Oct 27th, 2023, 12:00 PM

Poireaux: Why do French People Eat So Many Leeks?

By Gabby Bashizi
A table full of leek dishes. (Image Credit: Gabby Bashizi)
What's up with this mysterious green vegetable and what are the French making with it?

A woman in jeans and high heels (so distinctly Paris, no?) aggressively cuts people off as she hurries down the street. Rudely. She continues to hustle quickly across the cobblestone sidewalk in her impractical shoes, stumbling in an ungraceful manner as she does so. This inattentive, albeit slightly impressive, woman is clutching a bag to her chest, full to the brim with leeks. That’s right, leeks. That long, stiff, leafy, giant green onion-looking vegetable that is passed over by many foreigners in French grocery stores. The woman struggles with her load, switching it from one shoulder to the other with excessive frequency. As she walks, she turns her head back and forth as she fights to keep the sharp tips of the stalks from hitting her in the face. All that effort to take home two kilograms of this strange vegetable.

When you see leeks in the store, they’re unremarkable. They’re usually stacked with perfect architectural precision in the store. They’re pinned with a giant label reading “Poireaux”. If you hold it in your hand, it’s surprisingly heavy. It has ribbed leaves and a white bottom with straggly strands of roots. Little black patches of dirt. It resembles a green onion, blown up to absurd proportions. Nothing remarkable to the untrained eye. 

A Close-up of Poireaux in Monoprix. See the aforementioned roots and stalks. (Image Credit: Gabby Bashizi)

If you look behind you, though, you’ll see a literal line of French mothers waiting for you to move so they can have access to their precious poireaux. They gather bunches and bunches of this bizarre vegetable, presumably for cooking. Here’s what they’re making.

Poireaux Vinaigrette (Image Credit: Gabby Bashizi)

Poireaux Vinaigrette

A dish packed with traditional French flavors, Poireaux Vinaigrette is a dish that consists of cold leeks topped with boiled eggs and a dressing. Sounds interesting enough, but when you eat it, it becomes hard to ignore the fact that what you’re eating is essentially a pile of boiled grass with eggs and vinegar. It’s a tough one to get through, but from the mouth of a French grandmother herself, it remains one of the most classic leek dishes France has to offer. It made your writer wonder why she was going through with this project at all. If you’re still curious, here’s how to make it: 


  1. 1 Leek
  2. 2 Eggs
  3. Olive Oil
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar
  5. Dijon Mustard


  1. Slice the leek into thirds, and slice each section in half lengthwise
  2. Boil a pot of water
  3. Boil the leeks and the eggs for 9 minutes
  4. Remove the leeks and put them on a plate to cool
  5. Shell the eggs and mash them with a fork 
  6. Whisk together 2 spoonfuls of olive oil, 2 of apple cider vinegar, and 1 of dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste
  7. Spoon the eggs over the cold leeks and pour over your dressing
  8. Serve to your enemies 

Quiche Poireaux (Image Credit: Gabby Bashizi)

Quiche Poireaux

If you’re still reeling from the experience of the last suggestion, your writer strongly recommends trying to bake a quiche instead. Another, arguably more classic, French dish, a quiche can have anything from ham and cheese to spinach and salmon in it. It consists mainly of eggs and pie crust and can be eaten hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is truly a versatile food, and, as such, is a perfect place to incorporate leeks. Here’s what you do:


  1. 1 leek 
  2. Some butter 
  3. 4 spoonfuls of creme fraîche
  4. Pie crust 
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 6 spoonfuls of milk
  7. 1 cup of shredded gruyere cheese
  8. Smoked salmon (optional) OR lardon (optional)
  9. Spices: salt, pepper, nutmeg 


  1. Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F)
  2. Chop the leek up into small disk-shaped pieces
  3. On the stove, add butter (or olive oil!) to a pan and let the leeks cook down for about 5-6 minutes or until transparent
  4. Add a spoonful of creme fraîche 
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg
  6. In a bowl, whisk together the creme fraîche, eggs, and milk
  7. Add in the cheese and continue to stir until combined. Add milk until desired consistency 
  8. In a pie pan, spread the pie crust and make sure the edges are reinforced 
  9. Spread the leeks in an even layer before pouring over half the egg and cheese mixture
  10. Layer the salmon or the lardon (fried for 3 minutes) here
  11. Pour the second half of the egg and cheese mixture 
  12. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese on top 
  13. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown 
  14. Serve to your loved ones 

Soupe Poireaux Pomme de Terre (Image Credit: Gabby Bashizi)

Soupe Poireaux Pomme de Terre

If you desire a slightly simpler, but still filling meal, try making a soup with leeks and potatoes. The flavors complement each other well: starchy potatoes contrast well with the lightness of the leek. This soup is fresh, and tastes great both hot and cold, making it the perfect trans-seasonal recipe. It was your writer’s favorite of the three recipes she tested during this process due to its light flavor and affordability. If you’re looking for a good soup to get you through both the winter and the summer, try this: 


  1. 4 large potatoes 
  2. 1 leek 
  3. Garlic 
  4. Butter 
  5. Vegetable stock (or bouillon) 
  6. Heavy cream 
  7. Creme fraîche
  8. Spices: salt, pepper, and nutmeg


  1. Air-fry, boil or bake your potatoes until soft 
    • Air Fryer: 30 minutes at 180°C
    • Boil: 25 minutes whole or 25 minutes cubed
    • Bake: 1 hour at 190°C
  2. Whatever strategy you choose, make sure the potatoes are soft enough to blend or mash! 
  3. In the meantime, fry up the leeks until transparent in butter and garlic, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg
  4. To a blender: add the potatoes and the leeks 
  5. Blend until smooth, adding water and heavy cream as needed 
  6. Alternatively, mash the potatoes as smoothly as possible while stirring in heavy cream 
  7. Pour the mixture back into a pot and add the vegetable stock (about 2 cups of liquid needed) 
  8. Mix until the desired texture is reached
  9. Serve with a dollop of creme fraîche and a drizzle of olive oil

The next time you spot the fast walker clutching a bag of leeks, take a moment and think about what she may be going to cook. Hope, for the sake of her family and friends, that it's a soup or quiche of sorts, and not Poireaux Vinaigrette. Consider going to the store yourself to try out something new. Copy the French, cook with leeks.