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How to Cook Leeks: Sautéed Leeks and Celery

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How to Cook Leeks on

Yikes! Take a look at that muddy mess of leeks! Soil or grit in food is the culinary equivalent to nails scratching a chalkboard. Yet buried beneath that dirt and soil are real kitchen treasures. Leeks are used as a base for soups, stews, stocks, and sauces. They can be poached, chilled, and served as a sophisticated salad or sautéed and served as a warm vegetable. Leeks are a great addition to your kitchen repertoire as we transition from winter to spring. This week, I’ve paired them with celery for a delicious, yet decidedly simple and inexpensive side dish, Sautéed Leeks and Celery.

How to Clean Leeks

How to cook leeks? Well, the first question has to be “how to clean leeks?” It’s not as simple as running them under cold water — the soil may be between the layers. And, simply placing them in a colander won’t work either. All that does is move the dirt around. Sounds like leeks are a lot of trouble? Well, check out this easy way to clean leeks. You’ll never cringe at a bite of gritty leeks again.

How to Cook Leeks on

Trim away the dark green tops and root bottoms.

How to Cook Leeks on

Slice the leek lengthwise, then into half moons.

(The trimmed portion can also be sliced lengthwise into julienne for similar results.)

How to Cook Leeks on

Place the half moons in a bowl of cold water and swish them around so the dirt falls to the bottom.

How to Cook Leeks on

Lift the half moons from the water, leaving the grit behind. Repeat until the water is completely clear. (BTW, this technique of submerging in water is the same way I recommend to clean dirt from salad greens, winter greens, and herbs, as well.)

All in the Allium Family

You may have seen leeks before in the produce department and haven’t been quite certain what to do with them. Leeks are a member of the onion family and are related to shallots, garlic, chives, and scallions. They are very harsh and tough when raw. When cooked they are much sweeter with a more delicate flavor, and can be used in nearly any dish that you would use an onion. Look for leeks with fresh bright dark green tops and glossy white ends with small roots. Store them unwashed in the refrigerator. When time to cook, simply peel away the tougher outside layer, just like with an onion or scallion. They are absolutely beautiful when cooked, varying from the palest green to ivory-white. And, they literally seem to melt away, becoming smooth and creamy.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy this week’s simple, flavorful recipe for Sautéed Leeks and Celery. If you give it a try, let me know what you think and please make sure to tag me on Instagram @virginiawillis.

Bon Appétit Y’all! 

How to Cook Leeks on
Sautéed Leeks and Celery

Sautéed Leeks and Celery

Leeks are often unassuming. They often tend to anchor a dish, providing flavor and depth, but rarely star. This recipe for Sautéed Leeks and Celery lets the leek take center stage and allows the flavor of the leeks to shine through. This dish would be wonderful with broiled fish, seafood, and simple roasted chicken.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Side Dish, vegetable
Cuisine: French, healthy
Keyword: leeks
Servings: 4
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, more if needed
  • 8 leeks, cut into half moons, cleaned, and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 8 stalks celery, ends trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock or reduced fat low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper


  • Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Add the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the white part of the leek starts to become translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds.
  • Add the celery, chicken stock and fresh bay leaf; stir to combine. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the leeks and celery are tender, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in additional butter, if desired. Serve immediately.

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photographs by Virginia Willis

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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