Green Onions and Chives: What Is The Difference?

Green onions and chives are both delicious additions to any dish in their own right. Both of them have super unique flavors and are delicious on their own as well as in other recipes.

They are sometimes thought of interchangeably, with many [people thinking they are the same thing or at least from the same family.

However, this is not correct. To look at, they definitely have similarities so we can certainly see why people would think that.

For example, in terms of appearance, both are green and thin, resembling flower stems.  However, the differences between them are also prominent.

Whilst both are very thin, chives are much thinner than green onions. Compared to chives, green onions look very thick. Other differences between them include their uses and flavors.

It should be noted that both green onions and chives derive from the same genus, which is the Allium. Plants belonging to the Allium genus include green onions, chives, leeks, shallots, onions, and garlic.

All of these are monocotyledonous flowering plants - yes, that’s right, they all flower! Of course, this is a major indicator that there may be more similarities than first meets the eye. 

The Difference Between Green Onions and Chives

In order to explore these similarities and differences further, we will be using this article to look at both green onions and chives separately, exploring their uses, how they grow, and their appearances among other things.

This will enable you to gain a better understanding of what each of them is before thinking of the differences between them.

They will then be explored together in the conclusion where we will compare them based on the differences and similarities between them. 

So if you have ever been confused over whether you can use green onions in a recipe to replace chives or vice versa, this is the article for you!

Keep on reading to find out exactly what green onions and chives are, and if they can indeed be used interchangeably. 

Green Onions 

Green onions are, as the name suggests, a member of the onion family.

Green onion is a generic name that tends to be given to a number of types of onion, including scallions and green onions. Green onions, no matter what kind they are, all come from the same family of onions.

They are ‘young’ onions, which means that they have not yet grown into white onions. The green stems of these onions often have white bulbs on them. Scallions are a little smaller and thinner than spring onions as they are younger.

Spring onions are left to grow for a little more time, which accounts for their slightly bigger size and bigger white bulb. The shared definition that all types of green onions have is that they have been pulled from the ground before the bulb has formed into the recognizable white onion. 

Green onions have a taste that is, well, oniony. As they are immature parts of a white onion, they do have a similar flavor to those albeit far milder. The milder onion taste makes it a perfect addition to many salads as it will not be as overpowering as a white onion.

They also add great taste to many different recipes and are often used in Asian cooking. They are very delicate and care should be taken when chopping them so as not to bruise them.

As well as this, if you want to use them in stir fries to add a pop of color, as well as flavor, you should add them right at the end so they only cook for a few minutes. Overcooked green onions lose some of their flavors and tend to wilt. 

Both the green stems and the white bulbs of a green onion can be eaten. It is best to chop off the very bottom of the bulb thinly, this will be the part that has roots attached to it. Some people also like to chop off the very top of the stalks.

They should be washed well, even after being bought from a store as the design of green onions means that dirt can get stuck inside in its inside layers.

The bulbs are great to use in stews, soups, and stir fries as they are a little less delicate and can be cooked a little more as they do not wilt.

The tops (the green stems) are more delicate and should be cooked at a lower heat for less time. Both parts are similar in taste but the green stems tend to be a little more mild.

The textures of the two parts of a green onion are also different. The white bulbs have more of a crunch whereas the green stalks are a little softer and more delicate, more closely resembling chives. 

Chives 

Chives are a herb….and since onions are not a herb, this immediately gives us our first difference between them.

Chives are a very popular herb that tends to be used in a variety of different recipes often involving cheese and potatoes.

They are used mostly in Western cuisine, as opposed to green onions which are used worldwide, especially in Asian cooking.

They are a plant that includes a bulb, stems, and a flowering head. Typically the stems are used for culinary use, but the flowering heads can also be used, especially if they are unopened.

They do not tend to be sold in supermarkets or grocery stores with the heads and bulbs attached, though. Typically the bulbs are not used, and the flowering heads are usually gathered from people’s gardens rather than being sold commercially.

Their flowering heads make them very attractive to pollinators such as bees. Thankfully they grow with ease in many parts of the world so bees have plenty of chive flowers to choose from. 

The flavor of chives is mild but distinct. It is often paired with fish, as well as many potato and cheese recipes. It is also used in soured cream and quark as a flavorful dip in many countries across the world. Many potato chip brands have a flavor called ‘soured cream and chive’.

They are very delicate, even more so than green onions, and are best cooked very briefly if you want to use them in a cooked recipe.

