How to tell Green Onions and Spring Onions

Dear Home Ec 101,

I’m sorry if this is a silly question, but is there a difference between chives, scallions, and green onions?  Can I substitute? Does it matter?


Addled Allicae

Heather says:

Here’s a brief rundown that should help.


These are the smallest onions and are grown primarily for the leaves.  They have a somewhat milder flavor than green onions.  It is easy to tell these from green onions as the leaves are usually less than 1/4″ in diameter versus the broader leaves of the green onion. Use these for your most delicate dishes.

Green onions:

These are often called scallions and in the USA can be found in grocery stores under either name.  In Australia, they are often called spring onions.  These have a long green stalk and do not possess a fully developed bulb.  Green onions have a more pungent flavor than chives.

Spring onions:

In America, spring onions have a defined bulb and broader leaves than the green onion.  They are the most pungent of the three.

When cooking, as long as you consider the comparative flavor of the three species in mind, feel free to substitute based on availability and cost.  Use care if you are using a stronger flavored onion for the milder varieties.

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