From buttery baked potatoes to savory Asian stir fry recipes, chives and scallions are a kitchen staple, but have you sometimes found yourself wondering, “What’s the difference between chives and scallions?” In this article, we’ll settle the chives vs scallions debate.
Chives and scallions are pretty similar in both appearance and taste. Scallions usually have a slightly more powerful oniony flavor, while chives tend to be milder. Both have long green leaves, and scallions have a small white bulb or stem at the base.
They produce purple blossoms in late spring to early summer that are edible and have a milder aroma than the leaves. Scallion flowers are much larger than chive blooms.
The green tops have many culinary uses, both as a main ingredient and as a garnish. Read on to learn how to differentiate between chives vs scallions and what to use as a chive or scallion substitute. You’ll also discover some of our favorite recipes using chives and scallions.
Is There a Difference between Chives and Scallions?
Although they are often used in similar ways in the kitchen, chives and scallions are different species of plants. They belong to the onion family, along with bulb onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots.
Both chives and scallions grow in large, perennial clumps. Growing scallions and chives in full sun to partial shade is best and they require well-draining, nutrient-rich soil.
While they’re relatively drought-tolerant, be sure to keep them regularly watered for the best results. Chives prosper in USDA hardiness zones 3-10, and scallions are ideal for USDA hardiness zones 5-9.
Chives and scallions are incredibly healthful veggies. They’re an outstanding source of numerous vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin A promotes bone, eye, and skin health. Vitamin C boosts the digestive and immune systems. Vitamin K supports bone strength and facilitates healthy blood clotting.
Folic acid helps improve cognitive function, and eating fiber-rich food keeps you feeling full longer, which aids in weight loss.
The numerous benefits of Alliums like chives and scallions don’t end in the kitchen. They’re also helpful companion plants around the garden.
Their strong scent repels common insect pests like aphids, bean beetles, mosquitoes, squash bugs, spider mites, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. In addition, they also repel four-legged invaders like deer and rodents.
What are Scallions?
Here’s where common names sometimes make plant identification more challenging. The term “scallions” is used interchangeably with bunching onions, green onions, spring onions, and Welsh onions.
These common names may indicate Allium fistulosum, which is a species of perennial, non-bulbing onions. They also sometimes refer to regular onions, or Allium cepa, that are harvested prematurely before forming a large bulb.
Other than this horticultural distinction, the scallions that you buy at the grocery store look and taste nearly identical. When dealing with scallions vs spring onions, Allium cepa green onions might have a slightly stronger flavor.
Scallions most often get used in dishes like omelets or stir fry. The green tops hold their texture better than chives when cooked, and the white part is chopped up and incorporated in most recipes.
Although planting scallions outdoors in the garden is often what we think of, regrowing scallions in water on your kitchen windowsill is an easy and fun DIY project.
The best way to plant green onions or scallions is to cut the stem where it turns from green to white, and place the bulb with white roots in a shallow jar or glass of water. Within a few days, you’ll see new green leaves sprouting. Learning when to harvest scallions is easy, as you can trim the green ends whenever they are long enough to snip.
If you’ve got a dinner party or potluck coming up, try this simple recipe for creamy Parmesan dip. Enjoy it with chips, crackers, or a veggie tray.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese, sour cream, grated Parmesan, chopped green onion, and Italian seasoning on low speed until smooth and fluffy.
Cover the bowl with a dishcloth, paper towel, or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Transfer your Parmesan dip to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped green onion if desired.
If the dip is too thick after refrigeration, stir in one or two tablespoons of milk. Serve immediately, or prepare up to 24 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.
What are Chives?
Chives, or Allium schoenoprasum, grow long, thin leaves and don’t form a bulb at the base.
The slender green stems and leaves are frequently used as a garnish for side dish favorites like baked or mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, fresh salads, and hearty soups. Chive blossoms have a mild onion flavor and make a colorful addition to your salad mix.
Garlic chives belong to another species in the onion family, Allium tuberosum. They’re sometimes called Chinese chives. While regular chives are known for their mild onion taste, garlic chives have a strong garlicky zest. Add some chives in the garden for companion planting with garlic or tomatoes.
These allium family members develop a small, fibrous bulb that is inedible. Just the green tops get used for cooking.
Garlic chives are a prevalent ingredient in many Asian recipes. Whether it’s for a Valentine’s Day dinner or just an average weeknight, spice up your menu with this fiery tofu stir fry.
First, prepare the sauce mixture. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, sugar, and white pepper.
If you’re using meat instead of tofu, preheat the wok until it’s smoking. Add one teaspoon of olive oil and sear the slices of meat until just cooked, then set aside.
Otherwise, heat the wok over a medium flame, then add the olive oil and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. After another 30 seconds, add the pieces of tofu or pre-cooked meat and stir fry for about one minute.
Toss in the garlic chives and turn the flame to high for one more minute, stirring constantly. Add your sauce mixture and cook for 30 more seconds or until the garlic chives are wilted. Season to taste with freshly ground sea salt if desired, and serve immediately.
Flavor Profile of Chives vs Scallions
In general, scallions have a stronger aroma and flavor than chives. Chemically speaking, sulfuric compounds called thiosulfinates give Alliums like chives and scallions their unique tang and odor.
Varieties with higher concentrations of these compounds have a more pungent taste. Another difference between chives and scallions is their pungency once cooked.
Chives are typically are used raw or dried because they lose much of their savor during the cooking process. In contrast, scallions retain their oniony flavor through various cooking methods.
There’s nothing quite as soothing as a rich, steaming bowl of hot soup. Try this quick and easy recipe for Japanese miso soup with scallions next time you get a soup craving.
In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the water and stock (if using) to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and tofu and allow them to simmer for about five minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
Place a quarter-cup of the hot broth in a separate bowl and whisk in the miso paste until it’s fully dissolved. Stir it back into the remaining broth along with the chopped scallions and a splash of soy sauce.
Serve immediately. Store any leftovers you may have in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to five days.
It’s critical to wait until you’re ready to serve your soup to add the miso paste. Even if it’s only for a short span of time, cooking breaks down some of the nutrients and beneficial bacteria that give miso its valuable health benefits.
Ingredients to Use as a Chive or Scallion Substitute
Since they’re such similar veggies, it’s possible to use chives as a scallion substitute and vice versa. Since chives have a milder flavor, it’s best to increase the quantity to achieve a similar result.
If you don’t have chives or scallions on hand, use other types of onions. Leeks make an adequate substitute for scallions in cooked dishes, but their fibrous nature makes them unsuitable for eating raw.
A smaller quantity of diced red or yellow onions is a suitable switch for fresh chives or scallions. White onion tends to have the most robust zest.
The difference between chives and scallions is subtle, but the distinctions between taste and texture are noticeable.
While chives are a leafy herb harvested for savory green leaves, scallions are bunching onions that don’t form a large bulb. Their leaves are typically larger and have a more intensely pungent aroma.
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