What's the Difference Between Scallions, Green Onions, and Spring Onions?

What's the Difference Between Scallions, Green Onions, and Spring Onions?

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Christine Gallary
Mar 18, 2015
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

When we want a hit of less-intense onion flavor, scallions and green onions are our alliums of choice. (And Asian and Mexican food wouldn't be the same without them.) But what are spring onions — and are they the same thing as scallions?

Speaking of which, are scallions and green onions also the same thing? Let's dive into the world of these colorful fresh onions!

Scallions or Green Onions
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Scallions or Green Onions

Green onions and scallions are actually the same thing! They are either harvested very young from the regular bulb-forming onions we are familiar with, or they can come from other varieties that actually never form bulbs.

Scallions are long, with a white stem end that does not bulge out. They have an onion-y but mild bite that is not as intense as regular onions (the white parts contain the most intense flavor). They can be used raw or cooked, and while some cooks discard the darker green tops, the whole thing can be eaten, and is often used in Asian cooking.

Scallions are usually available year-round. Look for a bright color, undamaged leaves, and firm stem ends.

Spring Onions
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Spring Onions

Spring onions, on the other hand, look similar to scallions, but you'll notice that they have small onion bulbs at the base. These onions come from the varietals that produce bulbs and are basically more mature versions of scallions. They are planted as seedlings in the late fall and then harvested the next spring, thus the word "spring" in the name.

Spring onions are sweeter and mellower than regular onions, but the greens are more intense in flavor than scallions. The bulbs can be red or white, depending on the varietal, and while they can be used in much the same way as regular bulb onions, they are great grilled, roasted whole, or used like pearl onions.

Why the Confusion?

There is often confusion about whether or not green onions and spring onions are the same thing, and this might stem from the fact that green onions are called spring onions in other countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Can You Substitute One for the Other?

The flavors and textures of scallions and spring onions are similar, but keep in mind that they have a different intensity of flavors. I don't recommend using spring onions in place of scallions if the scallions are left raw, as spring onions have a stronger flavor.

If you're planning on cooking the scallions or spring onions, however, then the cooking will mellow and even out the differences, so they're fairly interchangeable for this use.

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