How to cook with and store fresh scallions

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Fresh scallions add a vegetal allium flavor to a variety of dishes. They offer a fresh, savory flavor similar to onion or garlic. With just a few snipped scallions, you can impart a bright, crisp flavor to dishes from roasted meats to salads.

A bunch of green onions with roots and stems intact, lying on a rustic wooden surface.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Selecting fresh scallions

Scallions, also known as green onions or spring onions, have long, vibrant green shoots and small, white bulbs. They are fragrant, with a mild scent that is likened to onion and garlic.

Scallions are perennial herbs that belong to the onion family, which means they are available year-round. Once scallions have reached at least 6 inches in height, they can be trimmed with gardening shears or kitchen scissors.

Whether growing herbs inside or in an outdoor garden, scallions are among those that are easy to grow. Make sure to cut off the outer leaves of the scallions, not the inner ones, so that they continue to grow new shoots. You can buy them at the grocery store any time of the year.

A display of fresh vegetables, including bunches of green onions, radishes, and leafy greens, at a market.
Photo credit: YayImages.

When buying scallions, choose bunches that are bright green in color, pliable and fragrant. Be sure there are no black, brown or moldy spots and that the shoots are not dry or brittle. Avoid containers with excess moisture, as this can lead to mold growth.

The taste of scallions

Scallions, like onions, are a member of the allium family, which also includes garlic and chives. Scallions have a milder and more subtle flavor than onions or garlic. They are most similar in taste to chives.

Cleaning scallions

To clean fresh scallions, start by getting rid of any dry or damaged shoots. Throw away any packaging, like rubber bands or twist ties. If you see any shoots with black, brown or dry spots, remove them and throw them away, too. 

Then, rinse the scallions under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. After that, you can either use a salad spinner to dry them or gently pat them dry with a kitchen or paper towel.

Storage suggestions

Unlike hardy herbs such as thyme, oregano or rosemary, scallions are considered soft herbs. Soft herbs need to be stored with special care to preserve their flavor and texture and prolong their life.

A bunch of green onions with white roots on a light background.
Photo credit: YayImages.

One good way to keep fresh scallions is by putting them in a glass of cool, clean water in the fridge or on the counter. You can cover them with a sandwich bag to prevent the green portions of the scallions from wilting. Remember to change the water when it becomes cloudy.

“Chop the root edge of your scallion and put it in a glass jar with water and place the jar where there’s a bit of sun. It’ll grow back!”

— Shruthi Baskaran-Makanju, Urban Farmie

Scallions can also be stored in a damp paper towel in a plastic or reusable silicone bag and in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Alternatively, you can dry them by using a food dehydrator, an air fryer or in a bowl in a cool, dry place. Simply snip the scallions into the bowl and let them dry completely before storing them in an airtight container for later use. 

Freezing is another option. Slice them and place them into an ice cube tray, then cover them with cold water and freeze. You can use the frozen scallions in soups, sauces and stews.

Culinary uses for fresh scallions

For soft herbs like scallions, it is best to add them towards the end of cooking. Usually, scallions are sprinkled on top of a dish once it’s done. 

Scallions are a popular garnish for baked potatoes, potato salad, roasted vegetables, seafood, roast chicken, pork, beef or lamb dishes. You can also sprinkle them on soups, stews, pasta or rice dishes. 

A white bowl filled with potato salad, garnished with chopped green onions and pieces of bacon. Another bowl of salad is partially visible in the background.
Photo credit: Two Cloves Kitchen.

Fresh scallions are used in many cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean and German cuisines. They are also used widely in North American cuisine.

Final thoughts

Scallions are a tender herb used across many cultural cuisines. They are prized for their fresh, subtle allium flavor. You can find scallions in grocery stores all year round. Look for bunches with vibrant green leaves that are fragrant. Avoid bunches with brown or black spots, dry shoots or those with too much moisture in their packaging.

You can keep scallions fresh by storing them in water or in a damp paper towel, but make sure to clean them well first. You can also dry or freeze them for later use.

Scallions are best used as a garnish. People often use fresh scallions to top dishes like baked potatoes or seafood. Whether you grow them yourself or buy them from the store, try adding scallions to your meals this week for a bright, savory, vegetal flavor you’re bound to love.

Gen La Rocca is a professional chef, writer and editor living in Southern California. She is the owner and recipe creator behind Two Cloves Kitchen, a food site featuring contemporary, California-inspired recipes. She has edited over 20 novels, short stories and essays for publication.

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