Care should be taken when chopping them as they can also wilt and bruise easily. Overcooking them can cause them to lose their distinct but mild flavor.

They are perfectly safe to use raw, and we would recommend using them this way for all of your chive recipes as this way you will be getting the full extent of their wonderful flavor. 

Chives also make the perfect garnish. Their thin, green appearance enables you to give an easy pop of color to many of your favorite recipes whilst adding a pleasant flavor.

We love garnishing mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, sandwiches, and scrambled eggs with chives.

The flowering heads also make a fantastic garnish for salads and because they are also edible they can make for a unique focal point of some of your favorite salad recipes.

The flowering heads have also been used for non -culinary decorations, especially in dried flower bouquets. 

Comparison: so what’s the difference between chives and green onions? 

We have explored both chives and green onions separately, and throughout each of the sections, we have made references to how each of them differs from the other.

However, in order to properly understand the differences between them, we need to bring them together in comparison.

First, let us again make reference to the fact that both chives and green onions come from the same genus, that of the Allium family. This means that they are both grass-like in appearance and produce flowering buds or heads on the top.

They do indeed have some similarities in appearance, due to them both being thin and green. Their green color makes them a popular choice in salads, sandwiches, and garnishes, especially when used raw. 

The flavors of them are both similar, with green onions being described by many to taste like chives, and chives being equally described as tasting like green onions.

That being said, chives do tend to be far milder than green onions and some people think they have a more sulphuric taste and smell in comparison. 

Another significant difference between chives and green onions is the fact that green onions have a longer shelf life than their delicate relatives. Green onions can last up to a week and sometimes even longer in your refrigerator.

You can extend this further and keep them fresher for longer if you wrap the bottom of the green onions (the bulb) in a wet paper towel and pop them in an airtight container.

Chives, on the other hand, can wilt after just one or two days when kept in the refrigerator. It seems that cutting chives away from the main plant gives them a very short shelf life. 

Their uses depend largely on the personal preferences of the chef and what the recipe calls for. Whilst they may have similar flavors, they are not the same, and care should be taken when using them interchangeably.

For example, green onions are far stronger in taste than chives and so if your recipe needs onions for their strength, chives would not be a good replacement.

Likewise, chives are more delicate in taste which is what makes them the perfect choice for a garnish. When raw, green onions have a far less delicate taste and may not be as pleasant when used as a garnish for foods such as potato and scrambled eggs.

The green onion may change the taste of the whole recipe. As well as this, they are used differently in different parts of the world.

The west uses both green onions and chives equally, however, in Asia, green onions are used more commonly than chives are. Green onions are a staple in many Chinese and Thai recipes for example, whereas it is rare to find a recipe using chives. 

In terms of nutritional value, both chives and green onions are similar. Most of the Allium family (onions, chives, leeks, garlic, etc) tend to have similar nutritional benefits.

Both provide vitamin K, both of them are a source of folates, both can provide some vitamin C, and both are thought to contain other important antioxidants that we need to stay healthy.

They are both very low in calories too, and so they provide a very healthy way of flavoring food. Both chives and onions are recommended seasonings for people who are trying to cut down on their salt intake to decrease the amount of sodium they get in their diet.

This is because both are very flavorful and can provide a great substitute for salt. 

Final word 

We are sure that you now feel like experts on these green garden-grown ingredients now, and we are sure that you can agree that both of them are wonderful in their own rights.

For all their similarities, the differences between green onions and chives make them both unique additions to any recipe. Chives vs green onions are an interesting debate. We haven't even gotten into the spring onion, garlic chive, scallion, Chinese chive, shallot, pearl onion, yellow onion, or sweet onions.

We think that the differences between them mean that they should not be used in recipes interchangeably. If a recipe calls for chives, then use chives. If your dish demands the use of green onions, then green onions are what you should use. 

Chives are far milder than green onions, but not only that, they also have quite different textures. Chives also do not take as kindly to being cooked as green onions do.

Whilst both are delicate foods, chives certainly win that battle as they can lose their flavor completely if they are cooked for too long or at too high a temperature.

Green onions are just that little bit hardier and can withstand a little more in terms of heat and cooking time, especially if you use the bulbs of the green onion. 

Remember, even though they are from the same family (the Allium genus) these are two rather different ingredients and should be treated as such.

That being said, they are both delicious and we bet you cannot wait to start cooking with both of them. Also check out:  https://thekitchencommunity.org/substitutes-for-onions/

Cassie Marshall
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