What Are Chives?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Illustration explaining what chives are

The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Kreighbaum

Chives are an herb that's related to onions and garlic with long green stems and a mild, not-too-pungent flavor. Typically used fresh, and most often (although not always) as a garnish, they add a bright color and oniony flavor to soups, dressings, and dips, along with many egg and potato-based dishes. They're easy to grow, easy to find, and easy to use.

What Are Chives?

Chives belong to the allium family, which makes them relatives of onions, leeks, scallions, and garlic. They have been used in Europe and Asia for hundreds of years but can be found around the world. Chives produce edible leaves and flowers; the green stem is long, pencil-like, and thin, with a center that's hollow like a straw. They grow in dense hearty clumps, and typically are one of the first herbs to pop up in the garden in spring.

Chives do not require a lot of preparation since they are often used raw, fresh, and as a garnish. A little goes a long way, too—you don't typically need a lot to make a flavorful impact. They're widely available in grocery stores and therefore not expensive.

How to Cook With Chives

Chive stems are typically chopped and are most often used as a garnish; they are good on just about anything. Their flavor pairs well with any savory dish, and the bright green color adds visual appeal as well. They tend to wilt easily if you add them to a dish too early. The stems are often used to bundle up herbs or cooked vegetables, as a fancier, functional garnish; sometimes they're draped dramatically over a steak.

Chive plants develop edible purple blossoms with a mildly garlicky, oniony flavor. Additionally, the stems on which the blossoms grow are tougher than the ordinary chive stems. Rather than just snipping off the blossoms and leaving the stems, snip off the whole stem, trim off the blossoms, and discard the stems.

The blossoms are great as a garnish, or you can sauté them or even roast them with chicken. Try making a chive butter with chopped-up purple blossoms instead, or infuse it into vinegar. Or warm them up in some olive oil, then let the olive oil return to room temperature and use it to make chive blossom aioli.

What Do They Taste Like?

Chives are known for their onion-like flavor. They have a delicate texture and taste best when fresh and in season, which is late spring, and just after they've been cut. Chive blossoms are even more delicate. In general, the flavor of chives is not as sharp and pronounced as onions; they're not likely to leave you with onion breath, for example, and people who dislike onions typically don't mind the taste of chives.

Chives Recipes

Chives are most often thought of as the go-to garnish for topping baked potatoes, and indeed they work well. However, they can be featured in all sorts of recipes, including soups, salads, sauces, deviled eggs, and omelets. They're frequently mixed with cream cheese to make a savory spread. Chive butter, a compound butter made by blending chopped fresh chives into butter, is a good accompaniment with either grilled steaks or roasted poultry. Fish and lemon juice also pair nicely with chives.

Where to Buy Chives

Chives are sold at most supermarkets in the produce section all year round. Sometimes they are sold in bunches with the flowers still on them—usually, you'll see them at farmers' markets this way—but most often they are sold pre-cut in small plastic containers. Look for vibrant green stems that are uniform in size, feel sturdy, and have a clean, fresh scent.

If you have your own garden, chives grow easily and well almost anywhere, provided they have enough sun and adequate water. Just snip off whatever you need, and the stem will continue growing. A single good-sized chive plant will likely supply all the chives you need.

Storage

Fresh chives will keep in the fridge if wrapped in a paper towel in a resealable plastic bag for about a week. The stems can also be stood upright in a jar or vase in a plastic bag filled with a few inches of water. It's best to wash them right before use; otherwise, you'll accelerate their deterioration if they get damp too soon.

You can also freeze them whole, whether you buy them or harvest yourself. Place bundles of chives into a stack in a zip-close bag. Then just snip off the frozen chives and add to your recipe as needed.

You can also extend the lifespan of chives and chive blossoms by creating a compound butter, wrapping it in wax paper, and freezing it. You can then slice off pieces as you need them for your recipes. If that feels like too much work, simply snip off a few tablespoons of chives into an ice cube tray and fill it with water or oil. Freeze for later use in recipes.

Nutrition and Benefits

Chives have small amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Chives vs. Scallions vs. Garlic Chives

One of the lovely things about chives, as compared to their cousins, scallions (also known as green onions), is their delicate texture. Unlike scallions, with their wide tubes, chive stems are extremely narrow, which makes them particularly attractive as a garnish, whether chopped and sprinkled over a dish or draped whole across an entrée. Scallions or green onions are much longer, wider, and floppier than chives, and are not herbs, whereas chives are.

Chives are related to but are not the same as garlic chives. Garlic chives have wider, flatter stems that are not hollow, and they have a rather pronounced garlic flavor.