Some meals are incomplete without a citrusy flavor that provides the zing to a dish. Lemongrass and even some lemongrass substitutes can help you achieve just that. Planning to try an Asian recipe for dinner tonight and don’t have lemongrass at hand? Check out the list of the best substitutes for lemongrass for you to experiment with.
Dried lemongrass, lemon zest, lemon balm, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon verbena make the best substitutes for lemongrass. Fresh ginger with coriander can also be used as a perfect lemongrass DIY substitute.
But what if you can’t find lemongrass in your kitchen? With quite a few options out there, don’t plan to skip on that recipe that has impressed you. I’m sure you’ll find your best substitute for lemongrass that will work perfectly well.
However, let’s first understand the characteristics of lemongrass, starting with its flavor and texture profile so that you choose the closest alternative.
Quick Peek: Lemongrass
In this section, you will understand the flavor and texture of lemongrass, what recipes it can be used in, and its health benefits.
What is Lemongrass?
Lemongrass, being a perennial grass, is native to the tropical and subtropical climates of Asia, Australia, and Africa. It has red base stems and can grow in favored habitat up to 10 feet in height. It grows best during the summer in moist, rich soil, and each stalk of lemongrass has several layers to it.
Describing Lemongrass: Flavor And Texture
Lemongrass is an herb that provides lemony, minty, and floral flavors. It’s a fibrous pale yellow-green stalk that resembles green onions and is available in different forms such as fresh, dried, powdery, or even pummeled into a paste. Due to its appealing citrus flavor, lemongrass is commonly used in a variety of soups, teas, and curries.
But that’s not all. Beef, seafood, poultry, and vegetables also make for great ingredients to work with lemongrass.
When shopping for lemongrass, look for firm, unblemished, heavy stalks with green tips and pale-yellow lower parts. Avoid purchasing stalks that are soft, dried up with brown outer leaves, or are too light in weight, as these will not give as much flavor.
With all those appetizing taste notes, it’s safe to say that lemongrass creates great flavors when combined with ingredients like garlic, galangal or ginger, Thai basil, shallots, lime leaves, and coconut milk.
Facts About Lemongrass
- Lemongrass grows about 2 to 4 feet in height and about 3 feet in diameter.
- Due to its highly aromatic properties, lemongrass is used in cosmetic products and perfumes, too.
- Lemongrass oil contains properties that make it useful in the preservation of ancient palm-leaf manuscripts.
- Apart from its culinary uses, it can be used to repel mosquitos, ticks, and lice as an ingredient in shampoos and grooming products. On the other hand, it is also used to attract honey bees.
- Fresh lemongrass stalks, as well as leaf buds, can be found throughout the year.
Uses Of Lemongrass
Lemongrass can be used in many ways. It makes for a perfect ingredient in Thai, Asian and Vietnamese curries, sauces, salads, soups, and stews. In addition, lemongrass is also used in teas and stocks as it infuses all its flavor into liquids.
Coming to sweet dishes, lemongrass is often used in a variety of desserts like cakes and cookies. You can also use lemongrass in frozen items like sorbets and ice creams.
Lemongrass On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Apart from its culinary uses, lemongrass is treasured for its health benefits. It is loaded with healthy nutrients and essential minerals, provides vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, and folates, and consists of potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, and phosphorus. It also boasts anti-inflammatory properties.
This citrusy herb also possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties and is a go-to alternative remedy for digestive problems.
Why Use Substitutes For Lemongrass?
You might want to prepare an authentic south Asian recipe but may fall short of lemongrass. Or you may like its flavor but would want to experiment with flavors that are more intense or mild. That’s when the best substitutes for lemongrass come in handy.
While some alternatives might be different in texture, their flavor will not leave you disappointed. So, let’s find out more about these alternatives.
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7 Best Substitutes For Lemongrass
In this section, you will find out all about the best substitutes for lemongrass and how to use it in different recipes.
1. Dried Lemongrass
Dried lemongrass makes for a good substitute for lemongrass if you are looking for woody notes in your recipes. Compared to fresh lemongrass, which gives more of the citrus and minty effect, dried lemongrass gives the recipe a complex flavor with earthier notes. Another point to keep in mind is the fact that dry substitutes tend to provide more concentrated flavors; hence they should be used moderately.
It can be used in hot beverages, soups, and curries.
2. Lemon Zest
The easiest substitute available for lemongrass is lemon zest. Just grate some fresh lemon zest in the required recipe to replicate the tangy flavor of lemongrass. If you have ever sucked on a fresh lemon slice, you have surely tasted the zing that it peels offers.
If you are looking at lemongrass for baking purposes and don’t have it at hand, then lemon zest is the best option to use as its substitute. It’s appropriate for a variety of desserts such as cakes, muffins, puddings, cookies, and pies, to name a few.
3. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm makes for another wonderful substitute to use for lemongrass. It has a milder lemon flavor and comes from the mint family. Although lemon balm pairs well with most of the recipes, to name a few, it can be used to flavor soups, sauces, vinegar, marinades, and seafood. Fresh leaves of lemon balm can also be used in salads or fresh fruits.
A number of four lemon balm leaves can be used as a substitute for one stalk of lemongrass. These leaves are readily available in the herb sections of grocery stores. Lemon balm for lemongrass is also commonly used in herbal teas and has been used as a remedy for a variety of ailments.
4. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Another Asian aromatic leaf, Kaffir lime leaves are used in Indonesian, Cambodian, and Thai recipes. Kaffir lime leaves as a substitute for lemongrass has a lemony citrus flavor with undertones of floral notes. The leaves have a glossy appearance and are dark green in color.
In most recipes of curries and soups, kaffir lime leaves are commonly added as a whole. However, they can also be sliced very thinly and added raw to salads or stir-fries. As the texture of these leaves is a little firm, chewing on a whole leaf requires some time.
You can use these citrusy leaves in Thai red shrimp curry, Panang curry paste, and a variety of soups. Kaffir lime leaves also make a great addition to beverages like hot tea. Along with its culinary uses, kaffir lime leaves are also a personal deodorant and cleanser for the body.
5. Lemon Verbena
If you are looking for robust flavors in your dish, with bright and floral notes and with a spicy aroma, then lemon verbena makes for a great alternative to lemongrass.
The use of lemon verbena is commonly found in European countries. They use it to flavor fruit salad dressings, soups, fruit drinks, marinades, jams, desserts, seafood, and poultry. These fragrant leaves even make for one of the best ingredients to be used in teas and beverages when blended with mint.
For desserts, the leaves of lemon verbena can be infused in sugar syrup that can be used to top muffins or cakes.
6. Japanese Yozu
Another citrus fruit, Japanese yozu can be used as a substitute for lemongrass as it imparts a tart flavor that can be described as a mix of lemon and mandarin.
This fruit is loved by most bakers, chefs, and mixologists for bringing out citrusy flavors in dishes. You can use it in vinaigrette, marinade, desserts, or cocktails. In seafood recipes, Japanese Yuzu can be used as a seasoning to balance flavors. A few drops of its juice can be used to flavor custards, jellies, ice, and meringues.
DIY Lemongrass Substitutes
While there are many substitutes for lemongrass available for you to choose from, let’s look at a DIY option that makes for a great alternative.
Fresh Ginger + Coriander
One of the easiest available substitutes, fresh ginger, and coriander, work wonderfully in the recipes that call for lemongrass. This combination is a mix of herbal flavors that replicates lemongrass well. While coriander with its flavorful stalks imparts grassy notes, ginger comes with its sweet and spicy punch. Fresh ginger + coriander as a substitute for lemongrass can be used for soups and broths.
Short Recap For Lemongrass Substitutes
I’m sure you are happy to see the above list that makes for the best substitutes for lemongrass with matching flavor profiles. But to make it easier for you, let me break it down for you further.
Lemongrass Substitutes That Are Most Suitable In Flavor:
- Dried lemongrass
- Kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass Substitutes That Are Easily Available:
- Lemon Zest
- Fresh ginger + coriander
How To Substitute Lemongrass In A Recipe
- Lemon Zest
- Lemon Balm
- Kaffir Lime Leaves
- Lemon Verbena
- Japanese Yozu
- Fresh Ginger + Coriander
- Pick the most suitable substitute for lemongrass that fits right in your recipe.
- Collect your substitutes.
- Use the substitute in the required amount as asked in your recipe.
Lemongrass, as an aromatic, is such a versatile ingredient that it brings out great flavors in a lot of recipes, from sweet to savory, with its unique aroma that brings freshness to every meal.
Every part of the lemongrass has a role to play. While the leaves can be used to flavor liquids, the stalks can be used as skewers for your BBQ or satay. Think of that flavorful punch to your meat or vegetables. With so much information on lemongrass, I’m sure you’ve figured out the best alternative as a replacement for lemongrass.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can lemon juice be substituted for lemongrass?
Yes, small amounts of lemon juice can be used as a substitute for lemongrass.
Can dried lemongrass be used as a substitute for lemongrass?
Dried lemongrass can be substituted for fresh one, however, they should be used in smaller quantities. Dried spices as compared to the fresh ones often tend to give a concentrated flavor.
Is lemongrass a spice?
Lemongrass is an aromatic herb, but when sold in dried form it is known as a spice.
How to use lemongrass leaves?
Lemongrass leaves work best when boiled in liquids. Separate them from the stalk and simmer them in water to make hot tea.
How can I store fresh lemongrass?
You can wrap lemongrass loosely and store it in the refrigerator or mince it into a paste.