Go Take a Leek! Recipe for Potato Leek Soup

Leeks and potatoes are a wonderful match!

Leeks are really underappreciated! I’m seeing a lot of posts on Facebook from people who have received leeks in their ugly produce or CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes asking what to do with them. So I thought I’d talk about this terrific vegetable, give some ideas for using it, and share a veganized recipe for one of my dad’s favorite soups—Aunt Doris’ Potato Leek Soup.

All About Leeks

Leeks are members of the allium (onion) family, and look like really big scallions (green onions). They are more mild than bulb onions and have a delicate sweet, earthy flavor that just melts in your mouth. Leeks grow nearly a year before harvesting, planted in January/February and often harvested in mid-Fall, yet they are often over-wintered and harvested just as they start growing again in spring. This is why leeks are showing up so abundantly right now!

A beautiful specimen of leek!

Leeks are grown in soft, sandy soil that is hilled up as they grow to encourage a longer section of the tender white part of the leek. Because of this growing method, leeks are often full of soil and grit that gets trapped in the wide green leaves and must be thoroughly cleaned to eat.

Grit gets really deep into leeks.

Choose leeks that are about 1½ inches in diameter for sweetest and most tender options. The dark green leaves of leeks are full of phytonutrients, so pick smaller leeks that have the most tender dark greens. Those larger than that are just fine for soups, but if you’re looking for that delicate leek flavor, for stand-alone eating, smaller is best. Look for crisp greens without yellowing, which indicate the leek was picked many days ago and is no longer fresh. Roots should be moist and light, not dried out or dark. The leek should be cylindrical, not bulbous at the end, and body of the leek should be flexible enough to slightly bend in the pale green section, otherwise they’re too tough.

Storing Leeks

Wrapped unwashed, in a damp towel, secured with a rubber band, leeks will keep in your crisper drawer 10 days. You can also freeze leeks to use year-round. Simply wash the leeks thoroughly (see next section), cut into half-moon slices, and freeze in containers.

Washing Leeks

Failing to adequately wash leeks will lead to a very gritty, unpleasant eating experience! It’s well worth the time to clean these.

Trim the root and dark green ends, then halve lengthwise to clean.

Slice off the root end, which is generally full of soil, and discard in your compost (you’ll never get all the grit out of the roots)! Cut off the dark green leaves just where the leaves go from dark green to starting to get pale (don’t throw these out!). Then slice the leek lengthwise into two halves. Fill a large bowl or sink with cool water and submerge each half. Use your fingers to fan out all of the layers of the leek under running water to wash out all the grit. Do this with all of the halves, drain the water, rinse out all the grit, and repeat. Wash the reserved green part separately, which is super full of dirt, and include them with other vegetable scraps to make amazing vegetable stock!

You can also rinse half-moon slices of leeks.

If you’re going to use chopped leeks, you can simply take the unwashed halves, slice them into half moons, and then wash the pieces in a bowl or sink as described above. Then rinse and drain the pieces through a colander.

Dirty water from first rinse.

Ideas for Using Leeks

You can use leeks in place of onions. But, because they are so delicious, consider making them the showcase of a dish!

Note, as I mentioned in Growing Garlic, alliums, including leeks, should rest about 10 minutes after chopping before you cook them. This will allow alliin and alliinase to bind and form beneficial allicin. This only occurs when alliums are cut and the two substances have time to combine (cooking prematurely interrupts this process). So simply chop your onion-family vegetables first when preparing veggies for cooking.

Braised or Melted Leeks

These are like candy! You can braise the cleaned halves as is, or slice them into half-moons for this.

Put prepared leeks in a single layer into a large sauté pan that has a lid. Add vegetable stock, or water, up to halfway up the sides of the leeks. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and put the lid on almost all the way. Simmer until tender, 10-30 minutes, depending upon the size of your leeks. Add more stock or water if needed, you don’t want these to brown. These leeks get soft and sweet, literally melting in your mouth.

Simple braised leeks make a wonderful side dish!

