When you head to the farmers market and see those lovely leeks, the cousins of garlic and onions that look like really large green onions, do you pass them by because you’re not sure what to do with them? Stop passing them by. We’ve got all the basics of how to cook leeks so you can add these nutritional vegetables to your diet.


Cleaning and cutting leeks

You need to clean leeks well. Dirt and sand gets trapped in the layers of a leek, and it needs to be removed. Try this method for cleaning leeks.


  1. Cut the green ends off of the leek. (Save for making stock.) Leave the root on the leek for easy cleaning and cutting.
  2. Take a good kitchen knife and starting from about a half an inch up from the root, run your knife all the way up the leek lengthwise, so you cut all but the very bottom near the root in half.
  3. Give the leek a quarter of a turn, and run your knife up it again. The leek will now be cut into quarters, but still held together at the root. The leek should be sufficiently opened up to clean out the dirt or sand.
  4. Place the leek under running water, making sure the water gets in between all the layers or place it in a bowl of water and swish it around until all dirt or sand is removed.
  5. Dry the leek well, and you’re ready to cut it for eating or cooking. Slice the leek thinly up to the root (unless the recipes calls for them to be cut differently) and discard the root.

Once your leeks are cleaned and cut, you’re ready to prepare them using these general guidelines for three three most common ways to cook leeks.


Sautéing leeks

Sautéed leeks can be eaten as a side dish or added to many recipes that call for leeks.


  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan that will hold all your leeks over medium heat, and then add enough butter or oil (or a combination of both) to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Once the butter or oil is heated, add the leeks.
  3. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks are golden brown (but not burnt) and fork tender. About 8-10 minutes should do it.

Roasted leeks

Leeks can be roasted along with other vegetables or alone. When you roast leeks, you want them in large pieces so they don’t cook too quickly or burn.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Trim the root and the greens off the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse under water or in a bowl. Dry.
  3. Drizzle the leeks with olive oil, and toss to coat well.
  4. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast in the oven for 35 for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and brown, but not burnt.

Braised leeks

When you braise any vegetable, you brown it first in butter or oil. Then you add liquid, put the lid on and allow the vegetable to steam in moisture. Leeks respond well to braising.


  1. Trim the root and the greens off the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then widthwise. Rinse under water or in a bowl. Dry.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan large enough to hold all your leeks over medium heat. Add butter or oil to the pan and heat, but do not let it smoke or turn brown.
  3. Add the leeks and brown them in the oil or butter, turning as needed.
  4. When the leeks are browned, add enough cooking liquid (vegetable or chicken broth are common braising liquids) to cover the leeks halfway.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the leeks are fork tender.
  6. Serve, or to create more of a glaze, remove the lid, turn the heat to high and cook off the liquid until the leeks are in a thick glaze.  Note: the glazing method works better with butter than oil.


Have other thoughts for how to cook leeks? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.