and add salt to taste. Yum!


#2.  Use Leeks In Frittata

You can make a frittata out of just about anything!  And leeks are no exception.  In fact you could make the Melted Leeks recipe below and put that into a frittata alone and it would be delicious!  Here's my basic tutorial on making a frittata out of any veggie.


Basic Frittata (seasonally made with Kale and Leeks)

  • 1 bunch kale, thick stem removed, chopped
  • cooking oil or butter
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, optional
  • 8-9 eggs, beaten
  • dash of milk
  • ¼-1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat your cooking oil on medium in a cast iron skillet or other oven safe skillet.  Add leeks and saute gently, stirring until tender, but not browning.  Add prepared kale and optional garlic and saute until wilted.  Meanwhile, mix eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Pour over leek and kale saute.  Cook on medium until the edges begin to set, about 5-10.  Cook in the oven at 400 until middle is set, about 15-20 minutes.  


#3. Use Leeks On Pizza... or just about anything else!

I said "on pizza" above, but what does melted leeks not go with?? Try it on a pasta salad, mac and cheese, to top fish, with mashed potatoes, or on eggs with a little goat cheese on top. Mmmm!


Melted Leeks

  • 2 cups leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1-3 TBLS olive oil
  • 1 TBLS butter
  • salt to taste

Heat oil and butter on medium in a heavy bottomed skillet. Add leeks and stir to coat in oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes until very tender (no firmness or chewiness should be remaining). Add more oil if need be to keep things from getting too dry.

Refrigerate or freeze if not using right away.


#4. Use Leeks In Casseroles

Leeks work well in combo with or replacing onions in any kind of savory casserole including Shepard's Pie, pasta bakes, and this twist on the classic Potato and Leek flavor pairing.


Potato Leek Casserole

  • 2-3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned, and chopped
  • 2 cups grated cheese, cheddar or other favorite cheese
  • 1/2 cup flour (or to taste)
  • butter
  • milk
  • breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter shallow baking dish.  Layer potato slices in bottom.  Cover with approximately half the leeks, half the cheese, half the flour, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple pats of butter.  Repeat with another layer of the same.  Top with the remaining sliced potatoes and breadcrumbs.  Pour in milk to about half way up the dish.  Add additional pats of butter to the top, as desired.  Bake at 400 until potatoes are cooked and casserole is set, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.


#5. Use Leeks In Sautés or Stir-fries

Whether you use leeks in place of onions or in addition to onions, they go very well in basic sautes or stir-fries with whatever you have on hand.  Here’s a recent version that I just made, but feel free to play around with what the featured veggies are in it.


Asian Sautéed Turnips and Leeks

  • 2 TBLS butter (or other cooking oil, but butter has the best taste in this recipe)
  • 1 lb. turnips, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced (can use Purple top turnips here or Japanese salad turnips)
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 TBLS miso paste (or substitute soy sauce)
  • 1 TBLS rice wine (or substitute white wine or white wine vinegar, which is what I used!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter on medium in skillet. Add turnips and leeks and saute stirring until just tender, about 10 minutes. Make sure to not brown the leeks, so turn the temperature down to medium low if need be and/or add a little more butter. Mix the miso paste into the hot water until dissolved and with the rice wine add to the turnips. Stir to coat and to cook off any unnecessary liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.


#6. Use Leeks In Roasted Veggie Medley

Do you already roast veggies? Well chop some leeks to go right along with them! So delicious and it will really bring out their beloved nutty taste. Here’s a recipe that I recently made and loved:


Roasted Leeks and Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved or quartered
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned well and coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped, to taste
  • 2-3 TBLS olive oil
  • 1-2 TBLS balsamic vinegar
  • Drizzle of honey, to taste

Put prepared Brussels sprouts, leeks, and garlic on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar, and honey on top. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Roast in 375 degree oven until tender, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting.


#7. BONUS Recipe:  Leek Soup for Breakfast!

A friend makes this recipe during the cold months for breakfast for her family.  It's as delicious as it is an interesting change on our regular options.  Try it for yourself!

  • 2-4 leeks (depending on the size)
  • 1/2 gal. Broth (chicken is tastiest, but beef works fine too)
  • Thin rice noodles (small handful or two)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Parsley and/or dehydrated celery leaves
  • Sometimes a dash of chili powder
  • A sprinkling of nutritional yeast for added flavor ( totally optional)

Saute leeks in a bit of the broth for a few minutes, then add all the spices and the rest of the broth and bring to a boil. Boil until the leeks are tender then add the rice noodles and bring back to a boil. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and drizzle into the soup while it's boiling. The eggs cook almost instantly and you can turn off the heat and crush the garlic into the soup and add more salt or whatever spice you think might make it just right.

This recipe can be tweaked to make it a very brothy soup or one that has more to it depending on how many leeks, noodles and eggs you want to add...this is roughly what I do. I'm sorry I don't have any amounts for the spices, I really have no idea how much of each I throw in, but I'm sure you'll be able to make it taste great!  I'll often make up a big batch of this and put the extra right into jars while it's hot, refrigerate them and have several ready made breakfast on hand!


Are you already a leek lover?

If so, what is YOUR favorite way to use leeks? Hit reply and let me know!

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Comments (4)

They make a delicate, tasty, crunchy topper for salads, burgers, steaks, or soup.

Used this recipe from memory for a long time so amounts and techniques are approximate. 6 (!) leeks rinsed and sliced, sauted in 1 (may have to add more) Tbls. olive oil until soft. Sprinkle with salt/pepper. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 3 or 4 medium ripe tomatoes 1/2 lb. goat cheese (this amount is available in Hannaford's locally) 1 teasp. fresh thyme Cover the bottom of a partially baked pie shell with the Parmesan cheese. Layer cooked leeks on top. Add slices of ripe tomatoes. Crumble goat cheese over tomatoes. Sprinkle thyme and drizzle w/1 Tablsp. olive oil. Bake until cheese is lightly browned at 350. If you can wait, cool ten minutes before slicing.

I love leeks in quiche. Sliced thin, sautéed in butter, then added to the quiche with other veggies or ham. So good!

Added an inch of raw ginger & a couple tablespoons of Apple cider vinegar to the curry leek soup, we'll have this again!