Have you ever tried Thai cuisine? If you have, do you know where those fresh and citrusy flavors come from? Well, that is lemongrass. This lemony and pungent herb is found all across Southeast Asian countries. If you want to taste the authenticity in the dishes from any other country, you will likely need lemongrass as a staple. Finding a good lemongrass substitute can prove challenging, mainly because of how complex the flavors are.
The taste and flavor of lemongrass are unique. It packs in the pungent citrusy flavor with the lemon and lemon mint but has an underlying bitterness from the lemons too. With such complex flavors, replicating it with some other ingredient is quite severe.
But, we have sorted out some of the best lemongrass substitutes that you can try out instead.
How and Where is Lemongrass Used for Cooking?
Although lemongrass is a prevailing ingredient in Southeast Asian countries, it is now accessible to people from everywhere else. People like to add it to their dishes from the pungent and unique flavor, especially when they are making Asian curries.
Lemongrass has therapeutic benefits, too, so people like brewing some tea from it as well. In some countries in Africa, the people there keep lemongrass available in dried form and use it in their dishes. It increases the shelf life of the herb and helps concentrate the flavors. So, a little goes a long way.
In terms of cooking, lemongrass is a common element in the majority of beef, fish, and even chicken curries. The addition of this herb brings out the light aromatic and citrusy flavor in the dish that you will grow to love.
Given how versatile it is in cooking, the herb is now widespread across the world and not localized in just the Southeast Asian countries.
What Kind of Benefits Can You Reap?
Many people have the misconception that lemongrass is just right for cooking and for adding flavor to a dish. While that is true, lemongrass’ benefits go beyond the confines of the kitchen.
This herb is known for its therapeutic benefits as well. It is enriched with a balance of essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary for our body.
It is a reserve of:
- Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C
Aside from that, lemongrass is loaded with beneficial antioxidant properties too. It helps fight off the excess of free radicals in the body. It also has antifungal and antibiotic properties that help stave off infections.
The aroma of the lemongrass is also quite soothing. Many people find the smell so relaxing that they do use it in the air diffuser before sleep to help ward off insomnia and issues with their sleep schedule.
What Can Substitute Lemongrass?
Now that we know of the basics surrounding lemongrass and how this herb is a quintessential part of some cuisines, it is time to look into some substitutes. There could be times when fresh lemongrass won’t be available.
In case you do want to replicate the flavor and the taste that it leaves behind, knowing of some of the lemongrass paste substitutes can help ease your problem.
To help you out, we have sorted out the best substitute for lemongrass that you can try out.
1. Lemon Zest
Who would’ve thought, right?
But, if you want your easiest and most accessible lemongrass substitutes, it is lemon zest.
Just grating a little of the zest into the dish packs in a punch of citrusy and lemony flavor that you will grow to love – if you want a measurement, the zest of one whole lemon is equivalent to two stalks of lemongrass.
Often, mixing in one leaf of arugula with some lemon zest can create magic when it comes to replicating the flavors. It won’t be as authentic and pungent as you want it to be, but it comes pretty close.
While the lemon zest packs in the citrusy taste, arugula replicates the flavor of the lemongrass.
2. Kreung (Lemongrass Paste)
Now, you must be wondering, “Aren’t we talking about substitute for lemongrass?” So, how does a lemongrass paste count?
Well, Kreung is not just any lemongrass paste. This authentic aromatic paste from Cambodia is a mixture of shallots, galangal, and lemongrass. This is a fantastic substitute if you want to replicate some of the staple curries that use lemongrass.
If you are comparing the quantities, one tablespoon of this paste is equivalent to one chopped tablespoon of fresh lemongrass.
You might face a little issue getting your hands on it. But, in case you don’t find it in your local Asian supermarket, you can find it online.
3. Dried Lemongrass
In case you can’t get your hands on the fresh variant, the dried lemongrass is there to save the day.
Drying the herb makes the flavors a lot more concentrated. It is an amazing substitute, but since the flavors are so dense and complicated, you must keep an eye on the amount you are using.
A little does go a long way, so keep that in mind.
