The humble leek is given the star treatment with this easy recipe: Left whole for a nice wow-factor, pan-seared to caramelize their flavor, and simmered in a lemony white wine sauce until velvety-tender. Gluten free and vegetarian, these braised leeks make for an elegant and easy side dish to please a crowd!

An overhead photo of braised leeks garnished with dill, crumbled feta and lemon slices on a blue serving platter with a serving spoon. This is surrounded by small bowls of dill and chives, salt, lemon wedges and crumbled feta cheese.
Photo Credits: Mark Beahm

You may be familiar with Potato Leek Soup, but there is so much more this vegetable is capable of! In fact, throughout the Mediterranean, leeks are considered an essential vegetable, on par with onions or garlic. Not only are leeks used as a base for many delicious dishes, but they often are the star ingredient in plant-based recipes, like Turkish Braised Leeks

In this gluten-free side dish, leeks are braised whole for a show-stopping presentation. The cut-side is first caramelized, turning the layers a beautiful golden brown and enhancing their natural sweetness. They then stew until tender, and the remaining sauce is reduced until it bursts with a delicious sweet, savory, and lemony flavor. 

A final sprinkling of dill adds freshness, with feta adding a tangy, creamy balance (and feel free to leave off the feta for a vegan option.) It’s worthy of a dinner party table, but don’t confine leeks to special occasions! This easy leek recipe is also a great way to add more vegetables to your weeknight routine. 

Table of Contents
  1. What are Leeks? 
  2. Ingredients for this Braised Leeks Recipe
  3. Tips for Buying Leeks 
  4. How to Trim Leeks 
  5. How to Clean Leeks
  6. How to Cook Leeks
    1. Get Ready
    2. Sear, then Braise
    3. Finish and Serve
  7. What to Serve with Braised Leeks 
  8. What to Do with Leftover Vegetable Broth
  9. You’ll Also Like: More Leek Recipes
  10. Whole Braised Leeks with Fresh Herbs and Feta Recipe

What are Leeks? 

Leeks are part of the allium family, a family that includes all kinds of onions, green onions, scallions, shallots, garlic, and chives. Even though leeks are available year-round, they are a classic spring vegetable. They are at their best flavor from early spring until early summer. 

Naturally mild with a wonderful delicate flavor, leeks are a great addition to a variety of dishes like risottos, quiches, soups, and stews, as they become slightly sweet and tender after they are cooked.

Leeks are versatile vegetables and besides braising, you can also roast, sauté, or grill them. They can also replace onions and shallots in most recipes. When a recipe calls for pungent white or yellow onions, I like to replace at least one onion with a leek for added mellow flavor.

Ingredients for braised leeks including leeks, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, lemon, white wine, vegetable broth, fresh thyme, fresh chives, fresh dill, and feta cheese.

Ingredients for this Braised Leeks Recipe

Braising leeks whole may give off a celebratory feeling, but the ingredients for this simple recipe are easy to find at most grocery stores. You’ll need:

  • Leeks: Choose smaller-sized, young leeks for the most delicate flavor.
  • Olive oil: Always use high-quality extra virgin olive oil which imparts a rich flavor. 
  • Vegetable broth: Along with the wine broth makes up the braising liquid. It will reduce and concentrate during the cooking process concentrating the flavors so it's best to use a low-sodium broth. You can use store-bought or homemade vegetable broth. Chicken broth also works well but, of course, this dish will no longer be vegetarian. 
  • White wine: Adds complexity to the braising liquid, but you can replace it with more vegetable broth if you prefer (you may just want to add another squeeze of lemon at the end).
  • Fresh herbs: (thyme, chives, and dill): Thyme and chives infuse the braising liquid with great flavor. Dill lifts the richness of the savory cooked leeks.
  • Seasoning: Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to bring out the natural flavor of the leeks.
  • Sugar: Just a sprinkle helps caramelize the leeks.
  • Lemon: Adds a great, bright flavor to the dish. You can substitute with lime juice if you have that on hand.
  • Feta cheese: Adds a delicious tangy creaminess, but leave it off for a vegan option. Use whole feta preserved in brine and crumble it yourself, as it tends to be of higher quality.
A close up photo of braised leeks garnished with dill and crumbled feta.

