The 4 Differences Between Chives and Green Onion (with Pictures)


You might be considering, on your local supermarket shelf, if you should go for those thin and green chives or for that larger green onion (also called scallion). They look pretty similar, no? Not so fast. Not only differ for their culinary use but also for their aspect and application in your indoor garden. This article has you covered with all the differences you need to know.

Hence, what are the differences between chives and green onions? Chives are an herb while green onions a vegetable that differ for the following characteristics:

  1. Aspect: bulb for green onion
  2. Taste and How to Cook them: stronger flavor for green onion
  3. Flowering: chives have purple flowers
  4. Nutrient facts: chives richer in vitamins

On many occasions, you might be tempted to swap green onion with your available chives. Although this is not a big deal in general, you might need to know the difference to make a proper decision. Let’s dive in!

Chives and Green Onion Are Not The Same

You might be tempted to think that green onion (also called scallion and, incorrectly, spring onion) is the same thing as chives on those supermarket shelves. Indeed, biologically speaking can be defined as cousins. They belong to the same group of a plant (called Allium). However, they are two different species (for the more science-oriented green onion is an Allium fistulosum while chives are an Allium schoenoprasum).

Chives are herb, while green onions are not. A great article explaining what an herb is (and what is not) can be found in Wikipedia.

Now let’s jump on the differences you are looking for!

How Chives and Green Onion Look Like?

Although at first, they might look similar, in reality, green onions and chives are different.

You can immediately recognize green onions from their bottom. They have a white bulb (like a conventional round onion, although way smaller). This is not the case for chives that are entirely green from top to bottom. They do have such a small bulb that is always chopped off when you buy it (if already cut) from the supermarket.

Green onions have a tubular, quite firm, green structure (similar to a straw). This is generally light green. Chives are way thinner, less firm, and darker in color. Like green onions, chives are tubular and hollow inside.

Should You Cook Chives and Green Onion? How do They Taste?

Both Chives and Green Onion present an onion flavor. However, chives are way milder and similar also to leeks with a “grassy” note. The flavor is the same across the whole blade. The same does not apply for green onions. The white part of the green onion is milder compared to the green one.

Also, their reactions to heat were found to be different. Green onions, if heated for more than 5-6 minutes at medium heat (here a youtube video explaining how to cook them), lose most of their flavor. On the other hand, chives lose their flavor if cooked. Moreover, they can develop a strong disagreeable taste (if prepared for a long time, for instance in sauces), get wilt as also claimed by this reliable cooking website.

Given their milder flavor, chives usually are added at the end of a dish (with little to no heating) as a garnish. This allows them to keep their flavor (still mild) and maintain their vivid green color. On the other hand, green onion can be used either as a garnish or stir-fried, although gently. Remember that the cut will change depending on the use (very thin if used for garnish and thicker, or whole when cooked)

Remember to cut off the terminal parts with the roots when buying green onion from the supermarket. Regarding chives, I usually cut away around half of a centimeter from the top as dry.

Flowering: Chives More Ornamental

Both plants do bloom. However, the most common variety of chives found in supermarkets (so-called onion chives) are way more attractive with almost spherical purple flowers with elongated 1-2cm long petals.

On the other hand, green onions, although still spherical, are slightly smaller and with shorter white petals.

To note that many indoor gardeners decide to grow chives also for their purple flowers, that create a pleasant contrast with their deep green bulbs. On the other hand, I did not hear of anyone growing green onion for their aspect.

Chives and Green Onion Nutritional Facts (100g)

The tables below provide the nutritional content for 100g of raw chives and green onion (including the white part as often eat it)

Chive nutritional content for 100 g (from source)

Energy30 kcal
Carbohydrates4.4g
Sugar1.9g
Fiber2.5g
Fat0.7g
Protein3.3g
Vitamin K266% daily intake
Vitamin C97% daily intake
Vitamin A86% daily intake
Folate26% daily intake

Green onion nutritional content for 100 g (from source)

Energy30 kcal
Carbohydrates4.4g
Sugar1.9g
Fiber2.5g
Fat0.7g
Protein3.3g
Vitamin K266% daily intake
Vitamin C97% daily intake
Vitamin A86% daily intake
Folate26% daily intake

The tables show, after calories and most common nutrients, those vitamins in higher concentration. Interesting to notice that chives have a significantly higher level of vitamin A (necessary for the immune system in our body) and vitamin C (crucial for tissue repair) than green onions. This means that you need 3 and 4 times more the amount (and calorie intake) of green onion to have the same amount of vitamins A and C, respectively.

Both chives and green onion provide an outstanding amount of vitamin K, critical in helping regulate blood functions.

Three Chives Types: Two To Not Confuse With Green Onions

When I discussed the taste and aspect of chives, I referred to the chives onion. This is one of the varieties of chives that very likely you will encounter in the supermarket for your daily groceries.

However, differently from green onions, there are different varieties of chives. After onion chives, you might encounter Chinese chives, garlic chives, and Siberian chives. It is essential to recognize them to avoid confusion with green onion.

