Like garlic, green onions are packed with flavor. They can be overlooked compared to pungent bulb onions, but they are just as tasty raw or cooked. Green onions should be part of your everyday pantry. Learn about which parts of the green onion to use, different ways to chop green onions, how to store them for freshness.
What Are Green Onions?
Green onions, commonly called scallions, salad onions, and baby onions, are fresh, leafy green onions that do not develop a bulbous root and is widely used in cuisines all over the world. The white part of the green onion is a common flavoring in Mexican, Chinese, Korean, and British cuisine, often serving as an aromatic base of a dish.
Spring onions are not the same as green onions (scallions). Spring onions are the young onion plant before it has developed a bulb whereas many varieties of green onions will have roots that never develop a bulb even at maturity.
Green Onions versus Bulb Onions
Green onions, especially the green parts, offer a milder and sweeter flavor compared to the bulb onion when eaten raw. Green onions taste crisper and more refreshing compared to bulb onions when cooked because they contain less sugar.
How to Prep Green Onions
Rinse the green onion under tap water to remove any dirt and soil. I discard the rubber band and any wilted outer leaves at the same time. You can compost the leaves or freeze them for your vegetable stock.
What Part of Green Onions Do You Use?
The white parts near the roots have the most pungent “onion-y” flavor and add the most fragrance to your recipe. The green leafy parts of the green onion are milder and sweeter, making them ideal for adding texture and garnishing your dish.
For example, in Chinese stir-frying, you often chop the white parts of the green onion and add it to the hot oil along with garlic and ginger. You reserve the green, leafy parts of the green onion for garnishing your stir-fry.
This principle works well for baked potatoes, omelets, tacos, and other dishes where you want to control how strong the onion flavor should be. And as rules are made to be broken, you can play with the white versus green ratio when you sprinkle green onions on top of salads, fried rice, and noodles.
How to Cut Green Onions
Similar to garlic and bulb onions, green onions are stronger if you chop them more finely.
From the least to the most pungent:
- Whole: Whole green onions are great for grilling or making scallion oil
- Cut into thirds: This is common for braising and roasting where the green onion is not the focus of the dishes
- Sliced lengthwise: Useful for steaming seafood like crabs or a whole fish
- Bias chopped: A beautiful shape that makes it ideal as a garnish on top of stews like jambalaya, fried rice, baked potato, and noodles.
- Chopped into “coins” horizontally: This is the most common, all-purpose cut for green onions and works well for baked potatoes, stir-fries, potato salads, omelets, sauces, wontons, as well as garnishing salads, pizzas, and tacos.
- Minced: Ideal for salad dressing or sauces,
- Blended: Ideal for making herb dips, bean dips and hummus, and sauces like pesto (substitute the basil for green onions) where you want the sauce to be very smooth.
TIP: While not as pungent as bulb onions, chopping a lot of green onions, especially the white parts, can cause your eyes to tear up. Check out the onion guide to learn how to reduce tears when chopping onions.
How to Eat Green Onions Raw
Green onions are commonly eaten raw where they add a moderately spicy and clean, crisp taste to your dish. You can roughly chop them or slice them thinly to garnish your dish.
For example, you can use chopped raw green onions to flavor a baked potato, egg salad or tofu salad. You can enjoy raw green onions blended in dips and sauces. You might even see raw green onions chopped into 3-inch sticks (8 cm) and served on a vegetable spread alongside carrots and snow peas.
How to Cook Green Onions
Although green onions are typically used as one of many ingredients in a dish, you can grill green onions and eat them with a squeeze of lemon. When cooked alone, they taste mild with a touch of sweetness.
When cooking green onions in your recipe, you can braise, stir-fry, and steam green onions. Green onions add a subtle onion-y flavor without overpowering your dish the way bulb onions could.
Green Onions Work Well With…
- Creamy dips and soft cheese (cream cheese, goat cheese, and sour cream)
- Fish (Salmon, white fish, snapper)
- Seafood (mussels, shrimp with lobster sauce)
- Ground meat (taco meat, Kari’s shiitake meat sauce)
- Root vegetables (baked potato, carrots)
- Eggs (omelet, scrambled, quiche)
- Salad dressing
- Stir fries (cabbage and tofu, chicken and broccoli, ramen stir fry)
- Noodles (instant ramen noodle soup, upgraded cup of noodles)
Recipes With Green Onions
How to Substitute Green Onions
The closest substitute to green onions is spring onions. You can also substitute with other members of the allium family, including bulb onions, shallots, the whites of leeks, chives, and garlic.
Shallots are sweeter, richer, and stronger than green onions. You can use half a shallot in place of a sprig of green onion.
Leeks have a milder, sweeter, and less onion-y flavor than green onions. You can use the white part of a leek to substitute the green onion in your dish.
If you’re out of green onions for a stir-fry, you can substitute with garlic and/or ginger. It won’t taste the same but those aromatics will add flavor to your oil and add depth to your veggies.
Where To Buy Green Onions
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You can find fresh green onions at any grocery store in the produce section, usually next to other herbs, mushrooms, and bagged salad. You should be able to find fresh green onions in the organic and non-organic produce sections.
Are Green Onions Seasonal?
While you can find green onions year round, they are in season from early spring to summer.
How to Pick Fresh Green Onions
Choose fresh green onions with bright green, tubular leaves and firm white roots and stem. The tips of the green leaves should not be brown or wilted.
My test is to pick up a bunch of green onions. If the green onion can hold itself upright and looks bright green, it is fresh. If it is floppy, then move on.
If you find green onion you purchased a week ago has wilted outer leaves, you can still use the green onion. Just discard the outer leaves. You know the green onion has gone bad when it’s slimy.
How to Store Green Onions
I store my fresh green onions a plastic bag in the fridge because I typically use them within a week.
If you plan to store the green onions longer than a week, wrap them in a damp paper towel and store them in a plastic bag. They should last two weeks with this storage method.
If you cannot use the green onions within two weeks, you can freeze them. But the texture will change so you can only use defrosted green onions if you plan to cook them, such as braise or roast them.
You can prep and chop green onions on the weekends along with onions and garlic to prepare for cooking during the week. Chop the green onions into a variety of sizes and store them in a glass container. They will last a week chopped.
Fun Things To Do With Green Onions
You can store green onions in a glass or jar with enough water to cover their roots. When you chop off some of the leaves, the green leaves will grow back. Leave the green onions near a window where they can get natural light.
The green onions can last longer than 2-3 weeks with this storage method. Over time, it will taste less flavorful as the water lacks nutrients. You can put them in the fridge in the glass of water for even longer storage.
FAQ about green onions
What Can I Do With A Lot of Green Onions?
Sometimes you end up with an abundance of green onions and you can’t use them fast enough. Maybe you don’t want to freeze them because they’ll be soggy. Here are dishes that use a lot of green onions to help you use them up before they get slimy.
- Herb butter with green onions
- Green onion pancakes
- Garlic pesto with green onions instead of basil
- Green onion and cream cheese dip
- Knorr vegetable dip
- Grill the green onions
- Scallion oil
- Braise whole green onions with chicken stock or vegetable broth
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese dip
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