Learn simple and easy-to-follow steps on how to properly cut leeks for your next culinary creation.
Leeks are a versatile and flavorful vegetable commonly used in a variety of dishes, but their long and layered structure can be intimidating or, at the very least, confusing to cut. The tightly packed leaves can hold a lot of dirt while the leeks grow so knowing how to both cut and clean properly is imperative when cooking with this mild-flavored allium.
When I wrote this guide to leeks a few years ago, I’m pretty sure I covered everything you need to know about the leek except how to cut them.
If you’re wondering how to buy the freshest ones, how to store them and what delicious recipes to make with leeks, check out that guide.
A quick recap on how to buy the best leeks:
- Crisp with bright green leaves
- No yellow spots
- Organic if possible
- Try to find a bunch that has a higher ratio of whiter/pale green stem to green
If you’re here today because you grabbed a bunch and have no idea how to best attack this veggie with a knife, then let’s get to it.
How to cut leeks
Step 1: Cut off the root
The root end of the leek can be found at the bottom of the white part of the vegetable. It will usually have a small bunch of roots coming off the end. Using a sharp knife, slice the leek just above the roots and discard.
After cutting off the root of the leek, turn it around and chop off the top one or two inches from the dark green end. Sometimes this section will look a little wilted. If so, cut until the leaves appear crisp and fresh. This is only necessary if you plan to use the dark green part of the leek. We’ll discuss more about that below.
Step 2: Slice the leek in half width-wise
Find the intersection point of the leek where the white/pale green portion transitions into the darker green leaves.
Slice the leek in half width-wise so you have two circular segments.
Step 3: Slice the leek in half vertically
Now that the leek is divided into two sections, there are a few options for how to cut them.
To cut leeks into rings:
-Simply slice the leeks into thin rings with your knife.
To cut the leeks into half-rings:
-First cut the leek in half vertically then use the knife to make thin half-circle slices.
This can be done with both the bottom white/pale green portion and the darker green portion if using.
Step 4: Soak the leeks in water
Because leeks hold a lot of dirt and sand, it’s imperative that they’re cleaned by soaking in water before using. This can be done in a large bowl or a salad spinner.
Add the leeks to a bowl with cold water and mix them around with your hands to help loosen the dirt and debris from the leaves. The dirt will sink to the bottom after a few minutes and the leeks can be scooped out of the water. Use the same method with a salad spinner.
Place the washed leeks on a kitchen towel and pat dry before using.
Can you use the green part of leeks?
Depending on the size and age of the leek you may opt to use the darker green portion of the leek. Oftentimes, recipes will say to discard these dark green leaves but I tend to use them more often than not.
Just be aware that if you do plan to cook with the darker leaves of the leek, they have a stronger flavor and taste a little more bitter than the sweeter whiter part of the vegetable. The green leaves need more time to cook down as well.
The dark leek greens are great for making homemade broth or adding to the Instant Pot when cooking a stewing hen to flavor both the broth and meat. If nothing else, add them to a compost pile rather than toss them in the garbage.
Best recipes to make with leeks
Spring is the best time to cook with leeks as they’re one of the first vegetables to come into season. Try this leek apple cheddar soup for those cold spring days. It’s a great tasting warm soup with a vibrant green color.
Using leeks with onions like in this soba noodle leek and sweet onion dish is a way to get incredible spring onion flavor into one recipe. It’s a great dish for an easy quick meal.
They’re also wonderful in this buckwheat risotto featuring mushrooms and leeks for a comforting vegetarian meal.
Check out all the leek recipes and find something to try now that you know how to cut leeks properly.
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How To Cut Leeks
- 1 leek
- sharp Chef’s knife
- Using a sharp knife, slice off the root end of the leek.
- Turn the leek around and slice off the top 1"-2" of the dark green end.
- Find the spot where the bottom white/pale green portion of the leek transitions to dark green and slice the leek across at that intersection.
- Take the bottom white/pale green portion of the leek and slice it in half lengthwise.
- Now, cut each half into thin slices making half circle shapes.
- The same can be done with the dark green portion of the leek if using (although it's typically discarded) but it's best to keep these two portions separate as they have different flavor and cooking times.
- Clean the leeks by placing the half circles in a salad spinner or bowl of water and letting them soak. Swoosh the leeks around with your hands to release any dirt from the leaves so that it settles on the bottom.
- Scoop the leeks out with your hands or use a slotted spoon. Transfer to a kitchen towel to drain and pat dry before using as desired.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Watch the web story: Step By Step Guide: How To Cut Leeks.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.