Cast Iron

Skillet Scallions From Edna Lewis

March  6, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by Kristen Miglore
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 5 as a side dish
Author Notes

This recipe, for once, doesn’t end with “salt to taste.” In fact, you’ll see the last line specifically says, “No salt or pepper will be needed,” the graceful words of the late Southern cooking champion Edna Lewis. She was of course right, and this simple, immediate Southern side dish needs nothing more than two ingredients: scallions and butter.

In The Taste of Country Cooking, Edna Lewis writes, “Scallions, like asparagus, are a wonderful spring vegetable and they are a good change. They are tempting to look at, have a mild and interesting flavor, and they go particularly well with veal kidneys, as well as with mutton, steak, and chops.” In the book, she served them on a menu called “An Early Summer Dinner” alongside sautéed veal kidney, spoon bread, a salad of Simpson lettuce and young beet tops, strawberries and cream, and sponge cake.

A few tips: This technique will work well with whatever amount of scallions you have or would like to eat. Though the original recipe calls for four bunches, in Edna Lewis’s following cookbook In Pursuit of Flavor, she describes the scallions she likes to buy as smaller than the average grocery store scallion today: “In my opinion, they are an underused vegetable and taste almost as good today as they did years ago. I buy scallions that are about the size of a pencil but if they are a little thicker they still taste good.” If yours are larger, feel free to use fewer bunches, and you may want to cook them an extra minute or two. If your skillet does not have a lid, feel free to improvise with a baking sheet or another larger skillet to cover and steam the scallions.

Recipe adapted from The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, May 1976).

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Skillet Scallions From Edna Lewis
  • 4 bunches scallions (or as many as you’d like to cook, see Author’s Note above)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Prepare the scallions by picking off any yellow stems. Cut away the fibrous roots from the bottom. Wash in cold water under tap, then cut the tops down to fit the skillet. Heat the skillet and add the butter. When the foaming stage is reached, put in the scallions. The few drops of water left on the scallions from washing are enough for steaming. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat. Turn them over after about 3 minutes. Total cooking time is 4 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; the white part should be a bit crisp, the tops tender, shiny, and green. No salt or pepper will be needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • walkie74
  • Anna
  • Francesca Belanger
    Francesca Belanger
  • WIC
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

24 Reviews

walkie74 April 5, 2024
I finally found this recipe again after saving it back in 2020, and I decided to use this method on some scallions and leeks to beef up a light Chinese chicken noodle soup. I felt bad because the only butter I had was niter kibbeh (an Ethiopian spiced butter), and I had to add salt due to the sheer quantity of alliums (about three bunches of scallions and two leeks), but... it worked! One of the best things I ever tasted. I was hard pressed to add them to the soup like I planned!
Anna January 4, 2021
WOW! This was THE BOMB! Truly a genius recipe! I grew up in a Chinese-American household that used scallions as a garnish, color, topper, etc., on everything! As a child, I would pluck Every. Single. Piece. Off., no matter how small it was chopped. Not until a few years ago (I'm in my early 50s), have I finally appreciated scallions! So having some leftover scallions from the holidays, I was intrigued by Kristin's vid and the 2-ingredients. I cooked it up as "extra" before I made the entree on the cast iron. I meant to share with my family when we sit down to eat but could not stop eating it while cooking. Will definitely be adding a bunch or 3 from now on! Thank you!
Sherri July 24, 2020
I grew a boatload of scallions and this recipe was fabulous. I wanted to eat the entire pot but saved some for a snack later. May try regrowing the scallions from the stems... good winter project! Thanks!!
Francesca B. July 17, 2020
These came out absolutely perfect! Just butter and scallions. I served them as a side with non-meat burgers, and just twirled them up on my fork.
BR95510 July 16, 2020
I made this tonight using my fresh CSA green onions. The flavor was great! They absolutely did not need salt or pepper! They cooked up nicely too. I would wonder if I could cook in vegetable stock opposed to butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter). While the flavor was great and they were easy to eat (not stringy at all!), I didn't care much for the greasiness. Does the butter tame the bite of the onion? Or would vegetable stock work as well?
JV July 2, 2020
I’m so sad to report that this was a flop for me! Loved the concept, but at least the type of scallions I had turned really mushy and slimy around the greens (which in our case was most of the plant).... it actually got so slimy and fibrous that we couldn’t chew it, and had to throw it out. The texture reminded me of okra in terms of the gooeyness, and also like the stalk of asparagus that has so much fiber that you can’t chew it no matter how hard you try, and are left with a clump of firm fibers in your mouth that you have to figure out what to do with.....except with slime too. It was honestly quite offputting, and scallions are my favorite veg!