Tips for Buying Leeks 

Leeks look like a giant green onion! When buying them, try to find small to medium-sized leeks, no more than 1 to 1 ½ inches wide at the thickest part. The flavor tends to be more delicate and the leeks are more tender when cooked. They should have a dark green color at the top. If a recipe calls for 1 pound of leeks, instead of purchasing two large ones, choose three smaller ones, if available.

Things to watch out for when buying leeks as these are all signs of age:

  • Yellowish color
  • Wilted ends
  • Leek feels soft when pressed
An overhead photo of raised leeks topped with lemon slices and chives in a skillet with a serving spoon. Next to this is a cloth napkin.

How to Trim Leeks 

With a sharp knife, trim off ¼-inch of the very tough end of the leek, but keep the root end intact. Peel off the outermost layer of the leek and cut off the top two to three inches of their dark green part, leaving the white and light green part. 

Do not throw out the tough outer leaves and the green parts; instead, freeze them to use in your stocks and broths, along with other discarded vegetables and herbs you might have saved. They will add a wonderful flavor.

How to Clean Leeks

Leeks need to be cleaned thoroughly because lots of dirt and grit gets trapped between the layers of leaves as they grow. It takes more than a quick rinse to clean them:

  • Half the leeks lengthwise with their root still intact, then run them under cool water to get rid of most of the dirt. 
  • For a recipe that calls for sliced leeks: Slice them first and then place them in a bowl filled with cold water and agitate them with your fingers to loosen the dirt.
  • For whole leeks: Place them in a bowl with cold water. Allow them to sit for a while to loosen the dirt. Change the water a couple of times until it is clear. Drain the leeks, shake off any excess water, and pat them dry.
A close up photo of Braised leeks topped with lemon slices and chives in a skillet with a serving spoon.

How to Cook Leeks

You can cook leeks just like onions: grilled, sauteéd, stewed, you name it. For this recipe, I first sear them to develop their flavor. Then I braise them in broth and white wine, cook gently over low heat with a small amount of liquid until tender. Here are the steps:

Get Ready

  • Trim the leeks: Slice off the dark green tops of the 3 leeks, leaving the white and light green parts. Trim the stringy roots but keep the root end intact so the leeks don't fall apart when sliced. Peel off the outermost layer. Cut the leeks in half from the root to the top lengthwise.
  • Clean the leeks: Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the leeks. Swish around liberally to remove the grit and dirt from their layers. Empty the water and replace it with more fresh water. Leave the leeks in the water for a few minutes to loosen up any remaining dirt while you prep the herbs. Then drain and place on a clean kitchen towel and allow them to dry completely. If the leeks are really long, you can cut them one more time across so you have 4 sections instead of two to make them fit into the pan better.A leek cut into 4 pieces on a cutting board with a knife. Next to this is an entire leek.
  • Meanwhile, prep the herbs. Slice a small lemon into rings. Chop enough thyme leaves to yield 2-3 tablespoons, enough chives for 2 tablespoons, and enough dill for 1 tablespoon. 

Sear, then Braise

  • Sauté the leeks: Place a large and deep 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat–one with a lid large enough to fit all of the leeks. When the pan is hot, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the cut side of the leeks with ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. When the oil is hot, add the leeks in a single layer with their cut side down. Arrange the slices of lemon around them. Continue to cook the leeks for about 5 minutes, or until they become golden brown and caramelized. Halfway through, turn the lemons on their other side. Depending on the heat and the kind of skillet you are using you may need a minute or so more to get the caramelization.Leeks topped with lemon slices being braised in a skillet next to a cloth napkin.
  • Braise the leeks: To the pan, add ¼ cup each of wine and vegetable broth, along with the thyme. Season everything with a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for about 15 minutes, carefully flipping the leeks halfway through. Pierce the white part of the leeks with a knife to check if they are done (the knife should not encounter any resistance). If they need a little longer time braising or if your liquid has evaporated, add some more warm vegetable broth or water.Leeks topped with lemon slices and herbs being braised in a skillet next to a cloth napkin.

Finish and Serve

  • Reduce the sauce: Remove the leeks from the pan and place them on a serving platter that can hold them all on one level with the cut side facing up. Scatter the lemon slices around them. Cover with foil to keep them warm. Simmer the remaining liquid in the pan for a few minutes, until it is thickened. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the chives. 
  • Top and serve: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed. Spoon the sauce over the leeks, top with the fresh dill and ¼-1/2 cup crumbled feta, and serve warm.A close up photo of braised leeks garnished with dill and crumbled feta.

