How to Clean Leeks

Choose leeks that are about an inch thick, and have a long white to pale green shaft. The pale parts are the most useable.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • Fresh leeks

Method

Before getting started with either method, rinse the leeks under water to remove visible dirt or sand.

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Preparing leeks for soup

1 Cut off the roots of the leeks. Slice the leeks lengthwise.

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Decide how much of the leek greens you want to use. They are tougher and can be stronger tasting, but soften with long cooking. The last couple of inches of the dark green ends should probably be discarded or saved for making stock. (I put mine in a plastic bag and drop it in the freezer.)

Make crosswise cuts along the parts of the leek that you intend to use.

2 Place the chopped leeks into a bowl and fill with cold water. (If the leeks are especially dirty, rinse them first in a colander, before covering with water.) Use your hands to agitate the leeks and dislodge any dirt or sand that may be clinging to them.

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Scoop the leeks out of the water with a sieve or slotted spoon and place in a new bowl.

 

Cleaning and Prepping Whole Leeks

1 Place leek on a cutting board. Insert the tip of a sharp knife about a 1/4-inch below the lowest opening in the leek. Cut straight through, up to and through the green ends of the leek, leaving the pale part of the leek whole.

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2 Fan open the leek and place under cold running water. Rinse out any dirt or sand. If the leek is especially dirty, you may want to make another similar cut through the leek to further be able to fan the leek open.

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3 Cut off the dark green tops of the leek, reserving on the body of the leek as much of the dark green as you want. We like the taste (it's basically just a big onion green), so we typically keep about 2 to 3 inches or so of the dark green part with the body of the leeks. Discard the dark greens or save them to flavor soups or stews, or use for making stock.

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4 Cut of the root end of the leeks, staying as close to the roots as possible. Cutting close to the roots will hold the leeks together when cooking them whole.

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Comments

  • Amy

    I only had a quick look at my leeks before chopping whole and popping into a soup. On inspection of the left overs there was quite a bit of dirt in them. Is it safe to still have the soup? Or should I ditch it and start again? It’s filled with the last of all our veggies
    Thanks

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Amy, well if you’ve simmered the soup for more than 20 minutes that should have killed anything in the soup that might actually harm you. That said, dirt can “muddy” the flavor of something, so I would taste it and see. If it doesn’t taste good, start over.

  • Davina

    How do you store leeks? Can they be frozen?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Davina, I generally store fresh leeks in the refrigerator with other vegetables. If you want to freeze for longer storage, I would clean them, cut them, and then make sure they are completely dry before putting them in the freezer. I do save the green parts of leeks and freeze them whole for use in stock. They’re great in stock!

  • Steven Murray

    I use every part of my leeks — the bottom white part is most tender and can be sliced finely and sautéed in butter as a dish or mixed with other veg as a combo — the taste is quite subtle
    The green part some people have a problem but after pulling apart and cleaning use in soups and stews — finely chopped of course as they are a bit “stringy”
    Here is a tip — the bottom with the roots still attached can be planted and you can grow your own leeks in your garden or pot — this is also true with “spring onions” also –they are a tough plant and will survive even if you get “fresh” from a supermarket

  • Margaret moore

    I visited my daughter inlaw one thanksgiving, she gave her mother and I a bowl just to taste. We loved it so it has become one of my favorite soups. Thanks for your info on how to clean them.

    • Elise

      Hi Margaret, I’m so glad it was helpful!

  • Tracey McKie

    Would I be able to clean them a day ahead? I want to make soup, but it is a lot of prepping, and I like to have things chopped and ready the day of, so I can throw it in the crockpot and then leave for work…?

    • Elise

      Sure! You can easily prep a day ahead.

  • Hyrum Hansen

    I have never used leeks at all, being diabetic I am always looking for foods that will help me. While looking at one of my books(don’t recall which one) it suggested that leeks were very good and healthy . But I knew nothing about them, even tho I had seen them in the stores and asking the produce people got me nowhere, asked a lot of people and never got an answer. Now I have the answer and I want to thank you. Off to the store to get some leeks now that I know what to do.

  • Stalactite Miro

    Thank you so much! The text and photos were perfect for this first time leek preparer. Really a great service to us all, thanks again!

  • Stephanie

    I’ve found that the pale green part of the leek is hard to cut when cooked–it becomes stringy. A little discouraging for the diner! I’m bringing them to Thanksgiving dinner and want them to be as delectable as possible. Maybe I’m including too much of the green part? Any comments, suggestions?

    • Elise

      Hi Stephanie, if you are making braised leeks as in this recipe, it helps to marinate them for a long time after they are cooked. The vinegar helps break down the tougher part of the leeks. Or if you are braising them, as in this recipe, it helps to cook them a long time. The long cooking time will help soften the leeks as well.

  • Doug

    When the tough green ends are used to flavor soup, should they be discarded before serving? If so, I would leave them long.

    • Elise

      Hi Doug, it depends on if they are still tough when the soup is done. If they are, then discard them, if not, keep them in the soup!

  • Heather

    Another first timer with leeks and I think I’ve fallen in love. My new Easy Chicken Noodle Soup recipe has turned out great. Thanks to this site, I had the courage to try the recipe with the leeks in it. Thank you so much, Elise!

  • Corey Couturier

    This year was the first year I grew leeks. Thanks for the great tips. I tried using leeks in my homemade salsa and the salsa turned out much better than using onions, a milder, sweeter flavor.

  • Jenny

    Another first timer with leeks (I almost always stick to spring onions which can sometimes be too strong in flavour for some dishes). This was extremely helpful and detailed! Thanks! Great tips from everyone on what to do with the dark green bits too!

  • Annie

    Loved leeks in any kind of soup. My grandson and his buddy can’t quit eating the chicken noodle soup I made.
    I also dry them, wrap in paper towel and freeze.

    • Jane

      Thank you for mentioning how to freeze them, that is what I was looking for.

  • Sandy

    I grow my own leeks, and this is my favourite recipe for the green parts. Slice the greens into one inch pieces and toss in a little oil. Spread them out on a tray in a very hot oven, preferably with a grill element above. Roast for about 10 mins BUT watch like a hawk when they begin to dry out and go brown round the edges; they can burn very quickly. They’ll go sweet and crispy, like Chinese style crispy seaweed but with a strong rich onion flavour. Serve hot sprinkled over any dish, or sprinkle over a little salt and just munch them up out of the pan. Irresistable!

  • Gale

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I love having good pictures along with the instructions. I seldom use leeks, so when I got the urge to grab them, I had no idea what to do with them. They ended up in vegetable and ham soup, and the scraps went to a vegetable broth (thanks to bloggers and tutorials).

  • Vanessa

    I use leeks instead of onion for a milder taste! Simply love them and they area so healthy.

  • TasteofBeirut

    I was taught how to clean leeks in France where leeks are used a lot in cooking; add a teaspoon of vinegar to the soaking water, wiggle them a bit (after fanning them) and voilà! great tutorial btw.

  • Leah

    Something I have never fully mastered. Thanks for this much-needed tutorial!

  • Sheila

    I make garlic leek soup, a Jacques Pepin recipe. My family absolutely loves it.

  • Rose

    I read in one of the Roux brothers cookbooks that leeks can be cleaned by placing them in warm water – the grit sinks in warmer water. It works!

  • Miguel Pinheiro

    Sautéed are wonderful!!!

  • salma

    Thank you.. This hepled me alot, because i used to remove it one by one and then clean it !