5 Best Lemongrass Substitute You Need To Know For Your Next Asian Dinner

Lemongrass Substitute

You’re here because you’re probably wondering just what lemongrass is or because you’ve seen it in an Asian recipe you wanted to try out. You’re also searching to see if there is any lemongrass substitute you can use because let’s be real, lemongrass is not an ordinary ingredient you would find in a common grocery store.

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We understand why you must have lemongrass if you’re to cook that delicious Vietnamese grilled chicken or that mouthwatering Indian curry you saw on TV the other day. Without lemongrass, most Asian food would taste dull. This plant has such a distinct aroma, and citrus and minty flavor that just makes food more exotic and savory. But don’t fret about where you can find them because even without fresh lemongrass, we’d still be able to replace the taste and smell of this popular plant.

What to substitute for lemongrass? Lots! There are ingredients in your local grocery that you may use to replicate this plant. Below are a few you can use:

1. Lemon Zest, Juice or Leaves

Lemon Zest, Juice or Leaves

Lemons are found in most grocery stores that you won’t have a hard time finding this fruit. The citrus and tangy taste of lemon are similar to lemongrass that you can easily use the fruit as a replacement.

Lemon zest is mainly used. But if you’re wondering can lemon juice be substituted for lemon zest? The answer is yes! Lemon zest may be the closest substitute. But it is followed by lemon juice (real fresh squeezed lemon juice than the bottled ones), and the lemon leaves last. You may just choose one of these to use in your dishes rather than combine all three.

Lemon leaves go last in this list because using it is quite tricky. The leaves may mess up your dish since they’re oily. Besides, you would rather be well off in finding lemon zest or lemon juice easily. You wouldn’t normally find lemon leaves being sold in stores unless you own a lemon tree in your backyard.

  • Measurement: 1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 tsp of grated lemon zest
  • Best used: Soups and curries

2. Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves are commonly used as enhancers for citrus flavors already present in food. But it’s still considered a lemongrass substitute because apart from the leaves already having a citrus taste, Kaffir also has a minty taste. It is also recommended to combine Kaffir lime leaves with lime juice for a stronger and distinct flavor.

When using Kaffir, you must remove the leaves from its midrib before adding it to the dish. The leaves are not eaten as well, so you can just remove the Kaffir lime leaves before serving.

  • Measurement: 1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 Kaffir lime leaf, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of lime zest
  • Best used: Soups and curries

3. Coriander Stalks and Ginger

Coriander Stalks and Ginger

Two common ingredients you can find at the supermarkets that can be substituted for lemongrass are coriander and ginger. To be precise, use coriander stalks rather than the leaves since the stalks have more flavor.

Ginger, on the other hand, gives you that nice hot and zesty flavor that’s similar to lemongrass. The taste may not be on the citrus side but on how pungent it is to the palate. Remember to use fresh ginger than powdered ginger for a more authentic taste.

Combined, both the coriander stalks and grated ginger make for a close lemongrass substitute.

  • Measurement: 1 stalk of lemongrass = 2 tsp of grated ginger and 2 tsp of finely chopped coriander stalk
  • Best used: Soups

4. Dried Lemongrass

Dried Lemongrass

Most grocery stores won’t carry fresh lemongrass but the chances of them selling bottled dried lemongrass are high.

Dried lemongrass has a much stronger and concentrated herbal taste so it’s best to use just a small amount of it. It still gives off the same minty and citrus aroma.

  • Measurement: 1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 tsp of dried lemongrass
  • Best used: Poultry dishes that have sauces

5. Lemon Zest and Arugula

Lemon Zest and Arugula

You already know why lemon zest is a good substitute for lemongrass. How about if arugula is added?

Arugula has a peppery and nutty flavor that’s similar to mustard. You’ll feel a kick of spice in your taste buds when you eat it, especially when you take a bite out of their stalks. It’s popularly used as a pizza topping. But arugula is also used in salads and other dishes.

