Difference Between Scallions and Green Onions and Spring Onions

updated Sep 23, 2022
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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

When we want a hit of less-intense onion flavor, scallions and green onions are our alliums of choice. 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? Green onions and scallions are actually the same; they taste milder than spring onions. To know more, let’s dive into the world of these colorful fresh onions!

Scallions or Green Onions (Image credit: Christine Gallary)

What’s the Difference Between Scallions and 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.

More on Scallions

Spring Onions (Image credit: Christine Gallary)

What are Spring Onions, then?

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.