All hail the Holy Grail of spring produce.

By Nina Friend
April 15, 2019
Rudy Malmquist/Getty Images

Come spring, there's a lot of produce to get excited about. While chefs eagerly await the arrival of vegetables like asparagus and artichokes, no ingredient receives quite as much attention as ramps. These wild leeks—which taste like a combination of onions and garlic—have gathered a cult-like following, in part because they're only available for the few weeks between late April and early June.

Whether you're in the mood for pizza or papillotes, ramps are sure to enhance the flavors of the dish. If you're able to get your hands on some of these fleeting alliums, look no further than the following 16 chefs for inspiration on how to cook, eat, and enjoy them.

Cedric Vongerichten, Chef/Owner, Wayan

“Sambal matah is a traditional sauce/condiment that first originated in Bali. My variation of sambal matah sauce uses lemongrass, kaffir, lime, chilies, and I replace shallots with ramps for a seasonal component. The bulb of the ramp is grilled, and the green stem is chopped. I love to pair it with a piece of fish, lamb, or suckling pig.”

Aimee Olexy, Restaurateur, The Love, Talula’s Garden, Talula’s Daily

“Ramps, to me, are best grilled at a medium-high temperature until they are tender and charred. They are excellent served as the condiment to a moist white fish like halibut or bass and brushed with a touch of honey, soy, and mustard. This is an ultra healthy alternative and loaded with flavor.”

Aksel Theilkuhl, Executive Chef, The DeBruce

“100% pickled. Always. Also the easiest way to treat them. A dish that we'll do is make pickled ramp toast. We take toast, melt good, sharp cheddar cheese, and then put the pickled ramps on top.”

Try this recipe for ricotta crostini with pickled ramps and crisp pancetta:

Jennifer Carroll and Billy Riddle, Executive Chefs, Spice Finch

“Our favorite way to cook ramps is by fermenting the tops. We forage the tops and don’t dig them up. It’s a sustainable practice. By not disturbing the root structure, the ramps will grow back the following year by double. Our mixture contains ramp tops, carrot tops, leeks and Izak spice, a spice blend that LaBoite mixes for us. This sauce is delicious on bread, vegetables, and fish.”

Jesus Nuñez, Executive Chef, Sea Fire Grill

“I like to chop ramps in big pieces, sauté them, and mix them with scrambled eggs. For a special occasion, I like to top them with fresh lump crab meat or crispy bacon.

Katie Button, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels

“Ramps are the most exciting thing that happens in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the springtime. In the bagel shop, we pickle the bulbs and purée the green tops. The bulbs get served on our platters of housemade gravlax and smoked sable and the pureed green tops get folded into cream cheese and smeared on our freshly baked hand rolled bagels. The flavor lands somewhere between fresh spring onion and garlic, and I relish the moment they return each year.”

Try this recipe for halibut with einkorn, morels and tempura ramps:

© Con Poulos

Danny Grant, Executive Chef, etta

“One of our most popular dishes at etta is the ricotta pillows. I love pairing these two dishes by simply wilting the ramps in a pan with a little parmesan stock and then glaze alongside the pillows. It helps concentrate the flavor and compliments each other perfectly.”

Gabriele Carpentieri, Executive Chef, Morandi

“I quite enjoy ramps simply tossed in extra virgin olive oil and salt, then placed on the grill.”

Leigh Omilinsky, Pastry Chef, Bellemore

“I love making a ramp compound butter, and then I can use it in laminating doughs. Ramp danish = delicious. It’s also beautiful.”

Try this recipe for weekend nachos with charred ramps:

Georgia restaurateur Hugh Acheson (F&W Best New Chef class of 2002) explains his nachos narratively: “Start by making some beer-braised beef short ribs. And fancy that, you made too many! With the leftovers, you will make nachos. In this idealized experience, you will frolic in the woods, foraging for ramps. You are dressed like a gnome, but nobody cares. You get back to the kitchen and have some pressure-cooked pintos all ready to go. Let’s build some nachos: Take the beef plus pintos plus jack cheese, pickled peppers, those ramps all charred and tasty and assemble it all over tasty white corn tortilla chips, which maybe you made yourself. That gets baked until crisp and gooey and melty, and then you get all Jackson Pollock when the crema comes out. You eat and drink a beer, all the while wearing that gnome uniform with pride.”

© W&P Design

Joe Frillman, Chef/Owner, Daisies

"I really enjoy ramps in the uncooked state. We like to macerate them into vinaigrettes, marinades, condiments, or just raw finely sliced. You can use them interchangeably with any recipe calling for garlic. The season is so short that I kind of like the idea of savoring the pungent flavor that can stick with you. It's a reminder that the cold, terrible winter weather is almost coming to an end in Chicago. For that reason, my favorite way to eat them is with something clean and bright to contrast. Sliced vibrant citrus with a raw ramp vinaigrette lets you savor the pungency but also wakes you up from the flavor punch they bring to the table. After a winter full of subtle sweet root vegetables, it's nice to get hit in the face with the stench of spring to get you out of that winter hibernation."

Katy Smith, Executive Creative Chef, Puesto

“I love them slow-poached in oil along with herbs and garlic. You can use the ramps for pastas, sauces, or on top of vegetables, and refrigerate the oil and use it for a while!”

Brad McDonald, Executive Chef, Couvant

“I prefer the leaves. I salt them like one would sauerkraut and let them ferment for a couple weeks in a cool place. At that point I have ramp kraut and ramp kraut water in my fermentation vessel. I separate the two and use the kraut leaves to make an oil. With the lactic fermentation you get a great onion-garlic flavor profile that comes out cleanly in the oil. I use it to split raw buttermilk to get the flavor of a ranch dressing that can be used with nearly anything you would want to put ranch dressing on or just simply eaten with flatbread. I then use the kraut liquid to flavor a butter emulsion (I swear it’s the better version of Papa John’s garlic dipping sauce), which I’ve had success braising cabbages, turnips, and even shellfish in.”

Try this recipe for Oma's Green Mountain Salad with ramp-buttermilk dressing:

Eva Kolenko

Thomas Raquel, Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin

“For the warmer seasons I always look forward to ramps. Their robust flavor makes for a great pesto when they are charred, or even a quiche!”

Flynn McGarry, Executive Chef, Gem

“At Gem, we make tortellini out of ramps. The filling is a paste made from the ramp bottoms with pistachios and oregano, and then we use the ramp leaves instead of pasta dough.”

Spike Mendelsohn, Chef, Vim & Victor

“I believe there is only one way eat ramps and that is to pickle them like a fenugreek pickle.”

Jimmy Papadopoulos, Executive Chef, Bellemore

“In the restaurant, one of our favorite methods to preserve ramps is salting the bases in a 2% salinity brine. Allowing them to ferment brings on a nice sour funk, but also preserves the beautiful sweet, fiery, garlic character that we love about ramps. The tops we blanch and shock, puree smooth as possible, and then freeze the puree in small batches. This is my favorite method for preserving the green vibrancy of the ramp long after spring has become summer.”

Check out these recipes for more ramps inspiration.