Chives are one of the most easygoing herbs you can grab at the grocery store. They require minimal prep, look and taste great on everything from baked potatoes to boxed mac and cheese, and they’re mild enough for picky eaters to enjoy. Here’s what you need to know about this light and peppy herb.
What Are Chives? What Do Chives Taste Like?
Dark green, thin, and long chives are a culinary herb that is botanically related to onions and other allium plants. While they grow from a bulb like other plants in their family, the chive stems are the only part of the plant used in cooking. Fresh chives have a delicate, onion-like flavor that makes them best suited for enjoying as a garnish.
Chives vs. Green Onions
Chives and green onions (also known as scallions) may look similar, but they are different. Chive stems are smaller, thinner, solid green, and delicate; you almost never see chives with their bulb end attached. Chives are best eaten raw or very lightly cooked.
Green onions have a variegated coloring that is dark green at the stem end and white towards the bulb end. They are much thicker, longer, and more fibrous than chives.
Green onions can do double duty as both a substitute for onions or a green garnish, like chives. The white end is strongly flavored like onions, but the green end can be as mild as its herb counterpart, the chive. If you don’t have chives, you can use the dark green part of green onions; if you don’t have green onions for garnish, swap for chopped chives.
Varieties of Chives
- Common Chives: When you think of chives or see them packed at the grocery store, you’re most likely dealing with common chives. They grow readily, producing generous clumps of dark green leaves and edible flowers that grow red, pink, white, or purple and also have an onion-like flavor.
- Garlic Chives: Sometimes labeled Chinese chives, garlic chives are different than common chives. They have longer, flat leaves with white blossoms that are plucked before packaging. As their name implies, garlic chives have a more potent garlic flavor. Culinarily, garlic chives can be used just like common chives—as a garnish, puréed into a sauce or dressing, or lightly cooked (such as in dumplings).
- Siberian or Blue Chives: Super-sized Siberian chives are much less common, though they can be used just as you would the smaller common variety. This variety of chives can grow up to two feet tall with a similar dark green color and tube-like shape. Keep an eye out for Siberian chives at the farmers market or local herb farm.
Dried vs. Fresh Chives
Chives are always best fresh! Their potency is lost when cooked and dried. Still, dried chives are readily available at most markets and can be used as a substitute for the fresh variety as needed. Dried chives give up the most flavor when they are rehydrated in a little liquid—think sauce, dressing, or dip—or are gently baked in savory quick breads or biscuits.
A good rule of thumb is to use a third the amount of dried chives as a substitute for fresh (for example, use 1 teaspoon dried chives for every tablespoon of fresh chives).
Where to Buy Chives
Fresh chives are readily available year-round in most grocery stores. You’ll find them packed in small plastic clamshells, plastic bags, or in loose bunches near the other fresh herbs in the produce department. You can find dried chives in the spice section at the store as well as from online spice retailers.
Substitutes for Chives
Dried chives are an easy substitute for fresh chives to keep on hand, but green onions (scallions) make the best substitute for chives. The dark green end has a more mild flavor than the light green and white ends and can be used as a one-for-one swap in all recipes.
Leeks, particularly the Chinese variety, can also be used as a substitute for chives. Seasonally, garlic scapes are a wonderful alternative to garlic chives.
How to Prep and Cook Chives
Chives are best stored loosely wrapped in paper towels in the fridge. Wait to rinse chives until just before using—excess moisture makes them spoil faster. Chives are easy to snip with kitchen shears for garnishing or can be finely chopped with a sharp chef’s knife.
While chives are best fresh, they can be gently cooked to finish dishes, most notably as part of a classic French omelet. Chives are also an excellent candidate for purées and infusions. Chive oil made from blanched and puréed chives and olive oil is a favorite garnish of professional chefs.
The Best Recipes for Using Chives
Here are a few ideas for making the most of chives in your kitchen:
- As a savory sprinkle on baked potatoes loaded with butter
- Mixed into mashed cauliflower just before serving
- Puréed into a creamy dressing
- Stirred into cooked rice for a pop of color and flavor
- Finely chopped and added to a basic vinaigrette
A few more of our favorite recipes using chives: