These Braised Leeks make the perfect Spring side dish. They have a sweeter, more mild flavor than onions, and are caramelized before being cooked in a butter, white wine, and lemon sauce. You and your guests won’t be able to stop eating them!
There are few things that say “SPRING!” more than leeks. I mean, ok, maybe tulips and cherry blossoms and birds chirping do, but in the food world, leeks pretty much have it. I really feel like we don’t use leeks often enough. They have such a great flavor, much more subtle than onions. Here they are braised, which means they get nicely caramelized before being cooked in a buttery white wine sauce that makes them totally irresistible. This dish is perfect for your Easter table or any Spring celebration.
These Braised Leeks have a sweeter, more mild flavor than onions.
Leeks are really so striking, right? Did you know that in France they are sometimes called the “asparagus of the poor”? Which is odd, because I’m pretty sure they are more expensive than asparagus here in the U.S. I have no idea why, but maybe it is because they are not in such a high demand, therefore are grown less. I like asparagus as much as the next girl, but if I’m being honest I would probably take leeks over asparagus if given the choice.
One thing to know about leeks is that they really need a good bath before you cook them. Because of the way that they grow, they get dirt and grit in their layers that don’t come off with a quick rinse. The best way to clean them is to cut them first and then swish them around in a bowl (or sink) full of water. Gently pull the layers apart while swishing around in the water, and then you can even let them sit in the water for a few minutes. You will be shocked (and maybe a little grossed out?) by all the dirt and grit that sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Then remove from the water and drain on paper towels.
I used a non-stick skillet that has a lid for this. This is an interesting cooking method. You actually spread a little sugar, plus some salt and pepper on the bottom of the skillet with melted butter. Then you cook the leeks cut side down so that they get browned and caramelized. Then you add some white wine, broth, and fresh thyme and cover everything so that it can steam and simmer away in that flavorful sauce. After the leeks are tender, you remove them and finish the sauce with some lemon juice and more butter.
It is a pretty quick and easy side dish, but it is so elegant and it just feels special. Really, butter, wine, and lemon juice can turn almost anything delicious, but when you start with the gorgeous flavor of leeks it can only get better.
Tools I used for this Recipe (affiliate links)
- 3-4 large leeks
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup chicken broth use vegetable broth for vegetarian
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Trim the leeks of the dark green tops, leaving only the white and light green parts. Halve them lengthwise, leaving the root end intact. Place in a large bowl of water and swish around to remove dirt from the layers. Leave in the water for up to 15 minutes, then remove and drain on paper towels.
- Heat a 12 inch skillet that has a lid over medium high heat (See note). Add two tablespoons of butter. When melted, sprinkle sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Add the leeks, cut side down in a single layer. Cook until getting golden brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
- Add wine, broth and thyme. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Leeks are done when easily pierced with a knife.
- Remove leeks from pan and cover. simmer remaining liquid over medium high heat until thickened, 1-2 minutes. stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and lemon juice. Taste sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Spoon sauce over leeks and serve.
Barely adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Looking for more sides? Try this….
Crispy Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes
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Kara Angell says
Made this for my 18th birthday!! I made homemade butternut squash ravioli, with veggie meatballs and braised leeks. Best birthday meal ever! So happy to have found this recipe
So glad you loved it! Happy Birthday!
Kelly Hayes says
Made these last night (with lamb chops and crispy smashed potatoes) and they were fabulous!! Made such a nice change from the usual green side dish. I was a bit hesitant when I saw sugar in the recipe but realized it’s a very small amount and it really did make a difference for getting a nice caramelization. My husband also loved them and we polished them off! Will definitely be making them again (and again).
So glad you loved them Kelly!
Lesley Singer says
Tried these braised leeks with rack of lamb and roast potatoes, the leeks definitely added to the meal, they were delicious!
That sounds like a delicious meal! Thanks so much Leslie.
Do you think the recipe would still taste great if I had to omit the butter and maybe use olive oil instead?
Hi Jillian – well, probably not AS good 😉 Butter definitely lends a great flavor, but I think it would be OK with olive oil. The only problem with olive oil is you can’t cook it to a very high temperature. It will start to break down and burn if it gets too hot. So you may want to cook it at a slightly lower setting. You could also try using refined coconut oil (be sure to get refined so it doesn’t have a coconut flavor!) Let me know how it turns out!
