By Erin Marissa Russell
Chives and green onions are very similar when it comes to their appearance and the way they’re used in the kitchen. Their taste, texture, and the way they function in a dish are almost identical. However, there’s at least one major difference to consider between chives and green onions—chives are classified as an herb, while green onions are classified as a vegetable. Keep reading to dive deeper into the similarities and differences between chives and onions botanically, in their appearance, in the kitchen, and nutritionally.
Chives Versus Green Onions: Botany
- Green onions are alliums, which makes them a member of the onion family. Green onions differ from larger bulb onions because they’re harvested at an immature stage, before the bulb has grown bigger and the greens have died back. Certain varieties of onions have been developed specifically to be grown as green onions. You can read more about the distinction between green onions and bulbing onion in our article Onions vs. Green Onions, Scallions, Spring Onions, or Bunching Onions, Explained.
- Chives are a relative of the onion, but they’re categorized as belonging to the lily family instead.
- Both chives and onions are bulbing plants that are perennials.
Chives Versus Green Onions: Appearance
- Both chives and green onions in the field consist of a small white bulb with white roots that is attached to hollow, green grasslike stalks.
- Chives are harvested by snipping the grasslike plant above the surface of the soil with scissors, so visually chives look a lot like the “greens” on green onions. Like chives, green onions have an attached bulb with a root system, except green onions are sold with these sections attached. The chives are separated from the bulb portion before being sold.If you are substituting green onions for chives in a recipe, the green section alone (not the bulb of the onion or the paler green portion of the stalk that meets the bulb) should be used.
- One way that chives differ visually from the dark green portion of green onions is in their size. Chives are smaller and thinner overall than the grassy portion of green onions are.
- Chives are a consistent bright green color, while green onions get darker toward the top, turning pale green and finally white at the bottom where they attach to the bulb.
- Both chives and green onions will flower if allowed to go to seed, with lavender and purple globes made up of clustered blooms. The flowers of chives have a milder flavor than the stalk and can be used like chives in cooking.
Chives Versus Green Onions: In the Kitchen
- Both green onions and chives have a mild, oniony taste.
- They’re both commonly used in recipes, as a seasoning or garnish.
- Chives are normally served raw or cooked very briefly. Green onions are often used this way, but they can stand up to longer cooking times, especially the paler green and white portions. Some recipes may have these portions of the green onion added first so they have a longer cooking time than the greener, thinner parts of the stem.
- As long as a recipe doesn’t specifically call for the use of the white section of a green onion, chives and green onions are completely interchangeable in recipes.
- Chives and green onions are so similar in the kitchen that you’ll find them in the same dishes. They’re most often eaten in salads, dips, dressings, fried rice, or to garnish chili, baked potatoes, tacos, nachos, cheese fries, egg dishes, and more.
- Both chives and green onions should be stored in the refrigerator. Chives are more delicate and only last a few days in the refrigerator, while sturdier green onions can be refrigerated for up to a week.
Chives Versus Green Onions: Nutrition
- Green onions have slightly more calories per serving than chives: only two percent more, however.
- While green onions have 20 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, chives have a staggering 87 percent.
- Chives are also higher in vitamin C than green onions, with 96 percent as opposed to 31 percent.
- Chives contain half a gram more of fat per cup than green onions do, but the amount is negligible in both foods.
- Each cup of green onions has 3.9 more grams of carbohydrates than a cup of chives contains.
- The two are very similar in their fiber content, with a cup of green onions providing 2.6 grams while a cup of chives has 2.5 grams.
- Both green onions and chives contain tons of vitamin K, with green onions offering more than 260 percent of your daily value and chives just over 250 percent.
As you can see, while green onions and chives share some substantial similarities in their appearance and culinary use, there are basic botanical differences that lead to a significant difference in their nutritional content. With all other factors being equal, it’s healthier to consumer chives than green onions because of the extra vitamins and minerals they contain.