Top 5 Best Substitutes for Garlic Scapes

Best Substitutes for Garlic Scapes

Hey food lovers, ever been in the middle of prepping a recipe only to realize you’re missing a key ingredient? Been there, and it’s super frustrating!

I was all set to whip up my famous garlic scape pesto the other day when disaster struck – no scapes in sight. I love these curly shoots for adding a subtle garlic zing to all sorts of dishes. But with harvest time passing, they’re tougher to come by.

Rather than ditching the recipe altogether, I got to thinking – what could sub in for those elusive scapes? Turns out there are plenty of tasty options hiding in your fridge and pantry just waiting to be discovered.

Join me as I spill the dirt on the best secret weapon substitutes for lightening up recipes missing those beloved garlic scapes. With a little know-how under your apron, you’ll be recipe-saving pro in no time. No more swearing off your favorites just because one little ingredient is AWOL.

Best Substitutes for Garlic Scapes

1. Garlic Chives

If you’re after something with similar looks and tastes to those curly scapes, then garlic chives are your new BFF. Like scapes, they have thin green shoots bursting with mild garlic flavor.

While chives may be more widely used, these spicy siblings deserve just as much love. Swap them stem for stem in any recipe calling for scapes. Works especially well in pesto, potatoes au gratin, or salads seeking that subtle garlicky zing.

The best part? Garlic chives are way easier to find year-round than fickle scapes. Check the herb aisle of your grocery store – they’re almost always in stock. No special trips to the farmers market necessary!

Just be sure to chop them fine so their texture fits in with dishes designed for more delicate scapes. And go ahead and use the same amount as scapes in recipes. The flavor is practically identical.

Now I know what you’re thinking – if chives are already a pantry basic, why bother with scapes at all? Fair point! But there’s something so satisfying about using seasonal ingredients when you can.

2. Ramps

Looking to amp up your recipes with an extra layer of garlic-onion magic? Then ramps are the unsung heroes you’ve been missing. Also called wild leeks, these early spring alliums pack intense flavor.

Their broad flat leaves resemble thick grated garlic and scallions had a baby. And their taste is a perfect blend of the two. Earthy yet bright, these bugs are about to become your new favorite ingredient.

Now you may need to do some tracking down for ramps. Unlike store-bought options, they only pop up seasonally in forests throughout late April and May. But don’t let their temporary status deter you – ramps are worth the foraging adventure.

Lucky for us city folk, some specialty grocers now stock frozen ramps year-round. Just defrost and dice as you would garlic scapes. Another option is drying your own supply for storing.

Wherever you find them, ramps amplify any dish with their robust and complex taste profile. Try tossing them into pastas, pesto, soups or mixes like chimichurri. Their texture also stands up nicely to cooking methods like sautéing or roasting.

3. Young Garlic

Admit it, we’ve all been scared off before by garlic’s pungency. But in its youthful stages it takes on a much milder persona that plays nice with others. Enter: young garlic.

Also called green garlic or baby garlic, it refers to immature garlic bulbs harvested before full maturity. At this point the cloves haven’t fully separated and the plant resembles a slender scallion or leek.

Flavor-wise, it strikes a perfrect balance between delicate garlic and grassy onion. The taste is fresher, less harsh. Trust me, this is not your grandma’s nose-hair-curling garlic!

For capturing the essence of scapes in recipes, young garlic is an audacious yet accessible choice. Minced or sliced thinly, use the same quantity you would scapes.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy separating the tender green tops from their bulbs either. Both parts lend grace notes to any dish they grace.

Just be warned, once young garlic matures its personality takes a spicier turn. So enjoy this varietal Bright while its youthful disposition still shines through. Perfect for spring and summer cooking.

4. Chives

When you just need a hint of garlic or onion flavor to round things out, chives have long been the simple solution. These thin stalks packed with flavor are an herb pantry basic for a reason.

While more delicate than scapes, chives stand up well to chopping. Their mild onion essence enhances everything from eggs to salads. Finely minced, they blend in seamlessly wherever a recipe calls for scapes.

Skeptical about swapping in this familiar face? Just give it a whirl – you might be surprised by chives’ hidden depth. On their own they’re subtly grassy, but combined with other ingredients their flavor really sings.

For maximum potency, don’t be shy about using equal or more chives than the scapes a recipe demands. Their mildness means you need more to stand out.

Though chives lack garlic’s punch, don’t discount their versatility. Their presence adds brightness rather than taking over. In fact, some say chives’ gentle but distinct taste make them the true MVP of the allium world.

5. Shallots

When you want big flavor but not a ton of heat, shallots are the unsung heroes to call on. Similar to onions but with deeper, more nuanced taste, shallots add complexity to recipes.

Despite their petite size, shallots contain higher concentrations of the aromatic compounds that give onions their characteristic sharpness. So whether used whole or minced, shallots lend depth with less lingering bite.

