Leeks are easy to overlook. They tend to come off as little more than overgrown green onions or those things you only think to buy when making a stock. In fact, leeks often seem content playing a supporting role, fading into the background while flashier vegetables steal the spotlight.
As unassuming as they are, leeks do have merits that distinguish them from other alliums: they’re sweet and tender (especially smaller, younger ones) and don’t pack the bitter pungency and bite of their onion-family relatives. And when cooked gently and carefully—not over or under—they glide and slither like silk. You could even eat them on their own, aided by a simmer in broth or a peppy vinaigrette.
From eggy frittatas and soufflés to rustic and hearty braises, there are plenty of ways to let leeks shine. Here are eleven recipes where they come out of their shell (or, er, stalk) and shed their humble reputation.
1. Carrot, Leek, and Parsley Mash
Leeks are in season from mid-fall through winter—precisely the time for enjoying hot and heavy root and vegetable dishes. You can pair them up with tender mashed carrots, for a side dish that will fit in at any cold weather feast. Get our Carrot, Leek, and Parsley Mash recipe.
2. Braised Leeks
Leeks don’t need much to transform into a stellar, standalone dish— a simmer in broth with a knob of butter and sprinkle of herbs is enough to take them to their tenderest heights. Get our Braised Leeks recipe.
3. Pan-Seared Halibut with Wine-Braised Leeks
You could easily pair leeks with a number of different meats, but their delicate character seems especially appropriate next to a light and flaky fish like halibut. Get our Pan-Seared Halibut with Wine-Braised Leeks recipe.
4. Potato-Leek Soup
Potato leek soup is one of the classics—the ultimate example of a plain pureed soup that isn’t anemic or flat. The combination of starchy potatoes and ultra-smooth leeks at once is rich and light, providing plenty of body without feeling weighed down at all. Get our Potato-Leek Soup recipe.
5. Olive Oil–Roasted Leeks
If you want to get to the true essence of the leek, try roasting it. Not only does it bring out the stalk’s inner sweetness, it concentrates that flavor further, finishing it off with caramelized golden-brown edges. Get the recipe here.
6. Baked White Cheddar and Leek Dip
A creamy, cheese-based dip is a bonafide magnet for crudités and crackers. This leek and sharp cheddar version fancies things up a bit, going above and beyond your standard spinach or artichoke renditions. Get the recipe here.
7. Bacon Brussels Leek Pizza
Bacon may go with everything, but that statement might be exceptionally true when it comes to leeks. The duo steals the spotlight on this pizza, which is rounded out by mozzarella, Brussels sprouts, and a generous schmear of roasted garlic. Get the recipe here.
8. Potato and Leek Galette
The crisp golden brown potatoes that make the top and bottom layer of this galette hide the treat that lies in between: pieces of tender leek, sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Get the recipe here.
9. Leek, Mushroom and Parmesan Phyllo Pies
Leeks and portobellos fill out and bring loads of savory flavor to these phyllo-wrapped hand pies without calling for any meat. Get the recipe here.
11. Chard and Leek Frittata
Is this frittata strictly a brunch dish or could you get away with serving it for dinner? Either way, it goes to show that leeks can be a star attraction at any meal of the day. Get the recipe here.
12. Ham, Leek and Gouda Soufflés
Fluffy and golden and cheesy and lovely: no, it’s not a baby animal, but a puffy soufflé, filled with leeks, ham, and gouda cheese. Get the recipe here.
Header image: Braised Leeks from Chowhound
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.