Garlic Chives vs Chives – Differences (Taste and Use)

Garlic chives and chives are definitely different. They taste different and they look different. What are the differences and which one is best for your dishes? Let’s figure it out.

Chives are different from garlic chives because of their tubular stem, onion taste, and usually pink flowers. On the other hand, garlic chives, have a subtle taste of garlic, have flat leaves and their flowers are usually white.

It is essential to recognize them to avoid unwanted surprises on your dishes or in case you want to grow them at home. Also, chives might hide some exciting properties that are worth for you to know.

Chives and Garlic Chives – 2 Key Differences

Most of the time you encounter on the supermarket shelves are onion chives. As this is the most common variety sold in the western world, it is simply called chives. The second most famous variety, without doubt, is the garlic chives, also called “Chinese chives.”

1. Tubular Stem vs Flat and Flowers

This is by far the most straightforward aspect that will allow you to differentiate them.

Chives present a straw-like stem. It is tubular, hollow and dark green with pointy end. Each stem can grow up to 20 inches (half a meter). The flowers are really small and altogether creates a spherical bunch at the top. Each tiny flower has 6 petals, and it is pink/purple.

Garlic chives vs Chives Comparison Graphic

Garlic chives, on the other hand, have flatter steams, and they are not hollow. Moreover, such stems are of a lighter green than its onion counterpart. It can grow, similar to chives up to 20 inches. Each group of flowers develops on top of one single particular stem (stalk) way higher than the rest (up to 3 feet, almost a meter). The petals of garlic chives are also half the length of their onion chives counterpart.

Garlic chives vs Chives Comparison Graphic – photos from Forest & Kim Starr

2. Garlic Taste vs Onion Taste

The main reason you want to know the difference between these two herbs is very likely their taste.

Chives, if bought in the EU and USA supermarket, are almost always onion chives. You can be totally sure about their type once you hold them. As we learned in the previous section, onion chives should fill flexible, a bit like rubber, tubular, and, once cut, you should see they are hollow.

Chives (onion) have a very mild onion taste. The same applies to their flower that is indeed edible. Their flavor is less intense than white onions.

On the other hand, garlic chives taste more between garlic and onion. Moreover, garlic chives taste stronger than ordinary (onion) chives, especially when eaten raw (and this is quite common as you can read later). However, their taste is still way less intense than garlic.

However, what can you do with them? Which plate can you prepare, and can you swap them?

Chives and Garlic Chives: Easy Recipes

First, both chives and garlic chives should be eaten raw. In other words, avoid heating them for a long time (no more than a few minutes at most in a frypan) if you do not want to lose their mild aroma. It is way better to add them at the end of any warm dish (it is ok if still warm, but not hot). Remember, if you overheat chives, they will turn bitter.

Garlic chives, differently from its onion counterpart, is a staple in Asian cuisine.

Easy garlic chives recipe here: something that you can do straight away with garlic chives is the Niratama. You just need:

  1. Eggs
  2. Salt pepper
  3. Oil or butter

Here a pretty good video is showing the process. Mostly you just need to warm up the eggs and add up your cut chives with some seasoning. Take care of not overheating the chives. A straightforward plate that can also be a great way to start your day. A pack of healthy fiber, protein, and a small amount of healthy fat for your body.

Of course, there are countless recipes you can do with garlic chives. Here you can find 10 of the best recipes using garlic chives. Among them, although a bit complex to prepare, here is my favorite for the Chinese dumplings.

Chives (onion) is mainly used in EU and USA cuisine.

Easy onion recipe here: The most famous (and simplest dish) that you can always do is the scrambled egg with bread (or cornbread even better) with salmon and topping chives (my favorite weekend breakfast). In the video below, from Gordon Ramsman. just notice how he adds the chives just as a topping, at the very end. This is to avoid heating them too much.

Onion chives can be used in all those plates where the flavor of onion is too strong. Think about salad, for instance (here an example) or something a bit of out of the scheme as a chive strawberry salad here.

Onion and garlic chives are also a great addition to spreadable cheese (cottage, my favorite). Remember, for both chives types, the flowers are edible (here for garlic and here or onion chives). Just eat them raw or and add them as a colorful contour to your plate.

Pro tip 1: chives might taste differently depending on the age of the leaf you are eating. Long dark green leaves (older) will have a more intense taste than a younger and lighter in color. Moreover, avoid soft chives (just try to bend them even in the packages). Only firm chives should be kept.

Pro tip 2: If you bought your chives from the supermarket, just wash them with cold water. However, you need to dry them straight after with a kitchen towel just to avoid getting soaked and lose their firm texture.

Chives: A Tasty Pack of Fiber and Vitamins

Onion and garlic chives have the same nutritional characteristics. Both chives are very low in calories (30 calories per 100g raw), so you can have lots of them without guilt. More importantly, they boost your health level if part of your regular diet thanks to their content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Below a table showing from an extensive database (you can look for a massive amount of food, give it a try) their most essential facts about chives nutritional content.

Calories based on 100g (around 3-4 chives) – Source

Fat 0.7g
Vitamin K266% daily intake
Vitamin C97%
Vitamin A87% daily intake
Folate26% daily intake
Magnesium 10% daily intake
Fiber10% daily intake
Chives Nutrional Content

Hence, chives are extremely rich in vitamin K that less than 50g is sufficient for your daily intake (if you have more, no worries, your body will store it). This vitamin has an essential role in your circulatory system, as discussed here for more details.

