The Difference Between Chives, Scallions, and Green Onions

Green, pungent, and full of flavor, chives, scallions, and green onions are must-have ingredients in the kitchen. But are they all the same? Let’s dive into the similarities and differences between these three culinary delights.

How Chives, Scallions, and Green Onions Compare

While these three ingredients may seem similar, there are distinct characteristics that set them apart.

Scallions and Green Onions

Despite the confusion, both scallions and green onions refer to the same ingredient. The only difference lies in the naming. These plants grow in a slender, elongated form with white bottoms and green tops. Some green onions are young forms of the bulbing onions we love, while others are specially cultivated varieties that never form a bulb. Farmers harvest them by pulling the entire plant from the ground, resulting in whiskery roots dangling from the end. The white bottoms of scallions and green onions have a slightly stronger flavor compared to their tender green tops.


Chives, on the other hand, are a completely different plant species. While scallions and green onions are considered vegetables, chives fall into the herb category along with parsley and basil. Chives are thinner and more delicate than heartier green onions, and the entire plant is green, without the white bottoms. Farmers harvest chives by cutting the leaves near ground level, allowing them to regrow for subsequent harvests.

Types of Chives

There are different types of chives available:

  • Common chives are the most familiar variety with mild onion flavor, featuring round and hollow green leaves.
  • Garlic chives have a subtle garlic flavor and can be identified by their green, flattened leaves.
  • Siberian chives are similar to common chives in taste, but their leaves are longer and bluer in color.

What About Spring Onions?

Spring onions are another allium to consider. Unlike the slender chives, scallions, and green onions, spring onions have a small bulb near the roots. They are essentially the immature form of bulbing onions and come in yellow, white, and red varieties. Green onions can eventually grow into spring onions, and if left in the ground longer, they will form larger onion bulbs. Spring onions have a pungent yet sweet taste, which varies depending on the specific variety. If you can’t find green onions, spring onions can make a suitable substitute.

Tips for Storing Chives, Scallions, and Green Onions

Despite their differences, these plants should be stored in the same way to maintain freshness. Since they are fresh and filled with water, they are more prone to wilting, drying out, and rotting. It’s best to store them in the refrigerator. Place the chives or onions in an airtight plastic bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing, and store them in the crisper drawer. This method should keep them fresh for one to two weeks.

How to Cook with Chives, Scallions, and Green Onions

Knowing the differences is one thing, but knowing how to use them in the kitchen is another. Chives and green onions are best enjoyed raw due to their fresh and delicate nature. Sprinkle chopped chives on baked potatoes, scrambled eggs, or roasted chicken. Slice scallions and use them to top tacos, ramen, stir-fry, or potato salad.

You can also find recipes that highlight the unique flavor of these crisp alliums. Cheddar and chive biscuits add a twist to traditional flaky buttermilk biscuits, combining sharp cheese with the freshness of chives. And if you have a bunch of green onions, try making savory scallion-infused pancakes.

Learn More About Your Ingredients

The onion family offers a diverse range of flavors, so it’s understandable if you need help navigating scallions, chives, and other alliums in your cooking. Online cooking classes from Escoffier Home Gourmet and America’s Test Kitchen are available to teach you about new ingredients and guide you through exciting recipes. With over 300 courses, you can find something suitable whether you’re a beginner or an experienced chef. If you have aspirations of becoming a professional chef or opening your own restaurant, consider enrolling in a degree or diploma program at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Now that you’re familiar with chives, scallions, and green onions, get ready to elevate your culinary creations with these versatile ingredients!

This post was originally published on February 27, 2019, and has since been republished.