You’ll probably see it in every single grocery store in the world. But have you ever tried it? What does ginger taste like and what does it bring to food in all its different forms and varieties?
This spice is used in many cuisines from Asia, the Caribbean to Indian food. Many sweet and savory dishes and drinks borrow a zing from fresh or ground ginger.
Ginger has a spicy yet slightly sweet taste that can be used in almost any dish or baking dish: from hearty meaty meals, sweet pies and pastries, soups and sauces to desserts. How cool!
In this article, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about this exotic spice.
What Does Ginger Taste Like (& What It Is to Begin With)
What we call ginger is actually the bumpy root of the ginger plant, which is close cousins with cardamom and turmeric. It was first discovered in the Southeastern Asian islands and then traveled west following the routes of spice trade.
Fresh ginger taste is often described as peppery and sweet, accompanied by a spicy and pungent aroma. This provides your food and baked goods a burst of flavor, color, and smell. Similar to garlic, fresh ginger can become bitter if you burn it.
Ground ginger does not have a potent taste, but it has a warm, homely feel and a little sweetness. This form is usually used for desserts and cannot fully substitute fresh ginger and vice versa. While ground ginger can be used for cooking, you shouldn’t use fresh ginger for baking as it’s a tad bit pungent for a sweet dish!
There are many varieties of ginger to choose from, but the most common one used is the one with light brown skin and yellow flesh. You can find ginger in any forms you can think of: dried, fresh, ground, pickled, preserved, or candied (yes, a candy!).
Let’s go into all of these a bit more.
The Different Varieties Of Ginger
This is ginger root that is dried and crushed into a powder. You can find this easily at supermarkets. Ground ginger is commonly used in desserts and blended with other spices for a curry.
You will find fresh ginger in two forms: mature and young.
The young ginger roots are also called spring ginger, which has pale, thin skin that you do not have to peel. It is tender and is milder than the mature root. You can grate or chop it into your dishes.
Mature root has tougher skin that you have to peel to get the delicious flesh below. It is usually ground, chopped, or grated in cooking. If you see a blue ring when slicing fresh ginger, don’t panic! This isn’t bad ginger, but a Hawaiian variety.
It is known for its bright flavor and juiciness. However, it’s usually quite pricey.
You can find this variety in the whole root or slices. It’s soaked in a special mixture, depending on where you buy it from before using it. However, you can rehydrate it at home, it’s pretty easy! Just put it in some hot water and voila.
(And then drink the water. I’m serious! Ginger tea is REALLY hot and can be a challenge to drink, but it’s excellent for your health – more on that below.)
Also known as ‘gari’ in Japan, pickled ginger is pickled using sweet vinegar and is colored red or pink. It’s a delicacy commonly seen next to sushi and is also used to refresh your breath. You’d find them at an Asian market, and they should be stored in the fridge with its container.
This is also available in Asian markets. In this form, ginger is mixed with a sugar-salt combination. It’s commonly used as an additive in deserts or as a confection. It’s really good with melon, from what I hear!
Crystallized or Candied Ginger
This is ginger cooked in sugar syrup on low heat until it becomes tender. It is then coated with granulated sugar. It’s really easy to make at home as a sweet-spicy snack or a great addition to your dessert.
How to Cook With Ginger
You know what they say: if you can think it, you can put ginger in it! Well, not quite, but you get it.
You can use ginger in preparing meat, beef, chicken, or fish, or add them to soups and curries for that fresh, peppery taste and bright color.
You can even make a lovely stir-fry with ginger; alternatively, you can juice it and add it to homemade sauces. You can also use ground ginger for this; just add it to the batter when it’s needed. Serve pickled ginger on the side (pickles go amazing with stir-fry).
Ginger is extremely versatile as its uses do not only stop at cooking. You can add this super ingredient to drinks such as cocktails, teas, and sodas. Make a simple syrup with preferably fresh ginger to flavor your mixed drinks.
Ginger tea is a common beverage that can be served hot or cold. Perfect for any time of the day and packed with loads of nutrients that are beneficial to the body. It pairs well with a splash of lemon or honey and accompanying fruits like cranberries, peaches, and blueberries.
What Does Ginger Do for My Body and Me?
Not only is ginger an amazing addition to your cooking because of its spicy flavor unlike any other, but it also does wonders for your body!
- Reduces pain – Ginger contains substances known as gingerols that manage inflammation and reduce the pain you feel.
- Help you with irritated skin – If a dry winter is unkind to your skin, you can eat some ginger to help your itchy skin from the inside out. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties help soothe irritated skin.
- Helps you look younger – Ginger has impressive antioxidant content that maintains your skin’s collagen production, making you look younger and your skin flawless and smooth.
- Digestion aid – A cup of ginger tea can help you digest your food faster, so you don’t have to deal with a food baby! It’ll also settle your tummy and reduce gas and bloating.
- Reduces nausea – Ginger has plenty of research proving that it’s an effective remedy for nausea. Whether it’s nausea from a hangover, recovering from chemotherapy, a bumpy trip, or pregnancy blues, ginger cures all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute ginger?
If you only have ground ginger in the house, you can use ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger for one tablespoon of fresh ginger. This may not work on every recipe, such as baked goods.
In baking, you rather substitute ground ginger with other ground spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom. You can also use these spices as a substitute to fresh ginger, but it may not provide the taste you’re looking for.
What does ginger ale taste like?
Most sodas are pretty sweet, but ginger ale is quite the opposite, in a good way, of course!
Ginger ale generally has a citrusy, sour note that makes it irresistible on a hot day. Its refreshing nature makes it difficult to hate; however, it is an acquired taste.
Ginger ales made with real ginger have more of a peppery flavor compared to heavily processed or additives of ginger.