Difference between: green onions and scallions

This week’s Difference Between is a vegetable one: green onions and scallions. (With a quick look at shallots and chives.)


A big thank you to the following websites for providing information on green onions versus scallions: Chow.com, IllinoisTimes.com, WikiHow.com, CookThink.com, OChef.com, and Dictionary.com, because I like to sometimes start at the bottom, with the definitions.

Green onion: a young onion with a slender green stalk and a small bulb, used as a table vegetable, usually raw, especially in salads; scallion

Scallion: any onion that does not form a large bulb; green onions. Also, a shallot, or a leek.

So far, it appears the two terms can be used interchangeably. The other sources I checked out maintain that they are nearly the exact same plant, and they’re both in the onion and garlic family. They’re closely related to shallots, which are brown instead of green and white, and chives, which are considered an herb. (Fun fact side note: garlic is considered both an herb and a vegetable.)

IllinoisTimes.com believes green onions and scallions are so closely related that there is “no difference. Zip, nada, zilch.” The author of the piece, Julianne Glatz, maintains that the main difference between the two vegetables is a matter of geography – in the New England area they’re scallions, and most everywhere else they’re green onions.

At this point, there is no question that green onions and scallions look alike and taste alike; they can certainly be used interchangeably in recipes. However, OChef.com finally provided me with a couple of specific differences.

While a scallion is an onion “in its own right,” many people call immature green onions scallions. The white base of a scallion is basically straight, whereas with green onions (and baby shallots and baby leeks) the white part at the bottom is starting to curve into the development of a bulb. 

Therefore, green onions are simply immature onions harvested before the bulbs develop, whereas scallions are their “own” onion. Moreover, scallions have a slightly milder flavor than green onions.

3 thoughts on “Difference between: green onions and scallions

  1. It’s absolutely just a matter of word choice. In New England, there are no green onions, only scallions. I’m from the Midwest, and only knew green onions until I moved to New England. I’m not sure why you insist on fabricating a difference. Look them up in a seed catalog–they are treated as exactly the same thing, or only one of them is mentioned.

    1. Well, let’s see. I’ve said here that “the two terms can be used interchangeably” and that at least one expert maintains it’s “a matter of geography.”

      It’s rare, but sometimes my Difference Betweens in fact reveal there is very little, if any, difference between the two food items.

      Since you’re essentially agreeing with me, I’m not sure where your hostility is coming from, but this is your second borderline rude comment. Let’s try to be a bit kinder when we feel like sharing a difference of opinion, eh? 😉

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