Foil Baked Leeks with Bonito Flakes

When I think about leeks, French food comes to mind: a hearty pot-au-feu, a velvety leek soup or a classic French leek pie. I also think about Japanese food and how often leeks (negi –ねぎ) are used in many of their classic dishes.

Usually they are simply seared or baked in the oven (toaster ovens in Japan) and finished with a little salt or soy sauce (amakuchi type is sweeter and milder).

Sounds crazy simple? It is but when cooked right, leeks are sweet, melt-in-your-mouth tender and will completely make you forget about regular onions. If you have never tried baked leeks before, you are missing out on one of tastiest and easiest ways to eat them. They are scrumptious!


Japanese cooking is about making a dish shine by adding just the right amount of seasoning to each component. It’s also about making the main ingredient the star of the dish.

It may seem simple but exercising restraint can be difficult if you have a heavy hand when it comes to flavoring. I used to over season my soba and ramen broths, my rice, my curry sauce… You name it.

It’s only after repeatedly watching my mother cook Japanese food that I noticed how often she taste tests. With her it seems like a constant activity; grab spoon and taste. She will also stay close to her boiling pots and cooking pans, making sure nothing is neglected until the food is ready to be served.

My mother is more disciplined than I am and it shows in her cooking because she hits the right notes every single time without fail. To me, she is to Japanese food what Eric Ripert is to seafood: a true connoisseur.


But she also makes delicious simple foods anyone can prepare at home. Take these baked leeks with bonito flakes for example: it’s a specialty of hers that’s easy and truly succulent!

Superbly tender baked leeks that are sweet, nutty and packed with umami. I eat these babies straight out of the oven – forget about transferring them onto a plate, my tastebuds can’t wait that long. All I need are my chopsticks and appetite and I’m good to go!

The recipe makes about two small sides so you might want to double it up if you’re already drooling from just looking at the pictures. 🙂


If you can hold off on devouring them, baked leeks are great with rice (make sure you pour the sauce on top of the rice for a major flavor bomb!) and pair really well with beef yakitori sticks or this soy and ginger pork chop.

If you’d like more veggies, pair the baked leeks with another easy side like nasu dengaku and serve with an edamame soup or daikon miso soup.


Baked leeks with bonito flakes, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and sake.


Foil Baked Leeks in Foil

This is a classic Japanese method to serve leeks. Tender and umami filled leeks with bonito flakes.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 people 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Cuisine: Japanese


  • 4 leeks, white parts only (180g or about 2 heaping cups)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1/2 cup dried bonito flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 350 ºF.
  2. Put chopped leeks in aluminum foil with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fold the foil around the leeks and crimp the seams.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes, until the leeks are soft.
  5. Meanwhile, mix soy sauce and sake in a small bowl and set aside.
  6. Transfer leeks to a bowl and pour soy sauce mixture.
  7. Top with dried bonito flakes and serve immediately.

Keywords: recipe, appetizer, izakaya, negi yaki

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