If you’re confused about the difference between chives vs. green onions vs. scallions, or spring onions, you’re not alone.
Confusion on plants often arises when there are multiple common names for the same plant. For that reason, it can be helpful to identify the scientific name for the plant in question, also called botanical or latin name.
Green onions, spring onions and scallions are all of the same plant Allium fistulosum, (genus Allium and species fistulosum). The main difference is the age at harvest, imparting milder to stronger flavors that are interchangeable in any recipe, and is truly a personal preference based on size and intensity of flavor desired.
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, have a more delicate onion flavor, and are a different species, and the only true herb of the onion family.
That said, there are definitely preferred uses for chives over green onions and vice versa, depending on the food its paired with.
Chives Vs. Green Onions
The main difference between chives vs. green onions, etc., is that chives are used as an herb and onions are used more as a vegetable. The other difference between chives vs. green onions is that chives are best as a fresh garnish and best not cooked.
Chives are more delicate so to cook chives is a bit like cooking lettuce… they just disintegrate and become more mushy than flavorful, without contributing much to the whole. Scallions, green and spring onions on the other hand are great used raw or cooked from the bulb to the tip of the green stems or stalks, which hold up when cooked, yet aren’t too tough or strong eaten in raw foods such as salads, sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres.
The Green Onions Vs Scallions Vs Spring Onions Vs Regular Onions
The main difference between the bulbous green onions is age:
- Scallions are the youngest of the green onions with a scant bulb the width of the stalks.
- Green onions are the middle child, harvested further along in age, with a slightly wider, somewhat oval bulb.
- Spring onions are the eldest child, planted in fall and harvested in spring, with a larger, rounder bulb.
Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences in these types of onions. Keep in mind, that since we’re talking about basically the same plant but harvested it at different times, the exact length of growing time will vary slightly from gardener to gardener and region to region, and is also dependent on the usual conditions affecting plants, such as amount of sunlight and water.
Further, the common names for these are often used interchangeably. While spring onions are the oldest, longest growing member of the green onion family, you’re as likely to find scallions in the store with the label “Spring Onions”, and vice versa, or, labeled as “Green Onions”.
The simplest and most widely used name for this plant is “green onion”, which is inclusive of its younger self, the scallion, and also its older self, the spring onion.
|Chives||Scallion||Green Onion||Spring Onion||Onion|
|Bulb Qualities||small, not edible||narrow white tender bulb||ovalesqe med. size bulb||larger round tender bulb||large|
|Practical Use||herb, garnish||cooking, garnish||cooking, garnish||cooking, garnish||cooking|
Perennials Zones 6-9
|Spring planting avg. 90 days||Spring planting avg.20-30 days||Spring planting avg.40-50 days||Late summer planting avg. 60-80 days||Spring planting avg. 150 day|
What are Chives?
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a perennial herb classified in the Allium genus along with traditional onions (A. cepa), garlic (A. sativum), and leeks (Allium ampeloprasum).
Chives consist of small bulbs that produce slender, hollow leaves that taper at the ends and grow beautiful purple flowers. Only the leaves are harvested for eating purposes.
When Should You Use Chives?
Use fresh chives for any recipe where you want a delicate and savory garnish. Few embellishments match the aesthetics and flavor of diced chives.
Use finely-chopped leaves or longer fragments to garnish eggs, soups, fish, avocado toast, and stir-fries. Mix them into dips, spreads, and salads for a milder flavor. And of course, use them to top baked potatoes along with sour cream or butter.
What About Garlic Chives Vs Chives?
Garlic chive plants, Allium tuberosum, are an easy to grow perennial that grow well in shade or sun. The edible garlic chive stems are flat like miniature ramps as compared to the round tubular shape of chives.
Chive and garlic chive stems and flowers are edible and ornamentals and garlic chives can be used as you would regular chives but for a definitely garlic flavor. Garlic chives can be strongly flavored so use less to start for just a hint of garlic and add more to taste.
RELATED: You might enjoy this great article on growing garlic.
What are Green Onions?
Green onions are slender, hollow, green leaf stalks stemming from a thin, white bulb.
Most dictionaries define green onion as a young onion pulled before its bulb forms.
While people do pull onions (Allium cepa) early and use them like green onions, there is a more traditional green onion out there- Allium fistulosum. This species matures into a slender onion with no bulb or with a slight bulb.
When Should You Use Green Onions?
Use green onions in cooking or as a garnish.
The white ends hold up better over heat than the green stems, so they often cook alongside other aromatics such as garlic. The greens are usually eaten raw or added in the last couple minutes of cooking.
Green onions are popular in Asian cuisine, soups, breads, sauces, and salads. They add a tangy, onion flavor, but aren’t as pungent as regular onions, such as red, yellow or white onion. Instead, they impart a delicate oniony flavor to any dish.
What are Scallions?
Scallions are identical to green onions (Allium fistulosum). Oregon State University asserts that scallions and green onions are interchangeable names that vary depending on region.
However, some people insist that scallions are immature green onions with tender, perfectly straight shoots.
Confused? It’s okay. You’re not alone. Green onions and scallions are the same thing, but not everyone agrees.
The difference is negligible, but for a perfectionistic chef, it might be a source of contention.
I can see it now: the chef shakes a fistful of onions in the air and cries,
“I specifically asked for scallions! These are thick, slightly-bulbous green onions!”
To make matters more confusing, sometimes traditional onions (Allium cepa) are harvested prematurely (before their bulbs form) and sold as green onions/scallions, but they are technically a different species.
Onions masquerading as scallions? The scandal!
Chives vs. Green Onions or Scallions – What’s the Difference?
Green onions are larger and tougher than chives. These scallions can withstand higher cooking temperatures, while chives are too delicate for high heat and are best eaten raw, or added at the end of cooking, such as a topping for food like soups, potatoes and fish.
Also, green onions contribute a stronger flavor than chives but not as strong as traditional bulbous onions.
The stalks of both chives and green onions can be employed as a garnish, but the herb quality of chives offer a more elegant presentation, being of smaller size, and more easily integrated into each bite.
Nutritional Differences Between Chives and Green Onions
Overall chives are modestly more nutrient dense than green onion tops. Both are excellent sources of Vitamin A, C, and K, but chives do have a higher concentration of each.
|%DV 100g Chives||%DV 100gGreen Onions(tops only)|
For the most part, chives contain more minerals than green onions, especially manganese, but green onions have a slight edge on iron levels.
Chives (100g) also have 1.5g more protein but are definitely not a go-to protein source.
While chives are more nutrient dense, the portion size of chives in dishes tends to run small compared to green onions. Practically speaking, we are likely to intake greater levels of nutrients from green onions than chives because we eat them in higher quantities.
You will find differing opinions on green onions and scallions, but they are the same thing and can be used interchangeably. Not chives. Chives are in the onion family but are a different species.
In application, both chives and green onions can be used to garnish and flavor dishes, but green onions can be cooked whereas chives are too delicate to withstand the heat.
If this were a competition, chives would edge out green onions on nutrition and presentation, but green onions would score highest in strength and versatility.
All variety of allum flowers are edible, including: leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives, ramps, and shallots.
Let’s celebrate what each onion species brings to the table!
RELATED: If you’d like to explore the differences in Carnivore, Paleotarian, Pollotarian, Pescatarian, Flexitarian, Fruitarian, Vegetarian, Vegan or Raw Foodie, you might enjoy this article on our fitness website.
We are an online gardening publication sharing all things garden related! Including urban farming, family gardening, homesteading, gardening for profits, and more. We’re all about growth!