The concept is great and it seemed to work for others, so it could’ve just been our variety of farmers market scallions... these were special ones with pink bulbs, and perhaps are quite different in texture (even though the greens looked/tasted the same when raw).
JV July 2, 2020
As a follow up, I think trying this again without the lid, to let it crisp up/fry instead of sog up might work... since the flavor was great and our issue was texture. Will probably try that!
Kristen M. July 13, 2020
JV, thank you for letting us know! I think it may have to do with the variety being more fibrous. I've seen them be a bit stringy to cut simply with a table knife (in which case, I usually just twirl them up like spaghetti), but never tough. Usually they melt. But frying and grilling would also be good methods to experiment with!
JV July 13, 2020
Thanks for the response, fried in butter or charred on the grill both sound delicious for this variety!
Sherri July 24, 2020
Maybe turn the heat up leave lid off for a minute ..I put the top parts of the scallions in too and they were actually crispy brown and delicious at the end. A contrast to the lower part.
Colleen June 30, 2020
I always have scallions that need to be used, as I always keep a bunch or two in my fridge. Made this over the weekend and again last night. So easy and surprisingly tasty! Who knew, and shockingly no S&P required. This reminds me of the eggs & pita w/ ghee recipe so very few ingredients but absolutely delicious!
Kristen M. July 13, 2020
Wonderful! Those two recipes would be delicious together, too. (And are some of the ones I make most often.)
WIC June 27, 2020
I'll be trying this tonight as a side with Maman's Cheese Soufflé From Jacques
Pépin. I never thought to make these with scallions as it is the exact way we cook garlic scapes.
Kristen M. July 13, 2020
Great pairing! And good to know about the garlic scapes—I have a couple that need using up.
lsm June 24, 2020
I love scallions. So when I saw this recipe, I thought how peculiar because I have a similar recipe for asparagus. And I wrap the asparagus in thinly sliced ham or a crepe. Well that is what I did with the scallions I fixed for lunch. So simple but so satisfying. Just me and my husband so this will go into my meal rotation as a main course. The possibilities are endless.
Kristen M. July 13, 2020
Great idea!
Keith S. July 19, 2020
Absolutely lovely idea, lsm! When we had our first bites of this recipe, we agreed the taste and texture were reminiscent of asparagus. Maybe the takeaway is, make sure to us the plainest, humblest, freshest scallions you can find.
lsm July 19, 2020
Funny you should mention that it sort of tastes like asparagus. Because the first time I made this that is what my husband mentioned. But the age of the scallions does make a difference. Since my first post, I have been using scallions from my garden. If they are too old then I cook them, and mix other veggies with them
Denise S. June 24, 2020
This is a question, not a review: I find scallions to be a bit hard to eat when cooked, especially the green parts. They are probably too fibrous. Does this recipe manage that aspect of the scallions?
dcrose109 June 27, 2020
Did you put a lid on it? The water left inside the scallions after washing will steam in the pan if pan enclosed. Also, I always part the green tops at white juncture, slightly, and let a fairly stiff stream of water go between the shoots to wash out any dirt or ???
Denise S. June 27, 2020
No, I have not tried that technique. Mainly we have had them grilled. But maybe preparing this way, with a quick turn on the grill, will provide both the tender texture and charred flavor I'd favor.
JV July 2, 2020
Denise I had this exact issue unfortunately... my review is above if you’re interested!
dcrose109 July 3, 2020
Wellll, here's another slant on scallions: I have grilled an entire bunch of romaine (all leaves still joined) on the grill. First, run water stream down inside the romaine to wash turn upside down and shake the bunch good. Wash, cut root and top tips of scallions then stick them down inside the romaine. I tie the romaine not too tight with trussing twine then throw the bundle on the grill and dowse with e.v.o.o. and balsamic vinegar; turn frequently. GGIG!
Kristen M. July 13, 2020
Hi Denise, here's what I shared with JV above: I've seen them be a bit stringy to cut simply with a table knife (in which case, I usually just twirl them up like spaghetti), but never tough. Usually they melt. (As long as they're cooked long enough.)