Lemongrass is a very important ingredient in certain cuisines, including Thai and Vietnamese. This aromatic grass is herbal and lemony, making it a great flavoring agent in many dishes.
However, it can be hard to find lemongrass in your local grocery store sometimes, so you should be aware of the options out there that can work well instead.
What Is Lemongrass?
Also called Cymbopogon, lemongrass is a herb with a lemony aroma and flavor. It grows in Southeast Asia, which is why it is a common staple of Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, and Sri Lankan foods.
While you can find both fresh and dry lemongrass, the flavor is different. The fresh kind is more aromatic and has a stronger citrus flavor, while the dry kind has a woodsy flavor to it. The fresh kind is used in any dish, but the dry kind is usually reserved for soups and stews.
What Can I Replace Lemongrass With?
So, when you can’t find it, or you can’t use it, try these lemongrass substitutes instead:
#1. Lemon Zest
While not everyone keeps lemons at home, it is an easy fruit to find and use. It is citrus and aromatic, similar to lemongrass. To use it, use the zest, and grind it before adding it to your dish. In a pinch, lemon juice can work as well, but the aroma may not be as powerful.
You can use about one piece of zest in place for one teaspoon of lemongrass or one teaspoon of lemon juice in place for one teaspoon of lemongrass as well. Make sure you taste as you go, as you may need to add more for more aroma and flavor.
#2. Arugula and Lemon Zest
If lemon zest on its own isn’t doing it, you can try to add arugula. This vegetable is peppery and sharp, but when mixed with the citrus in lemon, the result is a similar spice to lemongrass. You can find arugula in most produce sections of grocery stores, but you can also try a local farmer’s markets.
To substitute for lemongrass, use one leaf of arugula and one teaspoon of ground lemon zest. This is a good suggestion in fish dishes, broths, and soups, where the flavor needs to be a bit fresher.
#3. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Kaffir lime leaves are a common alternative to lemongrass, thanks to their minty and citrusy flavor. This fruit and its leaves are widely used in Southeasian food, but sometimes they can also be hard to find. You can try your local organic supermarket or specialty store.
To use it instead of lemongrass, you can chop the leaves finely and add a bit of the lime juice for better aroma. Some people prefer to cook with the leaves and then remove them before serving. This adds flavor and aroma but doesn’t require eating the leaf itself.
#4. Dried Lemongrass
This isn’t the first choice because dried lemongrass does taste very different from the fresh kind. This dried herb tastes much more herbal and somewhat woodsy, so to replace fresh lemongrass use only a small pinch.
Dried lemongrass can be bought in some grocery stores, but it is more common in specialty stores and organic supermarkets. This option works well in meat dishes, such as poultry and beef, particularly if they have a sauce base. Be careful with how much you add, as this dried herb can overpower your dish very quickly.
#5. Fresh Ginger and Fresh Coriander
Fresh ginger is very aromatic, spicy, and citrus too. Fresh coriander is tart and citrus as well. When you mix both of these fresh ingredients, the result is an aromatic citrus flavor that resembles lemongrass.
To substitute for lemongrass, use two teaspoons of fresh ginger and two teaspoons of coriander stalks. Keep in mind though that some people dislike the smell and flavor of coriander due to a genetic mutation that causes it to taste like soap.
#6. Lemon Balm
This citrus herb is from the mint family, and it is often used for medicinal purposes. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that aid the digestive and nervous systems.
Lemon balm does have a very strong aroma, so it is better to add it towards the end of the cooking process or right before you serve the dish.
Lemon balm can be bought in most health stores or organic supermarkets. You can use this option instead of lemongrass by adding about four lemon balm leaves for one stalk of lemongrass. Since it is very citrus and somewhat minty, it is best used in desserts and some dips or sauces.
#7. Lemon Verbena
This choice tastes like lemon zest, but more aromatic. The leaves are edible and are usually found in cocktails, juices, salad dressings, and sauces. Most people use the leaves of lemon verbena for health reasons.
It is said to aid in indigestion, gas, constipation, but also in managing joint pain, asthma, common colds, and more. You can find lemon verbena in health stores and organic supermarkets, but to use it in place of lemongrass, add two lemon verbena leaves for every stalk of lemongrass.
This root is known as Thai ginger, but this one has a citrusy and almost piney flavor, unlike the spiciness in ginger. To use as a substitute, use fresh or dried ginger. Lemongrass can also work but use the fresh kind.
While the flavor is citrusy, it is not that similar to lemon, it’s more spicy and peppery as well. Despite being very aromatic, it is not too strong, so you can add it to your dishes without any problems.
Yes, lemongrass is also known as Cymbopogon, barbed wire grass, silky heads, Cochin grass, or Malabar grass. While it was first used in Southeast Asia, you can find it in Africa, Australia, and other places now.
Lemongrass is a staple ingredient in many dishes, but not finding it or not being able to use one, doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You can use any of these 7 substitutes to replace lemongrass, and the flavor will be equally aromatic and delicious.
*Photo by anginta/depositphotos