Sauteed Leeks

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These sauteed leeks transform the humble leek into a super delicious vegetable side dish. Ready in just 15 minutes with only a few ingredients, these leeks deserve a spot at the table.

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Get ready to fall in love with your new favorite vegetable side dish! These leeks sauteed with butter and garlic have a sweet and mild onion flavor that works with almost any main dish. They make a fun addition to any holiday spread tastes so much better than the more traditional pearled onions. 

Let's talk about leeks. When it comes to overlooked vegetables, leeks may be number one. They are for so much more than soups! In fact, you can use them just about anywhere you would use an onion.

Leeks are alliums and are closely related to garlic, chives, shallots, and onions. They have a similar flavor but it is really mild and slightly sweet. They are affordable, versatile, and really delicious when cooked the right way. 

Leeks - Your New Favorite Side Dish

If you love onions, it’s definitely time to give this overlooked vegetable a prime spot on your menu.

  • Onion’s cooler cousin: The best mild, sweet onion flavor with any sharpness or pungency.
  • Quick and easy. Ready in just 10 minutes with 5 ingredients
  • Unexpected. Surprise people at the holiday table with a new side dish to try
  • Versatile: Add sauteed leeks to eggs, pizzas, pasta, rice, and more!

Looking for more easy recipes for sauteed vegetables? Try this Sauteed Cauliflower, Carrots, Broccoli, Peas, and Mushrooms.

Leeks sautéed in butter and served with Parmesan cheese in a bowl with garlic and herbs on the side.


Here is everything you need to make this tasty vegetable side dish.

  • Fresh leeks: Always start with fresh leeks and make sure to clean them well and trim off the tough green leaves.
  • Butter and olive oil: The combination of butter and olive oil adds richness to the dish without the leeks getting greasy. The butter also enhances the sweetness of the leeks. You can swap in another oil, use all butter, or use ghee.
  • Garlic: Garlic and leeks are from the same family and adding garlic to the dish, brings out the garlicky flavors that are naturally in leeks. Leave it out or use garlic flavor for a more mild flavor.
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes: Kosher salt and fresh black pepper bring out the flavor. The red pepper flakes are completely optional and only add them if you want some spice.
  • Parmesan cheese: The nuttiness of the Parmesan is delicious with these buttered leeks. It is completely optional but really tasty. If you add Parmesan cheese, be careful about how much salt you add.

How to Prepare and Clean Leeks

Leeks grow in the ground and tend to have a lot of dirt trapped inside. Therefore it is very important to clean them well.

  • Only the whites and light green parts: Always start by trimming the leeks and removing the dark green tops. The tough green leaves at the top of the leeks are tough and fibrous, and not great for eating. Cut them off the leeks and save them for vegetable stock. Also, trim the stem end.
  • Rinse well: Slice the white section of the leek in half and rinse in water to remove any dirt, using your fingers to separate the leaves and loosen any dirt. You can also slice the leeks into smaller pieces and rinse them in a colander. Once rinsed, dry them well. Some people soak leeks in a bowl of cold water for 10-15 minutes, stirring them a few times to remove the dirt. This works but takes longer than simply rinsing then,

Recipe Tips and Ideas

To make the most delicious leeks, make sure to follow these tips.

  • Do not overcook the leeks: When they are cooked too long, they can get gummy. Make sure to only cook them until they are tender but not disintegrating.
  • Let them caramelize: To get those delicious, browned bits, make sure to let the leeks cook without stirring them for a few minutes. Then stir the leeks when they begin to brown.
  • Add more flavor: Like caramelized onions, leeks taste great with fresh herbs. Consider adding some fresh thyme or rosemary to the dish. You can also add a splash of white wine to the pan to flavor the leeks.
  • Add bacon or pancetta: Bacon and leeks are a really delicious combination. Start by cooking chopped bacon (or pancetta) until crispy. Remove the bacon and cook the leeks in the bacon fat. Yum!
  • Add more vegetables: Like onions, leeks make other vegetables even more delicious. Consider adding mushrooms, spinach, parboiled potatoes, or corn.
  • Creamed leeks: Creamed leeks are a classic French dish. Once the leeks are tender, simply add 1/4-1/2 cup cream to the pan along with the Parmesan cheese.

Butter sautéed leeks in a bowl topped with parmesan cheese with a silver spoon.

What to Serve with Sauteed Leeks

Much like onions, leeks can be paired with almost anything. Here are some favorite dishes to serve with this delicious side dish.

Leftovers and Storage

If you have any leftover leeks, they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat them over medium heat in a skillet or in the microwave. Add them to eggs, sandwiches, grain bowls, and salad.

Do not freeze cooked leeks. They will get mushy and gummy after being frozen and reheated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about leeks.

Leeks are a vegetable from the allium family and are known to have anti-inflammatory characteristics similar to onions and garlic. They are also high in magnesium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K. They also have copper, iron, and folate. Leeks have more calories than onions, with about 54 calories per cup. They have 1.6 grams of fiber and 1.3 grams of protein in one cup.

Leeks and green onions are sometimes confused since a leek looks like a larger green onion. However, leeks are a different vegetable with a milder flavor than green onions. They can be used interchangeably in cooked recipes but it is much more common to use raw green onions than raw leeks, which can be hard to chew. 

The white and light green parts of the leeks are best to eat. The dark green tops are tough and fibrous. They are best used for stock, but not for eating. 

Bowl of sauteed leeks with garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper.
The Recipe
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Sauteed Leeks

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  • 4 leeks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste, optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)

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Prepare the leeks. Trim the root end of the leeks and trim the dark green ends, You want the white and light green sections. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse well to remove all dirt and debris. Dry well. Slice into ½ inch slices.

Leeks being sliced into 1/2 inch pieces on a cutting board.

Heat the olive and butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the smashed garlic clove and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Garlic and red pepper flakes being added to butter and olive oil in a pan.

Add the leeks and stir to coat. Leave the leeks undisturbed for 3-4 minutes so they can begin to caramelize on the pan. Then continue to saute the leeks, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender and beginning to brown and caramelize slightly on the edges. This should take 7-10 minutes. Do not overcook or the leeks can get gummy.

Leeks in a large skillet being stirred with a wooden spoon.

Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Leeks sautéing in the pan with butter and olive oil.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 140
Calories from Fat 76
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 13mg
Sodium 132mg
Total Carbohydrate 13g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 4g
Protein 4g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
1 Comment
On Sauteed Leeks
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Sandy E.
November 11, 2022 - 15:56
Add a Rating:
Yum! I love onions but never thought to make leeks. These were delicious and I loved the addition of the Parmesan cheese.
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