The Smart Cook's Guide to Scallions, Including How to Shop for and Store These Popular Onions

Get to know this versatile allium.

scallions on beige background
Photo: Bryan Gardner

They're sold in grocery stores all year round, so it's easy to take scallions for granted, but you absolutely shouldn't. Members of the onion family, these edible bulbs are from the genus known as alliums, and they're relatives of shallots, garlic, ramps, leeks, chives, and all common varieties of onions. Unlike yellow or white onions, scallions have a milder flavor and can be eaten raw in salads or used as a garnish. They also take well to all kinds of cooking techniques. Though scallions are also called green onions, it's important to note that they are not the same as spring onions. (You can tell the difference by sight: Scallions are generally the same thickness all the way through, while spring onions feature white bulbs at the root end.)

Ready to start enjoying this delicious allium? Here's what you need to know to choose, prep, and use scallions smartly.

What to Look for When Shopping for Scallions

Scallions are sold in grocery stores year round, but for the freshest varieties, look for them at farmers' markets from early spring (they are among the first vegetables to appear in the calendar year) throughout the summer. Look for scallions with firm, stiff green leaves and bright, glossy white stalks; avoid those with wilted or dry-looking tops, and skip any with tips that look yellow or brown. Purple-bulb scallions are sometimes sold at farmers' markets in the spring; they taste the same as garden varieties, but make especially appealing garnishes.

How to Store Scallions

Scallions do not last as long as most onions. For best results, use them within a few days of purchase; they can last a little longer if stored properly. Once you bring a bunch of scallions home from the market, remove the rubber band, then wrap them loosely in damp paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Trim away any withering tops or scaly outer peel before storing.

How to Prep Scallions

If your scallions have papery skins (known as tunics), scrape them off with the edge of a paring knife. Cut away the roots and, depending on the recipe, slice crosswise or lengthwise.

Scallions are often described in two parts: The stronger tasting white ends and the milder greens. Many recipes call for the whites and greens to be chopped and kept separately, then added to the other ingredients at different stages in the cooking process. If the ingredients list simply calls for "scallions," you don't need to separate them.

How to Use Scallions

Scallions have a milder flavor than so-called storage onions (the common yellow, white, and red varieties), which makes them uniquely suited to all kinds of preparations and cooking techniques. When eaten raw, scallions introduce spicy, fresh, green notes to savory dishes, whether sliced and tossed into green salads, vegetable dishes, or cooked grains, or scatted over soups and noodles as a finishing touch.

Like other members of the onion family, scallions can be cooked any number of ways. They take well to stir-frying, sautéing, roasting, grilling, braising, and creaming. Their versatility also allows scallions to pair nicely with multiple flavors, including ginger, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, corn and bacon.

Though they are often relegated to the sidelines, scallions are the main attraction in savory pancakes, breads, and pastries.

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