Their soft oval shape may appear different from tubular scapes, but once finely diced shallots disappear seamlessly into dishes. Substitute an equal amount by volume when scapes are missing from recipes.

Sautéed shallots bring outbursts of flavor to everything from salads and pastas to roasted meats and veg. Or caramelize them slowly on the stovetop until golden brown and jammy – a sure way to add gourmet taste on a budget.

Keep a bag in your crisper for last minute additions too. A sprinkle of raw shallot adds funky complexity wherever welcome. Between their potency and versatility, shallots are no supporting act.

Using a Combination of Substitutes

By now you’ve got quite the arsenal of single scape substitutes. But did you know combining allies can create an even more nuanced stand-in? 

Sometimes one replacement just doesn’t quite nail that complexity scapes lend. So think mash-up instead. Mix any two or more options from our lineup for truly customized taste.

For instance, shallots and garlic chives together mimic scapes’ onion-garlic essence with more depth. Shred some fresh garlic into chives for amplified punch. Ramps plus chives give robust funk.

You can also complement whole substitutes. Toss diced shallots with whole garlic cloves into pastas as they cook. Go rogue mincing chives into pesto along with halved cherry tomatoes.

The possibilities are endless – browse your fridge and larder for pairings. With practice blending favorites, eventually your instinct will lead the way.

Better yet, make the most of each ingredient’s peak season and preserve taste year-round. Mix and match jarred, frozen or dried combinations however you please.


Can I use regular garlic instead of garlic scapes?

While regular garlic has a stronger flavor, it can work as a substitute for scapes in many recipes. Use less garlic (about half the amount) and cook it gently to mellow the flavor.

What dishes are best for using garlic scape substitutes?

Pestos, dressings, potatoes, pastas, soups and roasted vegetables are all great options that can highlight the mild garlicky flavors. Substitutes also work well in egg, cheese and veggie dishes.

How long will substitutes like ramps, chives or garlic keep fresh?

Properly stored, most substitutes will last 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Ramps and wild greens may last only 5-7 days. Garlic can be stored for months. Drying or freezing extends the life of many substitutes.

Is it okay to use frozen or dried substitutes?

Yes, freezing and drying are great preservation methods for many substitutes. Rehydrate dried herbs/veggies before using. Frozen options work well in cooked dishes. Flavor may be more concentrated than fresh.

Do I need to use the same amount of substitutes as scapes?

Start with the same amount but be prepared to adjust. Flavors of substitutes can be milder, so you may need more. Taste as you cook and don’t be afraid to add more substitute until the flavor is to your liking.

What if I’m missing multiple ingredients in a recipe?

Get creative! Combining substitutes broadens flavor profiles. Or leave out inessential ingredients to simplify the dish rather than compromising taste. Focus on what’s attainable from your pantry.

Can I grow my own garlic scape substitutes?

Yes, many substitutes like chives, garlic and shallots are easy to grow yourself. Check with your local nursery for plants and growing tips. Ramps can also naturalize in shaded woods.

Do substitutes have the same nutritional value as scapes?

While nutrient profiles may vary slightly, most substitutes provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals similar to scapes. Garlic family veggies are generally low-calorie and full of immune-boosting compounds.

How do I know substitutes are fresh?

Check for bright green color and flexibility. Avoid shriveled, wilted or slimy leaves. Stems should not be hollow. Scallions/ramps should feel firm. Garlic/shallots should be tightly wrapped. Use your eyes and nose – fresh substitutes will smell vibrant.

Can I freeze my own garlic scape substitutes?

Yes, blanch veggies like chives or shallot slices for 30 seconds before freezing to maintain color and texture. Rinse and dry ramps/scallions before bagging whole. Freeze pesto or substitutes soaked in olive oil in freezer-safe containers.

Are there any substitutes I should avoid?

Leeks may be too strong, and red onions too sweet. Strong herbs like rosemary don’t replace scape’s subtlety. Garlic powder loses nuance. Stick to mild allium family options for best resemblance to scapes.


As you can see, there are lots of tasty options when garlic scapes are scarce in your kitchen. With a little creativity, these substitutes can step beautifully into scapes’ shoes.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up and experiment until you find combinations you truly love. Cooking is all about improvisation, so have fun playing with flavors.

Over time, you may even start shifting recipes away from depending on seasonal scapes. Some substitutes like chives will become as indispensable in your fridge as garlic itself.

Most importantly, don’t stress over exact replacements – the goal is enjoying good food. So replace worry with wonder instead, and let these substitutes inspire new recipe roads less traveled.

Here’s hoping this guide arms you with confidence facing future ingredient shortages. Now get out there and start subbing your heart out! Let me know if any new discovery becomes your secret weapon.

Until next time, happy cooking and don’t forget – substitutions are celebrations in disguise.

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