Food & Nutrition

How to Cook Leeks: Cutting, Preparation, and Storage Tips

If you’ve watched The Menu, you probably remember the awkward scene when the chef invites Tyler, the self-proclaimed culinary expert, to cook in his prestigious kitchen. Unfortunately, after attempting to assemble a simple leek and lamb plate—and failing spectacularly—Tyler surrendered. No spoilers, but botching the dinner didn’t end so well for him. 

Luckily for you, though, you don’t have to suffer Tyler’s fate when faced with those stalky green veggies: Learning how to cook leeks properly is actually pretty easy. 

Closely related to onions and garlic, leeks—which look like dark green, stalky leaves connected by a white stem—often are mistaken for larger versions of scallions. Despite its delicious taste and versatile nature, the vegetable doesn’t always get a lot of hype. For instance, while you’ve probably heard of potato leek soup, there are actually so many other enjoyable ways to prepare this root, from omelets to stir-frys. Whichever prep you choose, they’re particularly tasty during the summer and fall when they are in season.

Leeks can provide impressive benefits for your health, too, Kelsey Lloyd, MS, RD, LDN, tells SELF. Jam-packed with micronutrients like vitamins C and K, leeks also contain nearly 70 micrograms of vitamin A in just one cup, according to the US Department of Agriculture—that’s about 10% of your daily recommended amount. They’re a great source of prebiotics, too, which can help support your overall digestive health, she says.

But before you can reap these benefits, you first should know how to cook leeks effectively so you can make the most out of these magical green giants.  

What’s the best way to cut and clean leeks?

Before you grab that knife, think about your recipe, Frank Costantino, dean of the Culinary Institute of New York at Monroe College, tells SELF. Most recipes call for chopped leeks, but some ask for them whole, and this will influence how you should prep them.

If you’re going the chopped route, you’ll cut the leeks first before cleaning and then dicing. One of the most straightforward ways to cut leeks is similar to how you would slice its cousin, the scallion—the only difference is that you’ll focus on the leek’s white stems: 

  • First, peel off the outer dark green leaves of the leek. (They typically look more dried out and worn than the sturdier layers.) 
  • Then, place the vegetable on its side so you have a solid foundation for chopping. 
  • Slash off the dark green leaves, flip the leek around, and snip off the root end. 
  • Finally, slit the stem in half lengthwise.

Now, it’s time to clean them. Before you start rinsing them off, it’s important to think about how leeks are grown. The plant is harvested from sandy soil, and because the vegetable has many different layers, that gritty matter often gets trapped between the leaves. You’ll want to wash all that crud out so you don’t end up with a meal full of grime.