How to Clean Leeks the Easy Way

Leeks are a hugely versatile veggie. Learn how to quickly clean and prep this delicious ingredient with tips from our Test Kitchen.

Stirred into creamy potato soup or tucked into a pot pie, leeks lend a gentle flavor to any dish. But before you can eat them, you need to know how to prepare leeks—a process that may seem a little tricky at first, thanks to their tightly stacked leaves. Learn how to get the most out of this off-the-beaten-path veggie—no grit included.

First, What Are Leeks?

If you aren’t familiar with them, leeks belong to the onion family. They look a bit like an oversized scallion, with a white-green tubular base and broad, ribbon-like green leaves. Available year round, leeks bring a light, sweet flavor to foods, milder and more complex than a standard onion.

When eaten raw, leeks are crunchy and nutritious. Toss chopped leeks into salads or use to garnish a hearty main dish. Swap a leek for the onions in a soup or casserole recipe, and enjoy the more delicate flavor that results.

Since the leaves are coarse in texture, many people stick to eating the softer pale part of the stalk. But the entire leek is edible. Simply saute the leaves for a while for a more tender bite.

How to Clean a Leek

Because leeks are grown underground, they accumulate sand and sediment in their layers. You’ll want to wash it out before sinking your teeth into this healthy veg. Luckily our Test Kitchen has the dirt on how to prepare a leek.

person slicing the ends off of several leeks using a knife

Step 1: Remove the Ends

Cut off the root end and the tough green top using a sharp chef’s knife. If you’d like, reserve the root for making stock and save the leaves for a saute.

person slicing the leeks down the middle with a knife

Step 2: Slice It in Half

You’ll have the narrow white stalk left. Slice it lengthwise down the middle to form two long, skinny halves. This will expose all the layers in the middle of the leek.

rinsing the halved leeks in a glass bowl filled with water

Step 3: Soak and Rinse

Soak the stalks in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes or so, then rinse under cold running water in the sink. The long soak allows the water to penetrate the leek’s many layers, clearing out all the bits of debris.

Once your veg is all cleaned up and dirt-free, it’s time to get cookin’. Try this Asparagus Leek Chowder or my favorite, Herbed Leek Tart. You’ll find yourself coming up with tons of ways to sneak more leeks into your dishes.

Get Inspired by These Leek Recipes
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Nicole Doster
Nicole is a writer, editor and lover of Italian food. In her spare time, you’ll find her thumbing through vintage cookbooks or testing out recipes in her tiny kitchen.
James Schend
As Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversees the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and manages all food content for Trusted Media Brands. Prior to this position, James worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.