Unveiling the Distinctions: Green Onions vs. Chives

The difference between green onions and chives

For people who appreciate the variety of flavors and aromas that herbs and vegetables can bring to their culinary creations, distinguishing between different ingredients is essential. Green onions and chives, two plants with remarkably similar flavors, often raise questions about their differences. While they may look and taste the same, green onions and chives are distinct plants with unique practical uses and nutritional profiles.

Herbs, Vegetables, and the Difference

To understand the differences between green onions and chives, it is important to understand the distinction between herbs and vegetables. Vegetables include a wide range of plants, including roots, leaves, and stems, that are consumed as food. Fruits, on the other hand, refer to the seed-bearing part of a plant. Herbs, on the other hand, are plants that have leaves, flowers, or seeds that can be used for flavor, medicine, or perfume.
When it comes to cooking, the primary difference between herbs and vegetables is their use. Vegetables are typically eaten as a main component of a meal, while herbs are used for flavoring. This distinction is relevant to the discussion of green onions and chives, as green onions are commonly categorized as a vegetable, while chives are considered an herb.

Green Onions: A mild and versatile vegetable

Green onions, also known as scallions or green onions, belong to the onion family and are classified as a vegetable. Unlike other types of onions, such as red, white, or yellow onions, green onions have a milder flavor and do not have a large bulb. This is because they are harvested at a very young stage. Green onions consist of long, green leaves and a small white root. All parts of the green onion are edible.
When selecting and preparing green onions, it is advisable to choose bunches with lighter green leaves, as darker leaves tend to be older and have a harsher and pungent taste. Green onions can be used to add flavor to a variety of cooked dishes. For optimal flavor, green onions should be lightly sautéed in a small amount of oil or butter before adding to a dish. In stir-fries, green onions are usually added a few minutes before the dish is fully cooked. In addition, green onions can be enjoyed raw in salads or sandwiches.
While green onions are often substituted for chives in certain dishes, it is important to note that chives offer a higher nutritional density. However, due to their lower cost, green onions are often used as a substitute for chives in restaurants, especially as a garnish or in dishes such as baked potatoes.

Chives: Tender herb with unique flavor

Closely related to the onion family, chives are a distinct species within the group and are classified as an herb. They have delicate, grass-like leaves and small purple flowers that are also edible. Available fresh, dried, or powdered, chives are primarily used to flavor or garnish dishes.
When incorporating chives into recipes, it is best to add them at the last possible moment, as prolonged cooking will diminish their flavor. Chives are particularly suitable for dishes where flavor is desired without adding bulk. They can be used in omelets, soups, or mixed with soft butter and cheese. Chives can also serve as a substitute for other herbs with more acquired flavors, such as coriander or parsley. In French cuisine, they are often paired with herbs such as tarragon or chervil.
Due to their dense nutritional content, chives provide a significant health benefit. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, including high levels of vitamin K, which promotes efficient blood flow, and vitamin B9 (folate), which supports bone health and proper DNA and RNA development, especially in pregnant women.

Nutritional differences: Green Onions vs. Chives

Both green onions and chives offer nutritional value, but chives surpass green onions in nutrient density. Here is a comparison of their nutritional profiles per cup of raw, chopped portions:
Green Onions:

  • Calories: 32
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7.3 grams
  • Sugar: 2.3 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.6 grams
  • Protein: 1.8 grams
  • Vitamin 20% Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 31% of Daily Value
  • Vitamin B6: 5% of Daily Value
  • Calcium: 7% of Daily Value
  • Iron: 8% of Daily Value
  • Magnesium: 5% of DV


  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4.4 grams
  • Sugar: 1.9 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.5 grams
  • Protein: 3.3 grams
  • Vitamin 86% of DV
  • Vitamin C: 60% of Daily Value
  • Vitamin K: 215% of Daily Value
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate): 15% of DV
  • Calcium: 9% of Daily Value
  • Iron: 14% of DV
  • Magnesium: 7% of DV

As can be seen from the nutritional comparison, chives contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals than green onions. They are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B9 (folate). Chives are also a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium.

Bottom line

While green onions and chives may share similar flavors, they are distinct plants with different culinary uses and nutritional profiles. Green onions, classified as a vegetable, offer a mild and versatile flavor that complements a variety of dishes. On the other hand, chives, classified as an herb, have a delicate flavor and are primarily used for seasoning or garnishing. Chives are also more nutritious, containing higher levels of vitamins and minerals than green onions.
Understanding the differences between green onions and chives allows individuals to make informed choices when selecting ingredients for their recipes. By harnessing the unique qualities of these plants, culinary enthusiasts can enhance the flavors of their dishes and create memorable dining experiences.


What is the main difference between scallions and chives?

The main difference is that green onions are classified as a vegetable, while chives are classified as an herb.

Can scallions and chives be used interchangeably in recipes?

Although they have a similar taste, green onions and chives have different flavors. However, green onions can be used as a substitute for chives in certain dishes.

How should I choose and prepare green onions?

Look for bunches of green onions with lighter green leaves, as darker leaves tend to be older and have a stronger flavor. All parts of the green onion are edible and can be used in both cooked and raw preparations.

How should I use chives in my dishes?

Chives are best added at the last moment to preserve their delicate flavor. They can be used to enhance the flavor of many dishes, including omelets, soups, and sauces. Chives can also be mixed with butter or cheese for added flavor.

Are there any nutritional differences between green onions and chives?

Chives are more nutrient dense than green onions. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Green onions also provide nutritional value, but to a lesser extent.

Can green onions and chives be used in both cooked and raw preparations?

Yes, both green onions and chives can be used in both cooked and raw dishes. Green onions can be sautéed or added to stir-fries, while chives are often used as a garnish or added to salads and sandwiches for a fresh flavor.