Leeks 101: How to Clean, Cut, and Cook

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how to cut and clean leeks

Like its cousins the onion and shallot, leeks are as delicious as they are nutritious. And since they are so versatile, you can prepare them many different ways and use them in many different dishes. Sadly, some people avoid leeks because they aren’t sure how to clean, cut and cook them. It’s really not hard though so do yourself a favor and stop avoiding this flavorful veggie!

Leeks are planted deep in the ground and their stalks are covered high with dirt to prevent exposure to sunlight. This technique keeps the tops tender. When you buy leeks at your local grocery store, they still have a good amount of that dirt and sand stuck in the stalks. This is where many cooks struggle. If you simply hold leeks under running water, they won’t get entirely clean and your dish will have a gritty texture. Read on to learn how to avoid this problem. 

how to cut and clean leeks

How To Cut and Clean Leeks

  1. The dark green tops of leeks are are tough so we need to remove them. Look for where the leeks turn from pale green to dark green and cut with a knife. Save the tops for vegetable stock.
  2. Cut off the root.
  3. Cut in half lengthwise.
  4. With both halves together, chop the leeks from top to bottom (from the white portion to the green stalk). The chopped leeks should resemble thin half circles.
  5. Place chopped leeks into a bowl of clean water. With your hands, swirl the leeks around. The dirt will fall to the bottom.
  6. Scoop clean leeks from the water using a wire mesh skimmer. (If you don’t have a skimmer, a slotted spoon would work too). Now your leeks are ready to cook!

How to Cook Leeks

Leeks are extremely versatile, both in how you cook them and in what kinds of dishes you can use them in. Leeks can be steamed, grilled, blanched, sautéed, or braized. Just don’t try to caramelize them or they’ll turn bitter.

Most people have had leeks in Potato and Leek Soup. Some other dishes that leeks work well in include omelets, quiche, stews, and pasta. We personally love leeks as a pizza topping. Yum!

TIP: When selecting leeks at the grocery store, look for leeks that are firm with dark green tops and white necks. The bulb should be free of cracks. Avoid leeks that are wilted or yellowed. Leeks can get fibrous if they get too large, so choose leeks that are 1.5 inches in diameter or smaller.

Here are some leek recipes we think you’ll love!

Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup
Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup by Lauren Caris Cooks
Mushroom Leek and Gruyere Cheese Dip
Mushroom Leek and Gruyere Cheese Dip by Will Work for Smiles
Creamy Mushroom and Leek Pasta Recipe
Creamy Mushroom and Leek Pasta Recipe by Natasha’s Kitchen
Cherry Tomato, Leek, and Spinach Quiche
Cherry Tomato, Leek, and Spinach Quiche by The Food Charlatan


Enjoy leeks at your next meal. And please share your favorite leek recipes in the comments below!

About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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  1. tks this is the first time I will use leeks in potato soup and I did not know how to cut clean and cook them tks so much for your info !