Recipe looks tasty, but having a really hard time reading it as your social share bar that pops up on the left covers some text -you can’t read the first few characters, including quantities.
Hi Ruby, sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know so I can fix it.
I was excited to try these. However, I followed the directions exactly and the medium high heat burned the leeks and the butter/sugar. I cannot say whether they would have tasted good because they are inedible.
I’m sorry that they burned! They worked well on my stove, but of course all equipment is a little different. I will put a note in the recipe about that. Thanks for your feedback!
I’m so excited to try this! Leeks are very intimidating to me for some reason….lol . Thanks for sharing!
-Clarissa @ The View From Here
Thanks Clarissa! I know they are a little intimidating, I am glad you are going to try it! Would love to hear how it turns out.
demeter | beaming baker says
Let’s be honest though, the food world is the only one that matters. 😉 Forget those tulips and stuff… Haha. I love how you are just so skilled at turning a simple ingredient into this incredible dish. It’s magic, I say! Meanwhile, I did not know that leeks were called “asparagus for the poor” in France. So there’s magic AND learning here! 😉 Great recipe and amazing photography, as always. Have a wonderful weekend, Meghan! xoxo
Full service blog, I tell you! Get your recipe and a history lesson too 😉 Thanks so much Demeter, you are the sweetest! Happy weekend!
Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet says
WHATTTT?!?!? How did I miss this?! OMG Meghan these are delicious! I love how we have the same towel from Target (or at least I think that’s where it was from … I can’t remember). Pinned and making soon!
Haha, I know I always notice our twin towels too. I think I got it at World Market – they have them in a bunch of colors 🙂 Thanks dear!
Amanda @ Sagely Sweet says
I want these right freakin now! Seriously, butter and wine make everything so good. Plus leeks are amazing. Personally, i like putting leeks and asparagus together. I think they’re a perfect match!??
Ooh, leeks and asparagus together, now I love that idea. Thanks Amanda!
Stephanie | The Foodie and The Fix says
These leeks are stunning, Meghan! Perfect for Easter. I completely agree, we don’t use leeks often enough. I use them in some soups and sometimes chicken pot pie, but that’s about it. I love that they’re the star of the show here (plus with these amazing flavors, I mean, come on!). It reminds me of a side dish that I made from a cookbook once called Celery Gratin with Savory Granola. A veg that you don’t often think of to be the star, but it was actually really great 🙂
Thanks so much Stephanie! Underrated vegetables FTW!
Linda | The Baker Who Kerns says
Wow these leeks look like they came straight out of a fancy restaurant! Love the way they look on that plate! And I am surprised that I have never had leeks before! At least I don’t remember having them, they sound like something that my grandmother would’ve have fed me. I have got to go give them a try! They look so pretty and it sounds like they taste amazing and I have some white wine to use up!
Thank you so much Linda! They go AMAZINGLY well with white wine 🙂
Ashlyn | Dollop Of Yum says
Megan, these look so good and are totally getting me pumped for spring! 🙂
Thanks so much Ashlyn!
These look so. You’re darn right I won’t be able to stop eating them. Sweet caramelized veggies are my favorite. Thanks for the little history lesson too!
This is a full service blog. Recipes with a history lesson 😉 Thanks Annie!
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
These look absolutely delicious, Meghan. Not sure why I don’t use leeks more often but that first picture is just gorgeous. Will be adding leeks to my weekend shopping list!
Thanks so much Geraldine!
This is such an appealing recipe!! I’ll definetly be trying it~~as usual, your photos are incredible!
🙂 Thank you!
My Dish is Bomb says
I’ve actually only used leeks once before, and it was for some vegan pizza thing that I totally screwed up and therefore was afraid to use leeks ever again. Ha, ha. But this recipe looks totally approachable and with that chicken broth and white wine in the sauce, the flavours are right up my alley! Asparagus has been so expensive ($7 for a small bunch) here in Canada and I’m all for veggies that are cheaper and taste delicious!
That has happened to me before, where I have a bad experience with an ingredient and then I don’t want to use it again. But I bet you will love it if you try it! Asparagus gets really cheap this time of year here, right now only $2/lb!
I agree! I don’t use leeks often enough even though I love how fresh they taste. I think I get a little intimidated by how thick they are. Looks absolutely delicious!
Thanks so much Megan!