What to Serve with Braised Leeks 

Leeks, with their wonderful mild flavor, are a great addition to a variety of vegetarian dishes and they pair so well with fennel–either Roasted Fennel or raw, as in a Fennel Salad. Or try other roasted vegetables like Roasted Greek Potatoes, Roasted Carrots, and Whole Roasted Cauliflower

They are also a great side dish next to any protein, especially Broiled Salmon!

An overhead photo of braised leeks garnished with dill, crumbled feta and lemon slices on a blue serving platter with a serving spoon. This is surrounded by small bowls of dill and chives, salt, lemon wedges and crumbled feta cheese.

What to Do with Leftover Vegetable Broth

This braised leek recipe calls for ¼ cup of vegetable broth, which will leave you with about 3 ¾ cups of vegetable broth if you use a standard carton or more if you make broth from scratch. Here are some ways to use it:

Use leftover dill to make Asparagus Risotto, Butter Beans, or Creamy Cucumber Salad.

You’ll Also Like: More Leek Recipes

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Whole Braised Leeks with Fresh Herbs and Feta

Marilena Leavitt
An overhead photo of braised leeks garnished with dill, crumbled feta and lemon slices on a blue serving platter.
This easy recipe lets leeks be the star of the show! The sweet and savory onion-like vegetable is first seared to concentrate the flavor, then braised in an aromatic wine sauce until tender and delicious. And while this makes for an excellent side to fish or meat, you can also serve as a vegetarian main for 2-4 with a protein-packed bean salad, rice, or flatbread.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 30 minutes
Total – 40 minutes
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 4 people, as a side
Course:
Appetizer, Side

Ingredients
  

  • 3 medium leeks
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 small lemon, sliced into rings
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • ¼-1/2 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese

Instructions
 

  • Trim the leeks: Slice off the dark green tops of the leeks, leaving the white and light green parts. Trim the stringy roots but keep the root end intact so the leeks don't fall apart when sliced. Peel off the outermost layer. Cut the leeks in half from the root to the top lengthwise.
  • Clean the leeks: Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the leeks. Swish around liberally to remove the grit and dirt from their layers. Empty the water and replace it with more fresh water. Leave the leeks in the water for a few minutes to loosen up any remaining dirt while you prep the herbs. Then drain and place on a clean kitchen towel and allow them to dry completely. If the leeks are really long, you can cut them one more time across so you have 4 sections instead of two to make them fit into the pan better.
  • Sauté the leeks: Season the cut side of the leeks with the sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place a large and deep 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat–one with a lid that’s large enough to fit all of the leeks. When the pan is hot, add three tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the leeks in a single layer with their cut side down. Arrange the slices of lemon around them. Continue cooking the leeks for about 5 minutes, or until they become golden brown and caramelized. Halfway through, turn the lemons on their other side. Depending on the heat and the kind of skillet you are using you may need a minute or so more to get the caramelization.
  • Braise the leeks: To the pan, add the wine, vegetable broth, and fresh thyme. Season everything with a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for about 15 minutes, carefully flipping the leeks half way through. Pierce the white part of the leeks with a knife to check if they are done (the knife should not encounter any resistance). If they need a little longer time braising or if your liquid has evaporated, add some more warm vegetable broth or water.
  • Reduce the sauce: Remove the leeks from the pan and place them on a serving platter that can hold them all on one level with the cut-side facing up. Scatter the lemon slices around them. Cover with foil to keep them warm. Simmer the remaining liquid in the pan for a few minutes, until it is thickened. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice and chives.
  • Top and serve: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed. Spoon the sauce over the leeks, top with the fresh dill and crumbled feta, and serve warm.

Notes

  • Leftover leeks can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 141.7kcalCarbohydrates: 9.7gProtein: 1.9gFat: 10.6gSaturated Fat: 2.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6.9gCholesterol: 5.6mgSodium: 120.7mgPotassium: 136.2mgFiber: 1.7gSugar: 2.8gVitamin A: 952.7IUVitamin C: 20.2mgCalcium: 73.4mgIron: 1.6mg
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Yum! We normally plan our dinners by choosing the protein and planning around it. When we found this recipe, we knew we had to make it and planned everything else around it. We served the leeks over baby Yukon gold potatoes. Delicious!