Moreover, chives are also rich in vitamins A and C. These will help you fighting infection and boosting your immune system, promoting healthy skin. For future mum, chive is not only safe but also defined as a superfood.

Chives: Toxic to Pets

Both onion and garlic chives are toxic to dogs, cats, and, to some extent, also cockatiel (indoor herbs dangerous to cockatiel guide). Hence, you have to take all the precautions if you are planning to grow them indoor (indoor bulletproof pet garden guide). Keep the herb on top of shelves unreachable for your dog/cat or protect them with some net in case. (or in a greenhouse).

Hence, think twice if you want to grow them indoor. It is totally doable, but keep an eye on it.

How Long Do They Last as Potted Herb: Perennial or Annual?

Chives are easy to grow indoors and can easily last many years (they are perennial herbs). In case of low temperature (below 50F, 10C) during winter, your chives will start slowing down its growth (dormancy). In this case, remember less water and no fertilizer as detailed in this fertilization guide.

Divide your chives every 1-2 years. Just extract them from the soil and spread them in multiple pots. Here a guide on basil transplant, but it is the same principle.

Water only when the soil is dry. Pro tip: check the soil below the surface with a tooth stick or only your finger. Do not water if the soil on top is dry, but below is still moist (tip 8 in this 21 tips guide). Do not let the soil dry for too long otherwise, your chives will suffer (wilting and yellowing will be the first visible effect)

Harvest your chives after they reach 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15cm) of height (or every 3-4 months) to encourage growth. How to harvest chives? Cut the chives with a sharp pair of scissors, leaving only 1 inch of chives above the ground. The cut chives will fully grow back in 2-3 months.

Garden Tip: Harvesting Chives

Do not fertilize if not a few times a year, and never in the cold season. Chives are quite resistant and low maintenance herbs, mainly if grown inside. Overfertilization is often a beginner problem that you can avoid easily. Remember, less often is more (guide on how to fertilize indoor herbs).

Check for bugs. The most common ones that attack chives are tiny and black, as discussed in this article. Also, for more information, you can find a guide on six common reasons for unhealthy looking chives.

Best Tool To Grow Chives Indoor

Suppose that you want to grow your chives (either onion or garlic type). What can you do? Here the easiest solution you can follow:

  1. Buy in a supermarket or grocery store the potted herb: Check onion chives and garlic chives in Walmart. Remember, the already cut chives cannot be propagated (propagation guide) as the roots are most of the time missing;
  2. Buy the planter: the one the herbs come with it is generally very small with little to no nutrients and space for your chives. For a supermarket size potted herb, I would suggest a 5.5 or 6.5′ as those ones on Amazon. Remember, always planters with drainage holes; otherwise, you will dramatically increase the chance to kill it by overwatering;
  3. Buy potting soil: this should be easy, and there are many good choices online. This is by far my favorite;
  4. Transplant your chives to the new container: Here a step by step guide on how to transplant (for basil but the same applies to chives).

The hard way (and requires way more patience) is to buy the plant from seeds. Here you need to:

  1. Buy the seeds: they should be available from your favorite retailers such as B&Q here, Walmart here, and even Amazon here. Check carefully in the product description if you are buying garlic or onion variety (if it says just chives it is the onion variety);
  2. Plant them: this can be either in jiffy pellets (complete guide on jiffy pellets) or starter pots (you can also use those hard paper egg containers). You can get really creative. If you have around perlite and vermiculite, you can also create a 50-50 mix with them, ideal for seedlings as discussed in this guide;
Starting Seeds in Egg Cartons
  1. Transplant to the final home: once the seedling is emerging from the ground is time to transplant them in a proper pot. Just follow steps 2 to 4 detailed above;
  2. Wait: you need to wait a few months before a proper harvest, although your chives might get really productive only after the second year. Remember at least 6 hours of light and adequate watering but never soggy.

Where to buy garlic chives? Differently from its onion counterpart, garlic chives, in the western world, are less commonly found in supermarkets. It is way easier to buy them from seeds in large retailers such as Amazon or Walmart to then grow them indoors or outdoors.

Do you have to wash chives? Yes, chives need to be washed. Tap water should be enough. However, they should be done just before being consumed to avoid them losing their crispiness.

Black Bugs on Your Chives?

As much as you can protect your chives, chances are that it might be attacked by some form of pests. A window left open, a moisty environment or even a low-quality potting soil are all factors that can make an invasion very likely.

Do you find black bugs on your chives and you are worried? You have all the reasons as those might be hungry thrips. Check the article below to see if this is actually the case!

Further Readings

Chives VS Lemongrass: the 3 Differences (with Photos)

What Are Those Black Bugs On Your Chives? No Time To Waste

Best Potting Soil

21 Easy Tips To Grow Massive Basil Indoor

Chives vs Green Onion (with Photos)

Should You Fertilize Potted Herbs? Step by Step Guide is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites like mine to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I may receive a small commission when you buy through links on my website. This will allow me to write more and more content on gardening topics (and buy some basil or rosemary :D).

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