Lemongrass Substitute – The natural lemony aroma of lemongrass is extremely popular in the Southeastern Asian cuisine, yet its popularity is slowly catching up in other parts of the world too. It’s by far one of those flavors that you just can’t replicate, hence its importance in the authenticity of your meals.
Having fresh lemongrass is by far the optimal choice for your dishes, especially if you’re following an Asian recipe. However, there are certain situations when you just can’t find it. You certainly don’t feel like running from one supermarket to another, especially if you have already started cooking.
Some Common Lemongrass Substitute Options
The best news is that you can actually find a lemongrass substitute. In fact, you might have it in your pantry. Despite the impossibility to perfectly imitate the taste of lemongrass, you can still get pretty close if you use the right proportions for the right dishes. So, what can you rely on?
Lemon zest is the most commonly used alternative to lemongrass. It’s easy to tell why – lemons are widely accessible in pretty much any grocery store, even in small convenience stores. Replicating lemongrass is fairly simple. Get a lemon and grate the zest. You can use it according to the recipe then. The main reason behind this alternative is obvious – the lemony flavor.
Use the right proportions though. If you need a stalk of lemongrass, use the zest from half a lemon only. Use even less if you plan to mix it with other alternatives to lemongrass. For instance, arugula is quite handy for a stronger flavor, but mix them in a good ratio – one leaf of arugula and one teaspoon of lemon zest.
Kreung is one of the different types of lemongrass paste. It originates from Cambodia, but you can find it in the western world too. The main reason for its popularity is obvious – it actually contains lemongrass. It’s not plain though but mixed with galangal and shallots.
Although you’re less likely to find kreung at the local grocery store, try Asian stores or just go online. The paste normally comes in squeezable containers, so you can use it over a few months. As for the replacement ratio, use 1:1.
Kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves make a perfect lemongrass substitute if you’re only looking for its citrusy flavor. There’s a trick to obtaining the right taste though. Tear the leaves and clear the midrib prior to adding them to your dish. For a more intense flavor, mix Kaffir lime leaves with lime zest and juice.
This option is more suitable for soups and curries though. Keep in mind that the leaf is not really edible. It won’t hurt you, but it just doesn’t taste right. Remove it before serving just as you take bay leaves away.
Fresh ginger and coriander stalks
Replicating the lemony flavor of lemongrass is not hard, but what about other characteristics? This is when you can use fresh ginger and coriander stalks – the ideal combo for broths and soups. If the recipe asks for one stalk of lemongrass, replace it with two teaspoons of fresh ginger and two teaspoons of coriander stalks.
Mix them before adding them to your dish. While you can also use coriander leaves, stalks are more aromatic. That’s what makes them so popular in the Thai cuisine.
Related: Coriander Substitute
Coriander might have a zesty flavor if you concentrate on it. As for the ginger, it’s just as pungent and sweet as lemongrass. Avoid replacing fresh ginger with ginger powder. Instead, get the real thing – hard and with a smooth skin.
Finally, lemon juice is not to be overlooked either when interested in a basic lemongrass substitute. It’s literally the quickest way to add some citrusy aroma to your dish. Keep in mind that lemon juice is quite acidic though, so don’t overuse it.
Put too much of it and your dish will burn your throat. For maximum efficiency, squeeze the juice out of a lemon yourself. Just get a fresh lemon, cut it in half and use a basic juicer.
In the end, no matter how hard it is to perfectly replicate the aromatic taste of lemongrass, you can still find a decent lemongrass substitute, yet it solely depends on the recipe you have in mind.