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.

By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor and James Schend, Food Editor

Sicilian Steamed Leeks sitting on a dinner table beside a fork

Leeks 101

Whether chopped in a steamy bowl of potato soup or sauteed in a stir-fry, leeks always make us happy. 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. They bring a delicately sweet flavor to foods, milder and more complex than a standard onion.

Test Kitchen Tip: 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.

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.

Test Kitchen Tip: Leeks are available year-round. In the winter, sauteed leeks make a delicious side topped with an egg or a quick sauce.

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 clean 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 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. For more inspiration, check out 44 Ways to Get Leafy Greens into Your Life.