Chives vs. Green Onions vs. Scallions: What’s the Difference?

chives and green onions on cutting board

Understanding the subtle differences between scallions, green onions, and chives can help you improve the flavor of your food. Unfortunately, it is common for these ingredients to be confused with one another because they share many similarities in appearance.

I’ll show you how to identify them, as well as their uses and proper storage so that you can achieve the perfect flavor for your recipes!

What are chives?

bunch of chives on cutting board

Chives are a member of the onion and garlic family and are a type of herb. While they have a flavor similar to onions, they are very mild and not as pungent.

They have hollow and long green stems. When compared to scallions or green onions, they are flatter and thinner. Furthermore, they are frequently sold without the bulbs attached.

finely chopped chives

Chives are available in two main varieties:

  • Fresh Chives – these are widely available and can be found in the herb section of your local supermarket. Fresh chives are often diced and used to garnish mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and crab cake sauce. Because they don’t have as strong a flavor as other onion-type ingredients, you can use them in larger amounts or keep them long, such as in recipes like Vietnamese spring rolls, without them being overpowering.
  • Dried chives – you can find bottles or jars of this variety in the seasonings section. Dried chives can be used in the same amount as fresh chives in recipes. So, if you want to make crab cake sauce but don’t have fresh chives on hand, you can substitute dried chives for the same effect on the appearance and flavor of the dish.

How to store chives

dried drives on paper towel and plastic bag

When you buy chives, it often comes in a pack, and you may end up with more than you need. There are numerous methods for properly storing them to extend their shelf life:

  • Fresh chives can be stored at room temperature for four to six days. In order to preserve their freshness, you should wash and dry them.
  • Refrigerated chives keep for several days, whole or chopped. To avoid soggy chives in the fridge, wash chives immediately before use. Plastic or paper towels can be wrapped loosely around them, and they can be stored in a sealable bag or container in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • You can store chives in the freezer for up to four or six months by chopping them up and putting them in airtight freezer bags. Keep in mind that it will gradually lose flavor as it sits in the freezer.
  • Dried chives will retain their best quality for about 2 to 3 years if properly stored in airtight containers.

What are green onions?

green onion bunches at supermarket

Green onions are young onions with long green stalks and a small white bulb at the bottom. They are larger and have wider stalks than chives. You will find that they have a firmer structure and a more pungent flavor and aroma.

chopped green onions

Green onions are typically sold with the bulb attached and come in two varieties:

  • Fresh Green Onions – these are available year-round in the fresh produce section of your local grocery store. Fresh green onions work best in recipes that call for direct, and sometimes longer, heat, like yaki udon and Vietnamese scallion & oil garnish. In addition to garnishing, these can be used as the primary flavor in a dish. Learn how to cut green onions all of the ways.
  • Dried/Dehydrated Green Onions – you can find dried or dehydrated green onions in the seasonings section. Dried green onions are frequently used as a garnish. If you don’t have fresh green onions on hand to garnish your wonton soup, dried green onions will work just fine.

How to store green onions

green onion on paper towel and plastic bag

Green onions are so inexpensive and versatile that it’s hard not to stock up on a bunch at once. The following are a few ideas for preserving their freshness and quality:

  • When storing the green onions at room temperature, fill a jar or a small vase with enough water to completely cover the root of the green onions. Place the green onions in the water, root side down, and place in an area with plenty of natural light. Every 2–3 days, replace the water. This is also one method to regrow green onions.
  • If you intend to store them in the fridge, remove the root, cut them in half, and wash them. Dry them thoroughly and wrap them in paper towels. Then, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator’s crisper section. They should last for one to three weeks.
  • If you intend to freeze them, remove the root, wash and slice the green onions. Make sure that the white and green parts are separated and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for about an hour or two to keep the green onions from clumping into a frozen ball. Finally, place them in a resealable bag or an airtight container and store them back in the freezer for 3-4 months.

What are scallions?

bunches of green onions

Scallions and green onions are the same. The terms “scallions” and “green onions” are both used interchangeably. The only difference is that stores sometimes label them differently. So, if you’re looking for dried green onions and only find dried scallions, they’re the same thing.

Differences between chives and green onions

Although chives and green onions appear to be similar in appearance and flavor, closer examination reveals significant differences.

Chives:

  • Herb
  • Used as a garnish
  • Thinner and softer structure
  • Milder flavor and aroma
  • Sold without the bulb attached

Green onions a.k.a scallions:

  • Vegetable
  • Used for cooking and as a garnish
  • Longer, wider, and firmer structure
  • Pungent flavor more similar to onions
  • Sold with the bulb attached, meaning you can regrow them!

Can you substitute chives for green onions?

In most recipes, chives can be used as a substitute for green onions. However, chives may not work in all cases. For example, chives may not hold up well in hot oil in recipes that call for frying green onions.

Additionally, because chives are smaller and finer and have a milder flavor than green onions, you may find that you need more of it to substitute for green onions. However, you can easily substitute chives with green onions.

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