What are Garlic Chives?! – A Complete Guide

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What are Garlic Chives

Garlic chives go by many names depending on what part of the world you are in. It belongs to the onion family that resembles grass, and its garlicky” flavour makes it a popular seasoning. Chopped fresh garlic chives are commonly used in Asian dishes, especially Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese. Chinese use it in stir-fried dishes. 

Despite its popularity in Chinese cuisines, it has been spread across Asia and the rest of the world. So what are garlic chives, and what are their substitutes if you can’t find them in the supermarket? This garlic chives UK guide provides an overview of garlic chives, their varieties, what it tastes like, how to cook with them, and what other ingredients make their substitutes.

What are garlic chives?

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) are similar to regular chives in appearance. It has white petals, a lack of bulbs and tall green stems. Although it is a member of the onion family, n, its bulb is not edible, unlike onion. The leaves of garlic chives are not hollow like onion chives. Regular chives have a milder flavour, while the stalk and leaves of garlic chives are known for their mild garlicky flavour. 

What flavours work with garlic chives?

Unlike onion chives, they have a more pronounced garlicky flavour and add garlicky onion flavour to seafood dishes, eggs, filings and Asian stir-fry dishes. Fresh chopped garlic chives go well in soups, stir-fry dishes, savoury pancakes and boodle toppings, giving them a subtle hint of garlic.

You can also add them to non-Asian dishes, including grilled meat, salads, herbal vinegar and compound butter. With traditional Asian stir-fries, it also pairs well with pork dishes, spring rolls and potstickers. Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean also use them in their cuisines in a variety of dishes such as jaecheopguk ( a clear soup made with jaecheop) and buchujeon (savoury garlic chives pancake ).

What textures work with garlic chives?

Its mild garlicky flavour goes well with chewy, watery, soft and layered textures. Garlic chives pair well with the stews, noodles and stir-fries.

What textures work with garlic chives

Varieties of Garlic Chives

There are three main types of garlic chives such as flowering chives, yellow chives and standard garlic chives. Each variety has different culinary uses:

Standard garlic chives

Standard garlic chives, which are also known as gau choy, look similar in appearance to chives, but their leaves are not hollow. Instead, they have flat and broad leaves. They enhance the flavour of dishes that are slowly simmered in a sauce. These cooked dishes include soups, red-cooked meat stews and stuffed dishes. If you love stir-fries, you can enhance their flavour by using standard garlic chives. You may find them go well with seafood like prawns and scrambled eggs. 

Flowering Chives

Flowering chives or gau choy fa come with hollow stems that are light green in colour. They have yellow buds on end. Despite their delicate appearance, they have a stronger garlicky flavour than standard garlic chives. This flavourful and aromatic flower is a popular delicacy that is commonly used in Chinese cuisines, such as stir-fries and salads. 

Unlike regular garlic chives, the yellow bud is edible, which makes the garnishing more attractive. The best thing about gau choy fa is that they are radially available in Asian groceries and local supermarkets. Garlic chives are not as often easier to find as flowering chives, so you can use them in place of them.

Yellow Chives

Another good substitute for garlic chives is yellow chives or gau wong, which are grown without any exposure to direct sunlight. Their growing conditions prevent their leaves from turning green. Their leaves are flat, not hollow and delicate.

They are known for their mild oniony flavour with sweet nuances of onion and garlic. Yellow chives are also considered a delicacy, like flowering chives. They pair well with other vegetables in stir-fried dishes or served alone. Yellow chives particularly go well with noodles, soups, or any dish where you don’t want to add strong garlicky flavour.

What Does It Taste Like?

The flavour of garlic chives is compared to regular chives, but they have a more garlic-like taste than an oniony taste. They have a pungent and strong flavour, making them a great substitute for garlic.

