Scallions, green onions and spring onions are commonly used in Asian, American and European cuisines.
Both the leaves and bulb of these onions are edible and have a mild, gentle flavor compared to regular onions.
However, they look very similar and can be difficult to tell apart.
This article clears up the confusion and details the differences between scallions, green onions and spring onions.
The difference between scallions and green onions is simply their age.
Scallions are younger than green onions, harvested at an earlier stage of their growth.
You can tell them apart by the width of the white bulb at the plant’s base. As it has spent less time in the ground, a scallion’s white bulb will be slimmer than a green onion’s.
As a general rule of thumb, the white bulb of a scallion will be about the same width as the stem and leaves of the plant.
Green onions, which are a little older, have a slightly wider white bulb at the bottom. This bulb is usually wider than the leaves and ovular in shape, not round.
Summary Scallions are young green onions. You can tell a plant’s age and whether it’s technically a scallion or a green onion by the width of its bulb.
Spring onions are usually planted at the end of summer so that they grow over winter, ready for harvesting in the spring.
They’re more mature than both scallions and green onions but still a type of young onion, which are reaped before they have a chance to grow larger.
You can identify a spring onion by the small, round, white bulb at its base. While it appears similar to scallions and green onions, its rounded bulb gives it away.
Spring onions are also slightly stronger in flavor than scallions and green onions due to their maturity.
However, they still have a gentler flavor than regular onions, which have been left in the ground much longer and grow much larger.
Summary Spring onions are older than scallions and green onions. Because they have been left to grow longer, their bulb is more developed and rounded.
All immature onions have the same hollow, long green leaves and small whitish bulbs.
However, some people consider true scallions and green onions to come from a particular type of allium plant, the Allium fistulosum species.
This species differs from other onions, as it doesn’t develop a round bulb.
Even when left in the ground to mature, these plants will have a straight white bulb.
However, “scallion,” “green onion” and “spring onion” aren't official plant names and so aren’t attached to a particular species.
Though onions of the Allium fistulosum species will only ever form scallions and green onions, any young onion can fall into those categories depending on the plant’s age.
Summary The terms “scallion” and “green onion” refer mostly to the age of the plant. Though some species of onion will only produce either scallions or green onions, it’s possible to source them from other types of onion.
Young onions such as scallions, green onions and spring onions are very low in calories and contain only around 5 calories per medium onion, or 32 calories per 100 grams (1).
By fresh weight, they’re 89% water and pack 2.6 grams of fiber, 7.3 grams of carbs and tiny amounts of protein and fat per 100 grams.
They also contain micronutrients, including folate and vitamins K and C.
100 grams of these onions have (1):
- Calories: 32
- Water: 89%
- Carbs: 7.3 grams
- Sugars: 2.3 grams
- Protein: 1.8 grams
- Fiber: 2.6 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Vitamin K: 173% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 21% of the RDI
- Folate: 16% of the RDI
These onions also boast beneficial antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds ().
Summary Young onions such as scallions, green onions and spring onions are low in calories and contain some fiber, carbs and beneficial plant compounds.
While green onions and scallions are classified predominantly by age, things can get confusing, as people often use these terms interchangeably to describe any young onion.
Therefore, it can be difficult to determine the age and type of onion you’re buying.
However, as all young onions taste similar, the type doesn’t make much of a difference in dishes. If you’re unsure which type you have or worry you have the wrong one, it’s unlikely to mar your recipe.
Popular ways to prepare young onions like scallions, green onions and spring onions are in a salad or as a garnish.
You can also cook with them by adding them to stir-fries, soups and stews. Spring onions, which have a slightly stronger flavor, taste great pickled or grilled.
Summary Though there are slight differences between scallions, green onions and spring onions, they can be used interchangeably in recipes. They’re often added to stews, stir-fries and salads.
The difference between scallions, green onions and spring onions is age or the time they grow before being harvested.
You can identify them by their bulb— scallions have the thinnest, usually no wider than the onion’s stem, while green onions’ bulbs are slightly larger and spring onions’ are round.
Though small differences exist in taste and appearance, these onions are very similar and can often be used in the same recipes.