Dried lemongrass has a slightly stronger citrusy flavor and taste, so keep a check on that. Start by adding a little to the dish and taste it. If you feel like it needs more, add a bit more gradually. Ensure that you don’t end up dominating the flavor because that is where the problem arises from.
One small teaspoon of dried lemongrass is equivalent to an entire stalk of lemongrass, so be careful with the measurements.
4. Kaffir Lime leaves
Another popular lemongrass substitute that is considered very similar is Kaffir lime leaves. It adds in the element of citrus that mimics that of the lemongrass.
If you want to pack in a little more punch, mix the kaffir lime leaves with lemon zest and lime juice to enhance the taste and flavor.
One stalk of lemongrass is equivalent to around 1 leaf of kaffir lime, one teaspoon of lime zest, and a tablespoon of lemon juice.
This means that the flavor of the kaffir lime leaves is not that extensive, but it is a good enough substitute.
If you are using these leaves, make sure to get rid of the midrib. Only use the fresh leaves and get rid of the rest. Make sure to remove the leaf once the curry has been flavored as it can’t be eaten raw because of its bitter taste.
5. Fresh Coriander and Ginger
Now, this might come off as a little confusing for some, but the combination of fresh coriander and ginger can make magic. This might not pack in a lot of tangy and citrusy punch, but it works to balance out the flavor that you want.
You must get the soft skin and fresh ginger because that is what makes all the difference. The coriander stalks also have been found to add a fantastic flavor and aroma to the dish that you will further grow to love.
Chefs and experts suggest that the ginger has an almost similar taste and flavor like lemongrass with its sweet and pungent flavors. This is why Thai curries have ginger as a staple.
6. Lemon Verbena
Much like fresh lemongrass, lemon verbena is also a very aromatic herb. It has a strong flavor along with mild citrus notes which mimic lemongrass. They are quite easily accessible and are best used fresh.
If you like the taste and flavor, you can buy it in the pot and keep it for future use.
Aside from cooking, this works amazingly for making tea and drinks too. It adds a kick of freshness that you will love sipping on during the hot summer months.
But, you need to be careful with how much you are using. The leaf is very strong in terms of flavor, so make sure you don’t overdo it.
Add a leaf, taste it, and then add more if you want a more concentrated flavor.
7. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is one of the most popular substitutes for fresh lemongrass. It has a balance of the citrusy and mint flavor that you will grow to love. The leaves pack in a lot of pungencies, so you need to be careful with how much you are using.
Some people like chopping it into shreds and adding it to the food while some like crushing it in their palms and adding it whole. You can do either.
But, it is extremely strong with its taste and flavor. Just three leaves are equivalent to one stalk of lemongrass. So, make sure that you don’t overdo it.
Lemon balm is also a therapeutic herb that helps improve digestion, cures headaches, and even provides relief from painful cramps.
8. Lemon Juice
If you want something mild and don’t want the lemongrass’ overwhelming flavor, lemon juice is the best lemongrass substitute for that.
This is the simplest way of adding citrus flavor, and it is also one of the cheapest and accessible options.
But, indeed, lemon juice doesn’t bring in the typical flavor that a stalk of lemongrass would. It does add in the tang, but you need to be careful with how much you are adding.
The last thing you want is to end up making an extremely tangy dish. Balance is key when you are using any kind of substitute. This is what makes all the difference.
9. Preserved Lemon
Another possible lemongrass substitute that you can try out is preserved lemon. It adds a very concentrated citrus flavor to your dish. It has a mild taste to it, which complements the dishes nicely without any issues.
If you are using this as a substitute, remember that one teaspoon of preserved lemon is equivalent to one stalk of lemongrass.
10. Japanese Yuzu
Lastly, another fantastic alternative for lemongrass that you can try out is Japanese Yuzu. This citrus fruit is magical to your dish when you add it.
Aside from the citrus, it also packs in a lot of floral flavors, which again is pretty amazing. It does blend in well with curries and any kind of seafood dishes too.
It is quite strong in taste and pungency, so be careful with how much you are adding.
In case you have been looking for some good lemongrass substitute, these are some of the best ones that you can opt for. Make sure to always balance the flavors and not overdo it. The best substitute depends on the flavor you want to use for your dish. Some substitutes are more pungent than the others, so you must add in bit by bit instead of adding a lot.