How to cook with it

Raw garlic chives are typically used as they have a delicate flavour. Wash the garlic chives before using and trim off their ends with a knife and chop them. Fresh chopped garlic chives add more flavour to the dishes. Add them at the end of your cooking process or as a garnish because high heat can fade the already mild flavour of the garlic chives. 

Always use chopped fresh garlic chives if you want to give extra flavour to your vegetable noodle stir-fry dishes. Chopped garlic chives are also a big part of different Chinese recipes like stews, meat marinades, soups and salads. 

Not only do Asian recipes call for this herb, but garlic chives are also used in non-Asian dishes as a flavorful substitute for regular chives. You will also find the snips of garlic chives showing up in an omelette or scrambled eggs. Feel free to substitute this herb for regular chives in herbed bread recipe. 

Substitutes for Garlic Chives

Swap the garlic chives with regular chives, garlic scapes, wild garlic and vegetables from the allium family, like onions, Chinese onions and onion chives.


Chives are a herb which appears to be dark and long strands of grass, but they are not grass. They are delicate that come with a punch of raw onion and bring added sharpness to dishes when used as garnishing. They are related to garlic and onions but have a not-too-pungent and milder flavour. 

Chopped fresh chives are most often used as a garnish and add oniony flavour and bright colour to dips, soups, dressings and potato-based and egg dishes. You may also find them sprinkled on Eggs Benedict. Unlike chives, garlic chives are wider, longer and flatter than regular chives and are often used as the main ingredient instead of as a garnish. 

Chopped chive stems are often used as a fancier garnish, but you can use them on anything to add oniony flavour to your dishes. They usually go well with savoury dishes, and their bright green colour makes them more visually appealing. If you want to add them to your dish, add them near the end of your cooking process because they tend to wilt more easily.

Garlic + chives

If you can’t find garlic chives in your local supermarket or an Asian grocery, you can substitute this herb with a combination of garlic and chives. The two main flavour notes of garlic chives are garlic combined with the oniony taste of chives. The notes of garlic are at the forefront of its flavour profile, and the combination of chives and garlic offers a great advantage when compared to Chinese chives or garlic chives for Western cooks. The advantage is that these two herbs are available in a Western supermarket or grocery store. 

Wild garlic:

Wild garlic is native to Europe and Asia and shares many characteristics with garlic chives. Resemble lily of the valley; its flavours can be linked to a cross between garlic and leek, which has a milder oniony flavour. It has a distinctive garlic flavour but is not as pungent as garlic. Unlike garlic chives, it is not cultivated. Instead, it forages from the wild, and some consider it a weed. 

It is commonly used in European cuisine, which means that you can find them in farmer markets and Asian and European speciality grocers, including Scotland, Germany, England, Finland and more. Some traditional European recipes call for wild garlic as an ingredient, such as pestos recipes, sauces and soups.

Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes are native to Canada and USA. These tender stalks and flower buds grow from the hardneck garlic plant’s bulb. When the garlic plant matures, the scapes bloom flowers. The raw form of garlic scapes has a crunchy texture, like asparagus or green bean. You can eat them whole, cooked, chopped or raw. 

This green curly vegetable tastes like a blend of garlic, onion and scallion. They have a fresher taste and are less fiery compared to garlic bulbs. These green, thin stalks can be found in Asian groceries in the fresh produce section when they are in season, which is late spring or early summer.

Other alternatives:

You can also use leeks, onion, scallions and shallots, but you will not get the garlicky flavour for which garlic chives are known. Shallots don’t lie more on the garlic end, but its flavour is a milder onion with a slight garlicky bite. So you can say they lie more on the onion end but provide mixed notes of Allium. 

In the northeast parts of India, garlic chives are often substituted for onion and garlic. From an appearance standpoint, garlic may not work as a good substitute, but it can be a great alternative to garlic chives from a flavour standpoint. Regular garlic might lack a green stem, but it provides almost the same flavour, making it the best substitute for garlic chives. Moreover, it is relatively more affordable than garlic chives and easy to find in Asian and European grocery stores.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!