If you have leeks and are wondering how to clean them, read on! I have all the tips you’ll need, step-by-step photos and a video to walk you through this simple process of chopping and washing leeks for soup and other recipes.

three leeks on a white table

What Are Leeks?

Leeks (Allium porrum or A. ampeloprasum var. porrum) are a member of the onion family and have a mildly sweet, onion-like flavor. They are in season from September through May, but you can find them year-round in the produce department of most supermarkets.

They are a versatile and delicious veggie that can add flavor to many different dishes. Use leeks in place of onions in a variety of dishes such as soups, sautés, dips, baked goods and quiches or tarts. And as you’ll see below, they really are easy to cut, clean and use.

Why Are Leeks So Dirty?

freshly picked leek in vegetable garden

As a root vegetable, the part of leeks we eat is mostly grown underground. The white part of the stalk is blanched from not being in sunlight and going through photosynthesis. This is the most tender part of the leek

The green upper part of the stalk is above ground. Dirt and sand collect between the outer layers of the leek where the plant pushes up through the soil as it grows.

Look for whole leeks that are about an inch in diameter, firm with dark green leaves and white necks. Fresh leeks are sold in bunches depending on their size in one to three.

Store them in in plastic produce bags in your refrigerator for one to two weeks. If properly stored they can be kept in cold storage for even longer.

How To Cut and Clean Leeks

Step 1: Remove Inedible parts of the leek

If your leek has loose, slimy or browned layers on the outside, the first step is to peel them down toward the root end (base of the leeks) as you would a scallion.

When chopping the leek on a cutting board, remove the root and the dark green tops. Reserve the tops for homemade stock.

How Much Leek Do You Remove When Cutting a Leek?

Take off the dark green flat leaves all the way to the stalk. To preserve as much as possible, use a sharp knife to cut at an angle down to where they are attached. Pale green parts of the leek are tender enough to use.

Step 2: Cut The Leeks

Before you clean the entire leek, it is important to cut it first. That way you can wash the inner layers of the leek which can hide dirt and sand. To do so slice them lengthwise first.

For Diced: For smaller dice, you can cut them lengthwise twice before cutting them crosswise. Next chop them crosswise for “diced” leeks.

For Sliced: You can achieve long julienne-like thin strips of leeks if you finely cut them crosswise.

Leave In Lengths: Once you cut them lengthwise, you can also leave them in lengths at this point. Some recipes like braised leeks and roasted leeks call for this type of preparation. Often you would choose to leave a little bit of the root end of the leek intact to help the layers hold together. See here how to wash lengths of leeks under the tap.

Step 3: Wash The Leeks

After the leeks are cut, place them in a bowl of cold tap water. They will float!

Use your hands to break the layers apart. Swish them around with your hands thoroughly so that any sand or dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

IMPORTANT: Lift the leeks out of the cool water with your hands or a fine-mesh strainer leaving the dirt and sand in the bottom of the bowl. If you pour the leeks out with the water, the dirt and sand will get mixed back into the leeks and defeat the whole purpose!

Step 4: Let Them Dry Before Cooking

Spread the leeks out on a plate lined with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. Let them dry before sauteeing or cooking. Water inhibits caramelization, so if you want richer flavors from your leeks, it is important to drain them well in this manner.

How Many Cups Does One Leek Yield?

Leeks vary by size and length. A typical grocery store leek will yield about 2 cups of prepared, diced clean leeks. A thinner or shorter leek may only yield one cup of cut leeks.

3 cups of leeks in a measuring cup

FAQs and Expert Tips

How do I clean the leeks if I do not want them diced or sliced?

Some recipes, call for 3 to 4 inch long sections of halved, sliced leeks. If you want to keep your leek whole for this reason (or another) then you can simply cut the leek in half lengthwise (or to the core only) to expose the layers. Then hold under running water and fan the layers open to rinse between the layers.washing the leek under running water

What part of a leek is edible?

Most of a leek is edible. Leeks look like very large scallions or green onions with flat leaves or greens.

The most commonly used part of the leeks is the white stalk and the light green portion of the leaves.  The darker green leaves are tough and fibrous but can be used to make homemade chicken stock

Can you eat raw leeks?

You can eat leeks raw but because they are similar to an onion, they have a very strong flavor. Thinly slice leeks and they serve as a great garnish for a variety of different dishes.

What Are Leeks Good For?

Leeks are a great alternative to onions. If a recipe calls for diced onion, you can often substitute chopped leeks! However, note that leeks are thinner and cook more quickly than onions so watch that they do not burn. Here are some more ideas!

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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3 cups of leeks in a measuring cup

How To Clean Leeks


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Description

Leeks are grown underground so they can be very dirty. To prevent sand and dirt from getting into your recipes, it is important to clean them well. Here are step-by-step instructions how to clean a leek.


Ingredients

Scale

1 leek


Instructions

  1. If your leek has loose, slimy or browned layers on the outside, peel them down toward the root end as you would a scallion. Cut off the root and the dark green tops. Reserve the tops for stock if desired.
  2. Before you clean the leek, it is important to cut it first. That way you can wash the inner layers of the leek which can hide dirt and sand. To do so slice them lengthwise first. For smaller dice, you can cut them lengthwise twice before cutting them crosswise. Next cut them crosswise for “diced” leeks. You can achieve long julienne-like strips of leeks if you finely cut them crosswise. Alternatively, once you cut them lengthwise, you can also leave them in lengths at this point.

  3. After the leeks are cut, place them in a bowl of cold tap water. Use your hands to break the layers apart. Swish them around with your hands thoroughly so that any sand or dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the leeks out of the water with your hands or a fine-mesh strainer leaving the dirt and sand in the bottom of the bowl. If you pour the leeks out with the water, the dirt and sand will get mixed back into the leeks and defeat the whole purpose! Alternatively, for leeks only cut into lengths, run cool tap water over the leek and separate the layers allowing the dirt and sand to rinse away.

  4. Spread the leeks out on a plate lined with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. Let them dry before sauteeing or cooking. Water inhibits caramelization, so if you want richer flavors from your leeks, it is important to drain them well in this manner.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Vegetable
  • Method: No cook
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 27
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 1 g