When you combine lemon zest and arugula, you’ll get that citrus and strong peppery flavor that’s reminiscent of how lemongrass tastes like. Remember not to get aged arugula since they may taste bitter and destroy the flavor of your dishes.

  • Measurement: 1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 tsp lemon zest and 1 medium-sized arugula leaf
  • Best used: Fish stews

Lemon Grass: What Is It?

Lemongrass is a plant that’s commonly grown in Asia, India, Australia, and even Africa. It has a citrus flavor, but is also minty with a strong herbal aroma. Lemongrass looks a lot like ordinary tall grass that it’s even mistaken as such. If it wasn’t for the smell of it, no one would guess that it’s lemongrass.

The stalk of the lemongrass is mostly used in cooking, although some Asian recipes call for the whole thing. Take for example the popular pork roast in the Philippines called Lechon. They simply stuff the pork with a bunch of lemongrasses tied together to eliminate the gamey smell of pork and make it taste deliciously tangy.

In other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, lemongrass is used in marinades, curries, soups, noodle dishes and even in teas.

How To Plant Lemongrass

If you want to try lemongrass but can’t seem to find it, you may plant it in your backyard. It’s easy that all you need is a pot, any drained soil, and your lemongrass.

You may buy a pot of this plant, or root a few stalks of it in water if you already have them. Both can be purchased in Asian grocery stores. Do note that this plant is sensitive to the cold weather, so you can plant this in spring until summer because it needs a good amount of sun. You may harvest the lemongrass once it starts developing thick stems. Keep it frozen in a re-sealable bag to store if you have leftover leaves from harvesting.

If this is too much work for you and you’re wondering where to buy lemongrass, you can order them online, or visit any Asian supermarket.

Lemongrass Health Benefits

Lemongrass is not only tasty. They’re healthy too. There are several known health benefits to lemongrass. Below are the following:

  • It is known to prevent cavities, helps fight tooth decay, and other oral infections
  • Lemongrass may help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation
  • It helps protect your digestive system, especially from gastric ulcers
  • Brewing a cup of lemongrass tea is said to detoxify your body and boost your metabolism
  • Because it is known as an anti-inflammatory plant, it can help women suffering from PMS such as bloating and menstrual cramps.

Do note that though these are health benefits, lemongrass should still be taken in moderation.

Asian Dishes That Use Lemongrass

There are a lot of Asian dishes that use lemongrass. It’s probably the most common ingredient in this type of cuisine. You’ll love how it tastes zesty and tangy in your mouth that will make you crave for more.

You can use fresh lemongrass or lemongrass substitute for the following dishes:

  • Grilled Pork or Chicken – lemongrass is used in marinades for when you’re grilling pork or chicken. It’s combined with lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. Be sure to also use chicken thighs since it’s juicier.
  • Chicken Curry – Mixing ginger, coconut milk, fish sauce, curry paste, and lemongrass can turn chicken curry dishes very flavorful.
  • Fish Stew – Combine the main ingredients of a fish stew such as fish or vegetable stock, white wine, lemongrass, and fish sauce for a light and refreshing fish stew.
  • Lemongrass Tea – Lemongrass tea is easy. All you need is water, lemongrass, sugar, and lime. You may use honey if you like. You can brew this or have it on ice for a relaxing afternoon tea session.
  • Curry Paste – Curry pastes enhances curries and soups. With lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and sugar as just a few of the main ingredients, you can have homemade curry paste on the ready whenever you need it.

The next time you ask "What can I use instead of lemongrass?" just visit this guide again and check out the substitutes on our list. Have more Asian cuisine in your own home with just a simple lemongrass substitute. Turn your dishes livelier, savory and exotic with these substitutes that will make you feel as if you’ve traveled all over Asia without leaving your kitchen.

Have you tried any of these substitutes? Which ones did you prefer? Let us know!

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