Enjoy leeks, the mild-mannered cousins of onions

May 9, 2024 at 11:45 a.m.
Springtime is a wonderful time to include leeks in a variety of recipes.
Springtime is a wonderful time to include leeks in a variety of recipes.

...by Katy G. Wilkens

By Katy Wilkens

I have really good luck with leeks. I plant them in late summer or early fall so I get a spring crop, and then plant again in the spring to get a fall crop. The more the better, I say!

A mild form of onion, leeks get sweeter when you cook them. You can use them any time a recipe calls for onions or green onions, and they keep a long time in the refrigerator.  

I use as much of the first six to eight inches above the roots as I can because I love the concentric green rings they make when cut. I save the tougher, dark green leaves for making vegetable broth. The most important thing is to slice leeks so you can see any dirt between the leaves; it often manages to get in there, so clean them well.

Try charring your leeks on the barbecue, stir-fry them with mushrooms for a dish bursting with that wonderful umami taste, or enjoy them in traditional leek and potato soup.

Victor’s Charred Leeks 

6-8 leeks, about 6-8 inches in length, cleaned and with green tops removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or thyme

1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat barbecue to highest heat. Put cleaned leeks on tray, drizzle and coat with olive oil. Place tray on barbecue for about 7-12 minutes, longer if leeks are thicker. Turn them over once—they should have a few charred spots on them. Remove from heat, sprinkle with fresh herbs and pepper. Serves 6 (1 leek per person).

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories: 95, Carbohydrates: 13 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 18 milligrams

Stir-fried Leeks and Mushrooms

3-4 leeks

2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

1 cup mushrooms, any type

½ teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Cut leeks at an angle, in ½-inch sections. Slice mushrooms; quarter if they are large. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok. Add ginger, garlic, rosemary, leeks and mushrooms. Cook 3-5 minutes, until leeks are bright green and tender. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories: 215, Carbohydrates: 21 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 29 milligrams

Leek and Potato Soup

3-5 leeks (about 3 cups after chopping)

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds new potatoes, peeled, diced into ½-inch pieces

4 cups low-sodium broth or homemade low-sodium broth

1 cup half-and-half or cream or milk or yogurt

1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 bay leaf

Sprinkle of any red chili sauce

Put potatoes in large soup pot, add broth and fresh herbs. Simmer 30-45 minutes until fork-tender. While potatoes are cooking, cut leeks lengthwise, cut off roots, and then fan open under running water to rinse off any dirt. Cut the remaining leeks crosswise into about 1/4 inch slices. Saute in butter, and add to soup when potatoes are done. Cook 5-7 minutes until tender. Add cream and serve. Makes 6-7 servings of about 1½ cups.

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories: 203, Carbohydrates: 31 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Sodium: 99 milligrams

[Katy G. Wilkens recently retired as registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.]


Eating Well, Living Well classes


Studies show that working with a registered dietitian can delay kidney failure and postpone dialysis for longer than two years. FREE nutrition classes taught by Katy’s former team of registered dietitians are available at convenient times and locations around Puget Sound.

Eating Well, Living Well classes teach people how to eat healthier to slow the progress of kidney disease and postpone dialysis. Learn more at www.nwkidney.org/classes.

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