If you’re a fan of Southeast Asian cuisine, you’re likely familiar with lemongrass—a fragrant stalk that’s often used as a flavoring in curries and soups.
The crisp, refreshing flavor of lemongrass is a perfect addition to any dish.
It’s not too strong or overpowering like other spices and can be used in small amounts for added aroma without overwhelming your food taste- buds.
But what do you do if you can’t find lemongrass or don’t have time to run to the store? Don’t worry.
There are plenty of substitutes for lemongrass that will give your dish the same bright flavor.
In this post, we’ll talk about what lemongrass tastes like and suggest substitutes that will bring the same delicious taste to your table.
So whether you’re whipping up a quick weeknight dinner or putting together a more complex dish for guests, we’ve got you covered.
What is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a gentle, lime-bearing herb that grows in the wild and can be found with other herbs such as basil.
The oils it produces have strong culinary uses and help maintain stomach acidity levels which are important for digestion.
This herb is used to make a tea that helps with digestion and can be found pre-packaged at most health food stores.
Lemongrass essential oil can also be rubbed on the stomach or added to baths to help with relaxation and stress relief.
In terms of taste, lemongrass is citrusy and tangy with a slightly sweet flavor.
It is often used in Asian cuisine, particularly Thai dishes.
Lemongrass can be used fresh, frozen, or dried.
When using fresh lemongrass, the bottom white part of the stalk should be removed as it is tough and fibrous.
It’s important to note that a little goes a long way with this herb as it is quite potent.
Lemongrass is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different dishes.
It pairs well with fish, chicken, and other seafood. Lemongrass can also be used in soups, curries, and stir-fries.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a popular herb known for its refreshing citrusy flavor and aroma.
It is commonly used in Asian cuisines, particularly in dishes like curries, soups, and stir-fries.
However, if you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass or want alternatives to experiment with different flavors, there are several substitutes available.
In this guide, we will compare the top 5 substitutes for lemongrass, discussing their key characteristics and suggesting proper ratios to help you achieve similar results in your recipes.
|Substitute||Key Characteristics||Proper Ratio|
|Galangal||A rhizome with a pungent, spicy, and slightly citrusy flavor; offers a similar aromatic profile to lemongrass||Use an equal amount of galangal as a substitute for lemongrass|
|Kaffir Lime Leaves||Fragrant leaves with a strong citrus flavor and distinct aroma; can add a tangy and refreshing element to dishes||Use an equal amount of kaffir lime leaves as a substitute for lemongrass|
|Lemongrass Paste||A concentrated form of lemongrass with a similar flavor and aroma; convenient to use in place of fresh lemongrass||Use an equal amount of lemongrass paste as a substitute for fresh lemongrass|
|Lemon Zest||The outermost layer of the lemon peel; provides a bright citrus flavor that complements many dishes||Use 1 tablespoon of lemon zest as a substitute for 2 stalks of lemongrass|
|Lemon Verbena||An herb with a strong lemony flavor and aroma; imparts a vibrant citrus note to recipes||Use an equal amount of lemon verbena as a substitute for lemongrass|
Now let’s delve into each substitute in more detail:
1 – Galangal
First and foremost, galangal is a root. It’s a plant that’s in the same family as ginger.
You can find it fresh or powdered. This ingredient is quite popular in Thai cuisine.
Galangal has a rather earthy taste with citrus undertones.
It’s worth mentioning that galangal is an excellent lemongrass substitute because it has a similar flavor.
The main difference is that galangal is more pungent.
When substituting galangal for lemongrass, use the same amount.
You can also use this ingredient in curries, soups, and stir-fries.
Remember that galangal goes well with fish, poultry, and beef.
- Key Characteristics: Galangal is a rhizome with a pungent, spicy, and slightly citrusy flavor. It offers a similar aromatic profile to lemongrass, making it a suitable substitute.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of galangal as a substitute for lemongrass in recipes. Adjust the cooking time to ensure the galangal softens and infuses the dish with its flavors.
2 – Kaffir Lime Leaves
The next best lemongrass substitute on our list is kaffir lime leaves.
These leaves come from a citrus tree that’s native to Southeast Asia.