Chinese chives produce white flowers, and their taste is essentially the same as their most common onion counterpart.

Garlic chives produce white flowers, and their taste is different from onion chives. Although still mild, garlic chives taste more of garlic. Moreover, differently from the other chives, you cannot eat the flower. They are grown only for the green, blade-shaped leaves. Also, their leaves are not hollow as green onion and the other chives varieties.

Finally, Siberian chives are the closest to onion chives with Blue, Mauve flowers, and mild onion/garlic flavor.

Regrow From Food Waste? Easy With Green Onion, less with Chives

Does the idea to grow your own edible at home entice you? Really, it is effortless. I grow basil, mint, onions, chives at home, and I cut what I need whenever I need. Fresh, tasty, environmentally friendly and pests free herbs. This is also forcing me to get creative with recipes to eat more of them, a perfect choice due to their countless health benefits.

You just need a bit of soil, a pot placed in the sunniest place of your house, and you are ready to go (avoid planting in winter). Have a look at this detail propagation guide to see how I propagate mint (the same technique applies to many other herbs).

Supermarket bought green onions are extremely easy to grow. Just make sure to cut around 1 cm, from the very beginning (the roots part). This is the part you usually throw away. Place it into good potting soil (here an article on my best pick for potting soil). After a month, you will have a fully grown spring onion. Why stop to one then? Use all the scraps (usually 6-7 spring onion per package), and you will have onions in abundance with just 2-3 medium-size pot as I did.

Here a quick photo of two of my several green onion scraps that after a week are already growing (they grow fast!)

Supermarket chives are way harder to grow. This because they are sold already cut (without their tiny bulb), and they will not grow if planted into the soil. Hence, in the case of chives, you need the whole plant. In the UK it is a bit difficult, but you might find in some supermarkets already potted chives. If so, just buy them, cut them, and they will grow back (if the ambient temperature is not below 50F or 10C). Of course, it might need a transplant, as detailed in this guide on how to save supermarket herbs, to survive for long.

Can You Replace Green Onion with Chives in a Recipe?

As green onions and onion chives have the same taste, you can replace one for the other. However, given the milder flavor of chives, you might need to compensate by adding more chives to reach the same onion aroma intensity in your plate. As a rough rule of thumb, I would say 10 chives for each green onion (also remember that chives are way thinner) to maintain the same aroma intensity. Of course, here I am talking about green onion and onion chives. Garlic chives have a more strong garlic flavor, for which the swapping is not feasible.

Moreover, you have to remember that chives are way less heat-tolerant than green onions. So if you use them as a replacement of green onion, you might want to add them at the very end.

Chives is often added at the very end of a plate for the highest results

Someone might also mention using dry chives to replace green onion. Dry chives, due to the lack of water, have a stronger flavor compared to the fresh version. Another rule of thumb is that 10g of dry chives can replace 30g of fresh chives. Hence, for one green onion, I would replace with 3 teaspoons of dry chives.

How to Freeze Chives and Green Onions?

Green onion can be frost really easily, straight away as they are. Just cut them, place in a plastic bag or container (freezable suitable of course) and place them in the freezer. Extremely easy.

The same approach can be used for chives. Wash your chives, and dry them. This is important to avoid them to stick to each other once frozen. Then chop them, place in a plastic bag (ziplock even better) or box suitable and straight in the freezer. If you can, try to extract the air if you use a plastic bag.

Some also decide to place them in ice cubes trays filled with water (the herb fully submerged) or oil to be then frozen. Such cubes are quite practical as you will have a small quantity of easy to handle chive-taste oil that you can place, once defrost, on your frypan to cook whatever you want.

Black Bugs On Your Chives?

Taking care and providing the right amount of nutrients to your chives is definitely important for them to be a long-lasting herb on your kitchen counter.

However, pests are always a danger and not much you can do to prevent them as they come when less you expect them.

However, being able to spot them (and understand which pests are involved) is vital to save your herb without wasting all the time and effort in growing it till that stage.

Click in the image below for an article on the most common bugs that typically attack chives.

Related Questions

Can you eat the green part of the green onion? Yes, both the green and the white part of green onions are edible. The main difference is the taste, as the green part has a stronger flavor.

Are the purple flower of chives edible? Yes, the flowers of onion chives are edible and often used in salad due to their vivid purple color.

Further Readings

Chives VS Lemongrass: the 3 Differences (with Photos)

6 Reasons For Your Droopy Chives (and Solutions)

Best Potting Soil

21 Easy Tips To Grow Massive Basil Indoor (applicable to many other herbs, worth a read)

9 Easy Steps To Grow Herbs in Your Basement or in winter (ideal to have chives and green onion all year round)

yuorindoorherbs.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites like mine to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive a small commission when you buy through links on my website. This will allow me to write more and more content on gardening topics (and buy some basil or rosemary :D).

Andrea

A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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