To serve, you can enjoy them just as they are as a side vegetable, mixed in pasta, or sprinkled on pizza (one of our favorites, and pairs fabulously with sauteed shiitake mushrooms!). Or:

  • Add some plant-based cream (blend 3/4 cup of water and 1 cup of raw cashews in a high speed blender until smooth), and simmer until thickened for a Leek Gratin. Chopped melted leeks in a cashew cream sauce is particularly wonderful on pasta!
  • Remove from braising liquid and top with your favorite vinaigrette. Serve warm or chilled as a salad.

Sourdough Pizza with Melted Leeks, Veggeroni, and Shiitake Mushrooms

Steamed Leeks

An alternative way to cook leeks. Simply steam 15 minutes or so until tender. Eat steamed baby leeks just like asparagus.

Potato Leek Soup

Mmmm, Potato Leek Soup!

This soup is creamy, thick, satisfying, easy to make, and simply divine! The recipe came from my dad’s aunt, Doris, another fabulous Arney-family cook. Dad loved this soup so much that he actually wrote out a recipe card and mailed it to me in college (this was not a thing Dad normally did)! And, in typical Dad fashion, the recipe card has little annotations, such as the frowny face with the words “blech” next to sour cream, which he didn’t like, and the final step at the end, “Now Go Take a Leek,” where the title of this blog post comes from!

Chopped leeks, celery, and potatoes in broth.

The recipe is simple. Simmer leeks, celery, and potatoes in salted vegetable stock for 20 minutes, until tender. You can do this in an Instant Pot too, cook on High pressure for 10 minutes and then do a Quick release.

Simmered veggies before blending.

Blend the simmered vegetables and broth in a blender or with an immersion blender until silky smooth. Note, if you use a high-speed blender, only blend on low speed, not high speed as high speed will turn the potatoes gummy and give the soup a terrible mouth-feel.

Blended Potato Leek Soup with a sprinkling of black pepper.

Return the blended soup to the pot and add salt and pepper as desired. Hold over low heat to keep warm.

Serve with plant-based sour cream (I love this cauliflower sour cream recipe from my friend, Molly Patrick) or yogurt, and chopped chives, if desired. If you’d like some added texture and enhanced leek flavor for this soup, you can always melt some chopped leeks and add them as a garnish as well. And dunk some toasted Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread for an added delight!

Oh, P.S., if you’re looking for ways to use okara, leftover pulp from making soy milk, this is a great place to use it! Blend in a cup or so of okara in this soup and it mimics blended potato—no one will ever know it’s in there.

So run out to your nearest farm stand, add leeks to your online grocery order, or search them out whichever way you get your produce! You’re going to want to add this wonderful vegetable to your diet!

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5 from 1 vote

Potato Leek Soup

This was one of my dad's favorite soups. It's rich and creamy, quick and easy! Adapted from my great-aunt, Doris Hughes, to be whole food, plant-based.
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Dairy-free, Gluten-Free, Soup, Spring, WFPB, Whole Food Plant Based, Winter, Zero Waste
Keyword Hot soup, Leeks, Potatoes
Servings 6
Author Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching

Ingredients

  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • salt to taste
  • 6 potatoes peeled and diced
  • 6 stalks celery cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 medium leeks well washed and cut into 1-inch chunks, including 2/3 of green part
  • 1 cup plant-based sour cream or plant-based yogurt. Here's a great recipe for plant-based Cauliflower Sour Cream from my friend, Molly Patrick
  • fresh chives chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  • Combine broth with salt to taste in an 8-quart pot over medium heat.
  • Add potato, celery, and leek. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Puree vegetables in a blender or use an immersion blender in the pot. If using a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, only blend on low (blending on high speed will make the soup gummy).
  • Return puree to pot. Place over medium heat.
  • Ladle into bowls. Top with a dollop of plant-based sour cream or yogurt, and chives. Serve immediately.

Instant Pot Directions

  • To make this in an Instant Pot, add potato, celery, leek, vegetable stock, and salt into the pot and cook on High pressure for 10 minutes and then do a Quick release. Then blend and serve with plant-based sour cream or yogurt, and chives.

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