Leeks are a hearty member of the onion family, known for being vitamin-rich and having a more mild flavor than their punchier cousins. They can add a creamy, almost buttery texture to your soup, and act as an aromatic. They’re popular in soups with costars like potato, turnip, cauliflower, and cabbage.
If for whatever reason, be it allergies, personal preference, inaccessibility, or poor planning, you find that you’re out of leeks, have no fear. There are a number of substitutes for leeks in soup that are at your disposal.
The best substitutes for leeks in soup are onions, green onions or scallions, or shallots if your main need for the leeks is their flavor. You can also use garlic for this purpose, though it won’t be exactly the same. If you’re going more for color or texture, you can sub in celery, spinach, or kale.
Substitute For Leeks In Soup
When you’re preparing a hearty winter soup, the flavor is essential. Especially if your base is something milder in taste, like a potato or cabbage, you’ll want a punch of aromatic creaminess to complete that.
If flavor is why you’d like to use leek in your soup, then your best bet is to substitute something else that is in the allium family. Thankfully that is a rather broad brush to paint with, as alliums encompass over 500 species of plants.
Across the board, it is agreed that one of the best substitutes for leeks are shallots. Small, aromatic, and carrying a delicate flavor, this allium is right at home anywhere a leek would be. While the flavor isn’t a 1:1 match, it is still similar enough that your soup will still succeed.
The best way to replace shallots for leeks in your soup is to ratio them in at 2 large shallots for every 1 large leek. If you have smaller shallots, use 4 instead. Thinly slice your shallots so that they closely resemble the appearance of your leeks. Let them simmer in your soup, and you’ve got a delicious replacement.
2. Sweet Onions
Sweet onions are an easy substitute for leeks in soup, as their flavor notes are very similar. Onions tend to not be as mild or creamy as leeks, with less nuance and subtlety, but they will still achieve a comparable result.
Just as you would with shallots, slice the onion thinly and let it sit with your soup, applying it whenever you would your leeks in the soup’s recipe. This is a one-to-one substitute: use one medium onion for every one leek.
3. White Onion
White onions are a bit sharper than sweet onions, but they can still be used as a viable substitute for leeks in a soup. They will not taste as close as a sweet onion will, and they lack the creaminess of a leek. However, you can still use this as a perfectly fine substitute if it’s all you’ve got onhand.
Since they’re much more potent than sweet onions, lower your ratio. You will want to use ¾ to ⅔ of a white onion to one leek.
4. Green Onion or Scallions
Scallions almost look like a leek that’s been shrunk down in size, and will add a dash of green color that leek would normally bring. However, their minute size is the biggest problem with using them as a substitute. While the taste will be more similar, since green onions are more mild, it will take a lot more of it to make up for the lost leek in your soup.
To be precise, it will take about 6-8 green onions to equal just one cup of chopped leek. Not only is that a lot of chopping, but it is also going to use up a lot of your green onion. If you’re in a pinch, though, green onions will certainly get the job done.
Leading away from the onion train of thought, garlic is a member of the allium family and will make a delicious substitute for leeks. They’re intensely flavorful and will compliment any of the other ingredients you’ve prepared your soup with. The punch they pack is powerful, but it can easily take the place of a leek.
Use two or three cloves of garlic for every one leek in the recipe. If you want to further replicate the leek experience, chop and roast your garlic before adding it to the soup.
If you do not have fresh garlic, you can also substitute garlic powder for leeks. You will come to the same flavor conclusion as long as you taste your soup as you add it in.
Common in the Appalachian areas of the United States, ramps can also be called wild leeks or wood leeks, and are part of the allium family. Their bright green color and thin leaves will meet the leek in terms of color and texture, but what of the flavor?
The flavor ramps will bring to your soup is that of something between an onion and strong garlic. It isn’t as neutral as a leek, but it can act as a suitable understudy in your soup.
As mentioned, ramps are a vibrant deep green color with purple stalks, making them perfect in winter soups. The leaves may wilt slightly in the heat, but they will not lose that vibrancy even when they’ve shrunk down.
