Chives are a narrow-leaved member of the onion family. They are versatile and have a milder flavor than other types of onion. They are popular for garnishing dishes, as their flavor does not hold up well to cooking.
Having chives around is a good idea if you like to cook French dishes or simply need a flavorful addition to your salad or to your cream cheese. If you have run out and need a quick substitute, chives are among the easier herbs to replace. Several common chive alternatives can add a similar flavor to your dish.
Your best bet: Scallions
This chive relative provides a mild onion flavor that is comparable to chives. Scallions also have a bright green color that can provide a visual flair to dishes if you want to them as a garnish. The flavor of scallions is also able to hold up to heat better than that of chives. Their tolerance for heat means that scallions can be added earlier in the cooking process than chives.
Note that while mild, the flavor of scallions is still stronger than that of chives. When using it as a chive substitute, use half the amount in the recipe. You will also want to chop it finely. Tip: to get a finer chop on your scallions, slice down the length of the scallion leaves and then chop them laterally. This can allow for narrower pieces thus mimicking the narrow leaves of the chive.
A decent second choice: Leeks
The leek is another member of the onion family. Its appearance is that of a very large scallion. Along with the size difference, there is the matter of flavor. It is important to note that leeks have a much stronger flavor than that of chives. The stronger flavor means that you will have to take additional steps when preparing them. Soak your leeks in iced water for an hour or so before use. This will help to remove some of that strong flavor and make the flavor of your leeks more like chives.
Note also that the dark green tops of the leeks can be tough and fibrous. You may want to cut these off and reserve them for stock or a dish that requires braising.
As with the scallions, you will want to slice the leeks lengthwise and then laterally to get the finest chop. This will help you to get your leeks looking as much like chives as possible. If your recipe calls for three tablespoons of chopped chives, you should cut this by two-thirds when using leeks as a substitute.
In a pinch: Garlic scapes
Garlic scapes are the stalks that grow from garlic bulbs. They are a flavorful addition but rarely utilized in anything outside of Chinese stir-fries. Their flavor is very mild but very similar to that of chives with note of garlic. They are also crunchy, which mean that they can add a new textural component to your dish. Like chives, they can be added raw to a dish, which makes them perfect for garnishing.
As with the other chive substitutes above, it is best to cut scapes lengthwise and then across to imitate the look of chives.
Other alternatives for chives include onion. While onions are not visually similar to chives, they can provide the same flavor if used sparingly. If the recipe calls for three tablespoons of chives, you should use a single tablespoon of very finely chopped onion.