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

by Charlie
Chives and Green Onions

When it comes to looks, it’s quite easy to distinguish between chives and green onions.

What’s the difference between chives and green onions? The main difference between the two is the appearance. Chives are long, slim, and solid green stems, while green onions are longer, thicker green stems with white roots.

However, when it comes to using, many don’t really see the difference between them. Green onions and chives seem to be interchangeable ingredients in any recipe. And people readily use whichever of the two is available at the time of cooking.

Green onions and chives are both related to onions, and they are closely related to each other. Their green stems have highly similar tastes. These have that light, onion-like flavor.

Green onions are otherwise called scallions (American usage). Sometimes though, it is used as a general term for other herbs/plants like it, for instance, spring onions.

Green onion is an immature onion, which is the small narrow white bulb you see at the bottom of those long, hollow green stems (or leaves). Spring onions are not the same as green onions. They have grown a little longer and so the bulbs are a bit larger compared to the bulbs that green onions have. They also have a stronger flavor than green onions and chives.

You should know that other professional cooks differentiate green onions, scallions, and spring onions according to bulb size. Scallions are the ones with the thinnest bulbs. Green onions have larger bulbs compared to scallions. Spring onions have round bulbs, and they are larger than scallions and green onions.

What are Other Differences Between Green Onions and Chives?

There are more differences between these two. Firstly, chives don’t have onion bulbs at the ends, but green onions do. Producers cut the bulbs before packaging chives for sale. That is why you don’t see any white-colored bulb at the end of their stems.

Secondly, chives are usually eaten raw or slightly cooked. But you can enjoy green onions raw and/or cooked into dishes for a longer time. Remember that chives lose their flavor when the stems wilt due to overcooking, so heat them briefly.

Thirdly, green onions can last longer in the refrigerator while chives don’t. You can keep your green onions in the fridge for up to one week. But it is best to use chives in a day or two. We should mention that you can extend the shelf life by wrapping them in a paper towel and stored in an airtight zip bag before placing them in the refrigerator.

Lastly, green onions belong to a separate subfamily. Chives and green onions are found in the same plant family (Amaryllidaceae) and genus (Allium). But green onions belong more to the Subfamily Allioideae, where Welsh Onion (A. fistulosum) belongs. Unlike regular onion plants, this subfamily does not produce round bulbs, even if you leave them in the ground to mature. These plants will always develop straight white bulbs.

It is also interesting to know that chives are the smallest plant among other varieties in the onion family.

Which is Better to Use Green Onions or Chives?

It all depends on what you are preparing and what you are after. Chives are your best choice if you’re looking for a garnish or something to finish off your prepared dish. In this case, use chives at the end of the cooking time to flavor and top off your cooked meal.

What are Ways to Cook with Chives and Green Onions?

Chop your chives or green onions in small bits and use them to garnish your cooked eggs, baked potato, salads, salad dressings, dips, and more.

Cheese and chive croissants are great to have any time of the day. Serve them with a hot drink if you like.

Mix some green onions in, particularly the white part when cooking your soup or stew, vegetable stir fry, and even sauces. They also make great pancakes (sometimes called scallion pancakes). You can also mix them in crab pancakes.

Both chives and green onions make great garnishes for any potato dish and omelet. You can also garnish your steamed or fried rice with chives or green onions.

However, if you’re preparing a rice dish with meat, vegetables, and other ingredients, it is best to use green onions since you’ll probably cook the rice for a long time. Green onion is your best choice in that case because it can stand the heat for long, plus, it will enhance the flavor and aroma of your rice dish.

If you’re enjoying a cold winter or rainy evening, treat yourself to some creamy potato and chive/green onion soup.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Grab a medium-sized pot and melt a small square of butter in it.
  2. Drop some chopped green onions. Let it heat up and soften a bit to release some aroma.
  3. Drop some chopped potatoes and mix for a minute.
  4. Add some vegetable stock. Use the ratio of 1-part potato and 2-parts stock.
  5. Bring to a boil. Then simmer in low heat.
  6. Stir once in a while to prevent any ingredient from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the potatoes are soft enough to mash, start mashing them.
  8. Mash and simmer until you get a desired consistency or texture for your soup.
  9. Mix some cream in according to preference.
  10. Season with salt and pepper. You can optionally add paprika.
  11. Garnish with chopped chives, then serve.

Final Thoughts

  • Chives are long, slim, and solid green herbs.
  • Green Onions are longer than chives. They have thicker, hollow stems, which are green at the top and white at the bottom.
  • Green onions have immature bulbs at the ends, but chives don’t have any bulbs at the ends.
  • Chives are best eaten raw or slightly cooked.
  • Green onions both taste good when raw or cooked into dishes.
  • Chives don’t last long in the refrigerator. They’re good only for a day or two.
  • Green onions can last for a week in the refrigerator.

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