Lemongrass is a unique herb that is prevalent in the dishes and cuisines of Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. This particular ingredient provides any food with a lemon-like flavor and unexplainable scent. Therefore, finding an alternative for it is quite difficult, even for seasoned cooks.
However, this predicament doesn’t mean that finding a lemongrass substitute is impossible. In fact, the complexity of this ingredient allows you to experiment with a plethora of options. If the herb is not currently available in your local stores or market, you won’t have any choice but to find a replacement.
Fortunately, there are some known kitchen ingredients that you can utilize if you are ever to cook oriental recipes. Here are some of them.
Depending on the recipe, lemongrass can be substituted by the following ingredients I am about to mention. In using them, always be particular about the amount that you are going to use. Otherwise, you will overwhelm your food with the strong flavor or scent. You don’t want this to happen as it will unfortnately ruin the recipe.
Depending on the season or the place where you live, these ingredients are not always available, so make sure that you seize every opportunity once you spot them in your local market.
I always consider lemon zest to be the best alternative to lemongrass. The reason for this is simple: it has the same citrus flavor. I am not alone in this idea, as professional chefs around the world think the same too.
Another reason why lemon zest is a popular option is due to its easy availability. Your local market will have this fruit all the year round. It is also affordable and downright practical, so you can never go wrong with this substitute.
To prepare this ingredient, you have to grate the lemon zest into pieces before you add it to the food. This is pretty similar to how you prepare lemongrass. You can recreate the citrus tang taste of one stalk of lemongrass by replacing it with the zest grate of a single lemon. The ratio is proportional, so it is not a complicated calculation.
But if you feel that lemon zest is not enough, you can include other ingredients into the mix. For instance, lemon zest can closely mimic the flavor of lemongrass if you add arugula to it. One arugula leaf and one teaspoon of lemon zest is the equivalent of one lemongrass stalk.
Obviously, you can either double or triple the amount of lemon zest, depending on the recipe’s requirements.
Kreung, which is the Cambodian version of lemongrass plate, is another excellent alternative to conventional lemongrass. It is practically lemongrass but with the inclusion of other ingredients. Apart from crushed lemongrass, the paste also contains galangal and shallots.
Its availability may not be that great, as you can only purchase it in Asian stores that import Cambodian products, but when it comes to flavor, this paste tastes very much like lemongrass. It also exhibits quite a strong citrus aftertaste, which can enliven any recipe that you make.
If you are going with this lemongrass paste as an alternative, make sure that you know the equivalent measurements. A tablespoon of chopped lemongrass should be reciprocated with one tablespoon of the paste. Just like lemon zest, their distribution is proportional.
Of course, you have to expect that the texture of the food will change (when the paste is added). After all, paste is sticky and thick. But don’t worry, this will not affect the quality or taste of the dish.
If you are making soups that require the use of lemongrass, do not fret. There is a combo that can replace this herb efficiently. Let me introduce you to the synergy of coriander and ginger. These two ingredients can match the citrus tang flavor of lemongrass through their innate properties.
If a particular dish requires you to use one lemongrass stalk, you should replace it with two teaspoons of minced ginger and two teaspoons of coriander stalk. Fortunately, the process of mincing these ingredients is quite easy if you have a versatile garlic crusher in your kitchen.
But why did I choose to use coriander stalks over their leaves? You are curious, right? Well, there is more flavor in the stalks than the leaves. Those of you who are familiar with Thai curries will know that coriander stalks are among the primary ingredients.
Coriander possesses a zesty aroma and flavor, while ginger provides the same flavor as lemongrass. They have a strong scent and semi-sweet taste, so combining these characteristics will yield all the nuance of lemongrass.
The Kaffir lime has a natural citrus scent that closely resembles lemongrass. It is a great alternative because it is versatile. If you are planning to use it as a lemongrass substitute, you will need to do some prior preparations first and remove the leaves of the lime to reveal its midrib. Once the midrib is exposed, you can add it to the dish you are cooking.
Just like the other ingredients, you can combine Kaffir lime with other citrus-based ingredients to fully replicate the flavor of lemongrass. For instance, you can mix it with lime zest and lime juice to further enhance the power of its punch and use this combination in oriental soups and curries. You can even use this in Hungarian soups.
Do not feel guilty about the leaves you have removed, as most of the time they are unused. Therefore, you can just tear them away from the lime.
Some desserts require the addition of lemongrass. But if you currently don’t have the ingredient to hand, you might want to try lemon balm. It has a sweet and aromatic citrus scent that can easily mesmerize anyone. Because of this characteristic, lemon balm is only applicable to certain recipes, which are typically desserts. Fine examples of this are Apricot Mojito and Lemon Curd Tartlets. You can always replace the lemongrass here with lemon balm.
Use around three to four lemon balm leaves per stalk of lemongrass. This is the proper ratio that you should follow if you want to provide the dish with a sweet citrus tangy flavor.
The accessibility of lemon balm in your local market is not that scarce. You can either acquire them dried or fresh. Choosing between them boils down to your preferences and needs. Alternatively, you can grow this plant in your backyard. Trust me, it is not difficult to cultivate.
Unless you are living in the Southeast Asian countries I have mentioned, you cannot always have access to lemongrass. Sooner or later, you will will find yourself in the middle of a crisis because this herb is not available in your kitchen. When the worse comes to the worst, you should be prepared and properly equipped.
Now that you know all of the plausible substitutes for lemongrass, I am pretty sure that your worries are now lessened, as you can always use these alternatives whenever you don’t have the time or opportunity to acquire lemongrass. Don’t worry. If they are used properly, those ingredients can recreate the wild flavor that a lemongrass provides.
Do you now want to learn more about spices, herbs, and anything in between? If so, check out this detailed guide I have made!
How was this article? Did you know of kitchen ingredients that can be use instead of lemongrass? Just share them in the comments section below!