Tender leeks and carrots, braised in a flavorful olive oil sauce with garlic, cumin, and fresh herbs. This easy leeks recipe is my take on a Turkish dish called zeytinyağlı pırasa, and it is comforting in the best way possible!
What do you do with a leek?
People confuse leeks with green onions. Leeks do look sort of like giant scallions, but they’re not exactly the same. They are alliums like onions, shallots, chives, and garlic. You can think of leeks as a sweeter, milder onion in terms of taste. What’s not to like?
Most people know about combining potatoes and leeks, especially in soup, but very few people use leeks beyond that. I’m excited to show you a new way to use leeks, an easy and delicious Turkish-style leeks recipe with carrots and garlic swimming in olive oil!
The inspiration for this recipe came from my Turkish friend and cookbook author Ozlem Warren. She had posted a simple braised leeks dish on Instagram, and I decided to try it my way. Served at room temperature with nothing more than a hunk of crusty bread and a side of lemon wedges, this leeks recipe won my heart! And I’ll say this right now: Good extra virgin olive oil will make a difference here, I used our Hojiblanca Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is fruity and moderately intense.
In this post
Turkish-style leeks: Zeytinyağlı pırasa
This leeks recipe – known as zeytinyağlı pırasa – falls in the category of food known in Turkey as zeytinyağlı yemekler, which means “olive oil dishes,” where vegetables are swimming in good olive oil. I can’t think of anything better! (By the way, other parts of the Mediterranean have similar dishes. In Greek cooking, for example, they call it lathera, which means “ones with oil,” like my earlier fasolakia recipe).
In this braised leeks recipe, sliced rings of leeks and carrots are quickly braised with some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and a little bit of rice until tender, and then finished off with more extra virgin olive oil! So you’ll definitely need to use the best quality olive oil you can find as it will make a big difference in flavor. Try our Spanish Hojiblanca EVOO, a moderately intense oil with a fruity taste and peppery finish.
Ingredients you’ll need for this leeks recipe
- Extra virgin olive oil - A medium-intensity EVOO with a nice peppery finish is a good choice here, like our Hojiblanca Spanish Olive Oil.
- Large leeks - Leeks can be quite dirty, so be sure to rinse them very well. I usually start by giving the whole leeks a good rinse. Then, I cut them into ¼-inch rounds (the white and light green parts), put them into a bowl filled with water, and swish them around to dislodge any soil that clings. Drain in a colander.
- Carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds - Tender carrots add some sweetness and bright color.
- Garlic - You’ll need 3 large cloves, minced.
- Spices - Earthy cumin and slightly spicy, sweetish Aleppo-style pepper pair well with the oniony leeks.
- Rice - I used arborio rice, but long-grain rice would work as well (uncooked). You only need 2 tablespoons, so the starch can help thicken up the braised leeks.
- Lemon - You’ll need the juice and zest of 1 lemon. The acidity in lemon juice brightens all the flavors in this leeks recipe, and helps to balance the sweetness of the carrots.
- Fresh parsley - For more bright color and a little pepperiness.
How to cook braised leeks
- Saute the vegetables. Heat ¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan until shimmering. Add 3 large, cleaned leeks and 2 to 3 carrots, both of which should be cut into ¼-inch rounds. Add 3 minced garlic cloves. Season with kosher salt, black pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Don’t forget to stir regularly.
- Braise the vegetables and rice. Add 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons uncooked rice, and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Let the leeks and carrots simmer for 15 or so minutes, until the rice is cooked and the veggies are tender.
- Cool and serve. Once zeytinyağlı pırasa has cooled to room temperature, stir in ½ cup fresh parsley, grated lemon zest, and a generous drizzle of EVOO. This vegan dish is best when served at room temp or even cold.
- Grated tomato - Grated tomato will add a little more sauciness to the braised leeks, as well as delicious umami.
- Red wine vinegar - Some recipes use a splash of red wine vinegar in addition to lemon juice for a little extra acidity.
- Add some lean meat - I like to keep these braised leeks vegan, but, If you like, you can add some lean ground beef or chopped up cooked chicken.
Ideas for serving braised leeks
All you need alongside this leeks recipe is a wedge of lemon and a few slices of crusty, rustic bread to sop up the delicious olive oil sauce. But zeytinyağlı pırasa is also light enough to serve with some baked fish or grilled chicken.
Leftovers and storage
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Since these leeks in olive oil taste better at room temperature (and best when cold), you can enjoy it straight out of the fridge! No need to reheat.
With heart-healthy compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more, leeks are a great addition to a healthy diet. They are also a good source of nutrients and soluble fiber.
Typically, just the white and light green parts of the leek are eaten. However, the dark green parts can be used in homemade broth or can be cooked longer to soften them. Keep in mind that they are quite bitter. In this recipe, you'll only need the white and light green parts of the vegetable.
Start by washing the leeks thoroughly. Leeks tend to have a lot of dirt and soil in all the crevices, so follow my instructions above to clean them properly. Then, lay the leek on a cutting board and grab a sharp knife. Cut off the root end. Next, find the spot where the dark green leaves meet the stem, and cut them off as well. You’ll be left with the white and light green stem, which you can then slice into rounds or half-moons as required. For this recipe, I went with ¼-inch rounds.
Similar recipes to try
Easy Turkish-Style Leeks Recipe in Olive Oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large leeks, cleaned well and trimmed, whites and tender green parts sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 2 tablespoons rice, I used arborio rice, rinsed
- Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- In a medium saucepan heat ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the leeks, carrots, and garlic and season with kosher salt, black pepper, and the spices. Toss around and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring regularly as needed until the leeks and carrots soften just a bit.
- Add 2 cups of water, the rice, and lemon juice. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the vegetables are fully tender.
- Let the leeks and carrots cool down to room temperature, then stir in the fresh parsley, lemon zest, and another good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Variations - Grated tomato will add a little more sauciness to the braised leeks, as well as delicious umami. Some recipes use a splash of red wine vinegar in addition to lemon juice for a little extra acidity. I like to keep these braised leeks vegan, but, If you like, you can add some lean ground beef or chopped up leftover chicken.
- How to serve braised leeks - All you need is a wedge of lemon and a few slices of crusty, rustic bread to sop up the delicious olive oil sauce. But it is also light enough to serve with some baked fish or grilled chicken.
- Leftovers and storage - Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Since these leeks in olive oil taste better at room temperature (and best when cold), you can enjoy it straight out of the fridge! No need to reheat.
- Visit Our Shop for quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices (like the cumin and Aleppo-style pepper used in this recipe).