What's The Difference Between Scallions And Green Onions?

Sprinkled on top of everything from nachos to rice pilaf, the bright, crisp rings of scallions add a flourish of color, crunch, and zing. Their delicate characteristics can get lost during cooking, so chefs and home cooks alike turn to raw, freshly chopped scallions as a finishing touch during final plating (per Food Network). They're affordable and plentiful any time of the year, and easy to use (without the troublesome skin and tear-jerking tendencies of their big bulb onion cousins, which we'll discuss later). So, what exactly are scallions, and are they the same as green onions?

First off, it might surprise you to know that the green parts of the scallion we garnish our food with are actually its leaves, according to MasterClass. Scallions get their name from the Greek word askolonion, referring to the port city Ashqelon in Palestine, which back then was onions' epicenter, MasterClass continues. They may have become widespread because they could be harvested before their bulbs were done growing and their tender green leaves became too dry for use. Nowadays, you can find "bunching" onions throughout the year that never develop bulbs, MasterClass adds — along with spring onions, and regular ol' onions. What's the deal?

All in the allium family

MasterClass says that the words "scallion" and "green onion" are essentially the same thing, referring to plants in the Allium family (along with leeks and shallots) — and that the green part is actually the leaves. They generally don't have a bulb, as it's the tops cooks are after, though Healthline reports that scallions may have a white bulb the width of their stem, green onions can have a bigger white bulb, and spring onions have a distinctive, very round bulb that can be white, yellow, or red (per MasterClass), reflecting what kind of onion it will be at maturity.

MasterClass explains that spring onions get their name because of when they're picked, making them a seasonal crop. Eventually, spring onions mature into the large, papery-skinned bulb onions so ubiquitous in world cuisine, and their flavor is between green onion mild and bulb onion pungent, per Healthline. Their subtle sweetness can be enhanced by gentle cooking methods, per MasterClass. They're all rich in micronutrients like folate, vitamins C and K, and antioxidants, Healthline continues — making scallions, green onions, and spring onions all healthy additions to your cooking.

Cooking with scallions and green onions

There are many dishes that popularly use scallions. Food Network reminds us that they have a special affinity for potatoes and sour cream, Mexican cuisine, and Asian dishes like stir fries and soups. Ina Garten's scallion and dill cream cheese is an easy way to get to know the ingredient. They're also beautiful in a focaccia recipe and can easily help elevate a simple bowl of ramen, whether instant or made from scratch. Use them raw wherever bulb onions would be too assertive or make them the star of the show like in Alton Brown's crave-worthy scallion pancakes or Emeril Lagasse's classic Green Onion Tartar Sauce.

Because they're so tender, Food Network cautions home cooks not to crush the leaves when slicing — laying them flat in a single file helps avoid this (they look great cut on a bias). Wash your scallions and trim and discard the root ends and any wilted or discolored parts of the onion. Food Network adds that they'll keep for a few days when wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge, and even longer if you store them at room temperature in a jar with their roots covered in water. Scallions/green onions are just the green, tender tip of the allium iceberg. There's a wide range of versatile and interesting options in the family. Why not try garlic scapes or even ramps if you're lucky enough to find them? They're the garnish gift that keeps on giving!