As for nutrition, ramps pack a punch just the same way leeks do. They’re rich in vitamins A and C, and contain antioxidant properties. Leeks are just the same, making ramps a perfect substitute in your soup.
Chives taste very similar to leeks, with perhaps a bit more potency. They’re even slimmer than scallions, but because they’re stronger in flavor and aroma, it’s best to substitute less in just to achieve that same taste.
Chives are almost herbaceous in their aroma, meaning they’ll make your soup more fragrant as well.
While fennel seeds are more often used as a spice in cooking, the entire plant can act as a stand in for leeks. The stalks, bulbs, and leaves are edible in fennel and have an anise-like flavor. It has been compared favorably to something akin to licorice.
The taste is admittedly not terribly close to that of leek, but it will still bring a hit of that savory essence to your soup. Slice it thinly and let it cook into your soup base, perhaps balancing it out with onion powder, garlic powder, or chives.
For Texture, Color, Or Nutrition
Maybe you’ve already substituted in a few shallots to cover the needed flavors of your leeks in the brew. However, you no longer have that verdant pop of color, the added texture, or the vitamins leeks can pack. What else can you substitute for leeks in soup that will meet these ends?
We aren’t quite done talking about alliums yet; celery is of the mirepoix family of vegetables, similar to onions and it tastes similar to celeriac.. It’s not a direct relative, but it is at least a second cousin, and it can take the place of leeks in your soup swimmingly.
The strong, almost peppery flavor of celery will step up a cabbage or potato soup. Once more, it will bring splashes of spring-like color to your broth or bases. It will have a different texture, however; anyone who has eaten celery can attest to the chewiness of it.
Make sure your celery is ripe, and that it is not undercooked. Once it’s been cooked in, it will become much softer. Unless, of course, you would like to maintain a bit of crunch to them; if that’s the case, add them later in the cooking process.
Leafy, vibrantly green, delicious, and packed with nutrients, spinach can fill the void left by leeks in a soup and then some.
The leaves can be added in early so they have time to wilt in the broth, making them softer and chewier. Or, you can introduce them into the broth later in the game so that they’re still a little bit crisp. Chopping or tearing the leaves into smaller sections will make it easier to scoop them up from the soup on your spoon.
Spinach is also nutritious. Leeks are full of fiber and water, a trait they share with spinach. Spinach is 91% water, in addition to having very little to no fat content. As for fiber, spinach can provide 10-19% of your daily recommended value.
Kale is a popular addition to soups already, and that can be even more apparent if you use it in place of leeks. When you run out of leeks, the dark green tone of kale will make sure you still get the needed swirls of color in your turnip soup.
The leafy, curly texture of kale effortlessly adds texture to any soup, especially if using a variety like dinosaur kale. It can be wilted or added in fresh depending on what texture will best benefit the rest of the ingredients.
Kale is bitter in flavor, though this does wonders in soups that would normally use leeks like turnip or potato soup. It is also extremely nutritionally dense; one cup of raw kale has 684% of your daily value of Vitamin K.
12. Bok Choy
A Chinese cabbage, bok choy will add the same leafy greens you’re looking for in your soup. Chopped up small, it can even resemble leeks visually. In terms of color, texture, and nutrition, bok choy is an easy alternative to leeks in soup, though it misses out on some flavor.
This can be helpful if you’ve already substituted something like yellow onion for the flavor component. The more subtle, bitter flavor of bok choy won’t overwhelm your soup. A great combination is to add bok choy to your soup for the color, and add in chives for the flavor.
Leeks are a delicious and nutritious addition to any soup, especially winter soups like potato or turnip soup. With a nuanced flavor that is creamy, slightly onion-like, and very mild. Their nutritional value and aesthetics make them wonderful ingredients.
In the event that you find the crisper to be void of leeks, you can find simple, effective substitutes not far away. Onions, especially sweet and white onions, are a perfect stand-in in terms of flavor. Chives and green onions will match the taste, but you’ll need quite a lot of them.
Spinach, kale, celery, and bok choy can dd a bright, leafy nutrition to your soup, and though they do not have the same flavor as leek, they’ll still fill the gaps leftover in your recipe.