The tree is also known as makrut lime or Mauritius papeda.
Kaffir lime leaves have a strong citrus flavor with a hint of mint.
You can find them fresh, frozen, or dried.
When using fresh leaves, make sure to remove the central vein.
In terms of flavor, kaffir lime leaves are quite similar to lemongrass.
The main difference is that kaffir lime leaves are more citrusy.
When substituting kaffir lime leaves for lemongrass, use two leaves for each stalk of lemongrass.
There are several dishes that you can make with kaffir lime leaves.
Our favorites include tom yum soup, green curry, and Massaman curry.
3 – Lemongrass Paste
- Key Characteristics: Kaffir lime leaves are fragrant leaves with a strong citrus flavor and a distinct aroma. They can add a tangy and refreshing element to dishes, replacing the citrus notes of lemongrass.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of kaffir lime leaves as a substitute for lemongrass. Remove the central vein before using the leaves in your recipe.
If you can’t find lemongrass or galangal, lemongrass paste is a great alternative.
This ingredient is made from ground lemongrass, garlic, and salt.
It’s available in most supermarkets or online.
Lemongrass paste has a strong citrus flavor that’s slightly sweet.
You can use the paste in curries, soups, and stir-fries.
When substituting lemongrass paste for fresh lemongrass, use one teaspoon for every two stalks.
Keep in mind that lemongrass paste is quite concentrated.
Therefore, you don’t need to use a lot of it. A little goes a long way.
- Key Characteristics: Lemongrass paste is a concentrated form that captures the flavor and aroma of fresh lemongrass. It is a convenient substitute when fresh lemongrass is not available.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of lemongrass paste as a substitute for fresh lemongrass. Adjust the seasoning to taste as the paste may be more concentrated.
4 – Lemon Zest
Lemon zest is a great substitute for lemongrass for a milder citrus flavor.
Zesting a lemon is easy–use a Microplane or fine grater.
Lemon zest has a bright, refreshing taste perfect for desserts and cocktails.
You can also use it in savory dishes like chicken or fish.
In terms of flavor, lemon zest is similar to lemongrass.
The main difference is that it’s not as intense.
When substituting lemon zest for lemongrass, use one teaspoon for every two stalks.
You can use lemon zest in various dishes, both sweet and savory.
Some of our favorites include:
- Lemon bars.
- Lemon meringue pie.
- Lemon poppyseed muffins.
- Citrus salad.
- Chicken piccata.
- Fish tacos.
- Key Characteristics: Lemon zest refers to the outermost layer of the lemon peel. It provides a bright citrus flavor that complements many dishes, though it lacks the fibrous texture of lemongrass.
- Proper Ratio: Use 1 tablespoon of lemon zest as a substitute for 2 stalks of lemongrass. Incorporate the zest into your dish during cooking or sprinkle it as a garnish before serving.
5 – Lemon Verbena
Another great lemongrass substitute is lemon verbena.
This herb has a strong lemon flavor with minty undertones.
It’s also quite fragrant. Lemon verbena goes well in both sweet and savory dishes.
You can use it to make syrups, jams, jellies, and ice cream.
It’s also great in savory dishes like chicken and fish.
When substituting lemon verbena for lemongrass, use one teaspoon of leaves for each stalk of lemongrass.
You can also use this ingredient in curries, soups, and stir-fries.
You can find lemon verbena fresh, dried, or powdered.
If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, try an herb or specialty food store.
- Key Characteristics: Lemon verbena is an herb with a strong lemony flavor and aroma. It imparts a vibrant citrus note to recipes and can be used as a substitute for lemongrass in certain dishes.
- Proper Ratio: Use an equal amount of lemon verbena as a substitute for lemongrass. Adjust the quantity based on personal taste preferences and the intensity of the lemon verbena leaves.
Lemongrass is a delicious and fragrant herb that can be used in many dishes.
However, if you don’t have access to lemongrass or want to try something different, these five substitutes will give your dish the perfect flavor profile.
Each of these substitutes has a similar taste and can be used in many of the same dishes.
So, go ahead and experiment with different flavors to find your perfect match.
Do you have a favorite lemongrass substitute? Let us know in the comments below.