The Difference Between Spring Onions, Scallion, Chives, Leeks, And Green Onions

Do you know which is which?

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ILLUSTRATOR Roselle Miranda

Onions are a common vegetable in the Pinoy kitchen. Not as common are its green leafy cousins the green onions. You'll find these are commonly treated as garnishes instead of an actual ingredient in dishes.    

You might think you know that green onions are called spring onions, but is there really a difference? Are green onions the same as leeks but just bigger? What's a scallion and what is a chive, too?   

If you have ever wondered, we have the answers to these questions. All of these green stalks are alliums or part of the allium family. They may look interchangeable and the good news is that, to tell them apart, you do not need to know the scientific names of each to differentiate them. 

Here is how you can tell if it's green onion, spring onion, leek, chive, or a scallion:  

Green onions are literally young onions or the immature onion plant.
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Green Onions aka Scallions aka Spring Onions 

If you are familiar with green onions, you should be familiar with spring onions and scallions. That's because these are all the same thing just with different names. Allium fistulosum or the green onion is literally the young stalk of an onion. The green onion stalks, complete with the bulbs, can be harvested from either young white or red onions. The bulbs won't develop and show their white and red varieties until it's a more mature plant. 

This is a leek, which is not a green onion.
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Leeks are not green onions. While both are considered part of the onion family, these are two different herbs. Known scientifically as allium porrum, the leek looks like a large green onion stalk. Even the young and thinner leeks are much bigger than green onions would be.

Size isn't the only difference between these two plants. There is a considerable difference in the way that leeks grow compared to the green onions. You'll notice that leeks develop a distinctive fork as the plant grows from bulb to its leaves.   

Chives are not the same as green onions.
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Chives are actually another kind of plant altogether from the green onions and the leeks. It has a different scientific name (Allium schoenoprasum) from the garlic, onion, and leek plants. Chives are sometimes called "onion chives" because that's what chives tastes like. However, it's not a green onion. 

There are actually two kinds of "chives" you might find in the market: chives and garlic chives or Chinese chives. You might sometimes be fooled into buying garlic chives instead of real chives.

How can you tell which is which? 

If the chives still have the bulbs attached, it's probably garlic chives because these are harvested freshly cut from the bulb. That's because the bulbs will regrow the stalks even when cut. 

Garlic chives aka Chinese chives have flatter leaves than chives.
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If you look at the plant itself, the green leaf blades of the garlic chives are flat compared to the real chives which are hollow and circular. The stalk of the chives is also much smaller, thinner, and much greener throughout the stalk than the stalks of the green onions or even the garlic chive. You can tell chives apart from the garlic plants as well as from the flower buds these sometimes have. If you allow the buds to flower, chives sport purple flowers while garlic chives will have white flowers

Are you still confused, especially between chives and green onions? If you still are, be content that while these may be different, you can use either one in your recipe. The difference may truly only be to your taste. 


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!


Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here.

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