Best 11 Lemongrass Substitutes
With its dıstınctıve taste, lemongrass can be difficult to substitute. However, if for some reason you can’t find any lemongrass or you’ve just run out, there are some herbs, fruit and vegetables that you can use to give your dish the same kick. Choose your lemongrass substitute from our list below!
So you’ve decided to prepare your famous Thai seafood soup, or maybe you want to impress your guests with a great Vietnamese barbeque with lemongrass marinade. You thought you had some stalks left but you fınd there’s no lemongrass in sight. Do you just cancel and cook something else? Or have you googled how to substitute lemongrass and landed here because you’re determined to impress?
We get it! If you are fond of Vietnamese or Thai cuisine, you simply need that lemongrass flavor. Lemongrass, aka Citronella, Fever Grass, Serai, Barbed Wire Grass, Hierba Luisa, Tanglad or Silky Heads, is a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian foods.
And while this aromatic plant does have its own special flavor, there are some alternatives for when you don’t have it in the kitchen. So don’t just skip on the Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese or Malaysian dish just yet! We’re pretty sure you’ll have some of these lemongrass substitutes somewhere in your home.
What to look for in a lemongrass substitute
Before we start the hunt for a lemongrass alternative, it’s as well to have idea of the flavors to look for. After all, you could even discover your own lemongrass replacement if you follow our guide. And if you do, by all means, tell us all about it in the comments!
With a lemony, intense flavor and some herbal and woody accents, lemongrass is the best ingredient for an authentic Southeast Asian dish. And yes, some meals are not the same without its zing, citrusy flavor, and intense fresh, sweet, rich and aromatic scent.
If you’ve run out, you can still save the day with a smart replacement. But which replacement you choose will depend on the recipe. That is why we are providing you with some hints on which recipes are best suited for each alternative, the perfect quantities to use, and at what point in the cooking you should add the ingredient. This way you can replicate the flavor, or at least get as close as possible.
A lemongrass replacement should have these signature notes and flavors if you’re to properly enjoy your Thai dish:
- A lemony, sweet taste, almost floral, without the bitterness of citrus
- Some ginger touches: the profound and deep aroma but without the intense spiciness, the pungent flavor, and stinginess
- A hint of fresh mint, yet more floral and without being overpowering
- A slight tangy, sharp, exotic aroma, and yet ever so sweet and delicate
- Some notes of herbs (that’s why you’ll find some great combinations of both fruit and herbs below) and some earthy, woody notes to give you the depth of lemongrass.
For the Asian authenticity you’ve been dreaming of, you need to know which ingredients that can replicate it. Lemon Zest, Kaffir lime leaves, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Preserve, Coriander and Ginger or Arugula are some of the most suitable alternatives. And there are others you probably won’t have thought of. Just keep reading!
What can you replace lemongrass with: simple ingredients
The aromatic lemongrass is known to be filled with amazing essential vitamins and minerals: A, B1, Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid aka B5, Pyridoxine or B6, vitamin C, folates, Potassium, Copper, Zinc, Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus. They all go together to make lemongrass a powerhouse of nutrient intake.
It has antioxidant, antibiotic, and antifungal properties and, as well as cooking, is used in medicinal treatments and cosmetics. And it has that great bouquet of flavors. While the ingredients we have selected below might not have the same healing qualities, they are filled with their own nutrients and have a lot of flavor!
1. Dry Lemongrass
While fresh lemongrass has a bright, fresh, and complex flavor, it also has a rather woody aroma. Lemongrass is a fragrant herb that releases flavors while it cooks. The dried version is not as tangy or sharp as the fresh plant. But any dish left to simmer for a while will produce almost the same aroma with dried lemongrass: though it can create a very strong flavor so make sure not to overpower your dish.
A good rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon of dried lemongrass for each stalk of fresh your recipe suggests.
Extra info: Fresh lemongrass needs to be chopped finely so that you don’t get fibrous, woody chunks of it in your food. The stalks can also be ground in a food processor to make a paste. This way you don’t have to remove it before serving, which you need to do if you use bigger chunks of lemongrass. The same is recommended when using dries lemongrass. But if you use ground lemongrass, you can relax knowing you won’t be having any woody, difficult to chew bites in your food.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 teaspoon of dry lemongrass
2. Lemon Zest
This is always easy to find! In fact, if you like cooking at home, we’re pretty sure you will have it in your kitchen at all times. Lemon zest is a great replacement for lemongrass. It packs the citrusy tang, the freshness and the zing that lemongrass offers.
Make sure not to grate the white pith of the lemon since this will give a bitter taste, the opposite of the sweetness of lemongrass. If you want to add the diverse notes of the lemongrass fragrance, keep reading for some amazing combinations.
1 stalk of Lemongrass = the zest from ½ Lemon Best used for: any recipe that has lemongrass in the ingredients.
3. Preserved Lemon
Preserved lemon offers your food a citrusy taste and some of that tang that lemongrass provides too. It’s milder than lemongrass, so less chance of overpowering your dish. Make sure to use both the peel and the pulp of the fruit.
1 stalk lemongrass = ½ a preserved lemon Best used for: seafood, shrimp, prawns, fish
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is known to have a citrusy fragrance and is mild, delicate, and sweet. In order to give your dish the lemongrass flavor you want, make sure to add lemon balm at the end of the cooking process. This way it keeps its flavor.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 4 lemon balm leaves Best used for: anything with lemongrass and especially anything sweet, any dessert. It’s a great addition to lemon curd tarts, for instance.
5. Lemon Verbena
Lemon verbena is intense and can overpower your dish, so make sure to use it carefully. Also, make sure to remove lemon verbena before serving.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 2 lemon verbena Leaves Best used for: sauces, soups, stews, broths, curries, savory cakes, and drinks too
6. Kaffir Lime Leaves
The great thing about Kaffir lime leaves is that they are quite similar to the citrusy, tangy flavor of lemongrass. Make sure to tear the leaves to remove the midrib before adding them to your dish. Also, make sure to remove the leaves after cooking.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 Kaffir lime leaf Best used for: all dishes that have a liquid base, so that the leaves can infuse and leave their full flavor
7. Kreung, aka Lemongrass Paste
If you’re passionate about Asian fusion cooking, you probably have Kreung in your kitchen. Well, if you run out of lemongrass but do have Kreung, it’s safe to use it as an alternative. Kreung contains shallots and galangal, some garlic and ginger as well as lemongrass, but it will do the trick!
1 stalk of lemongrass = tablespoon of Kreung Best used for: all savory dishes that contain lemongrass
8. Japanese Yuzu
Let’s say you don’t have lemongrass around the house but somehow you’ve got some yuzu in your kitchen. Well, good news, then! Yuzu, used in both sweet and savory Asian dishes makes a good alternative to lemongrass. Use the juice and the zest from this fruit, but note that the zest also has a hint of mandarin and orange and a floral note, similar to Bergamot. Also, be prepared to squeeze more from this fruit than from any other type of citrus, since it’s not that juicy!
1 stalk of lemongrass = 2 yuzu fruit Best used for: any fish recipe, anything with sauces and liquids, such as curries
Funky combos that will give you the right flavor
Lemongrass has the perfect aroma for beef, lamb, poultry, fish, seafood, pork, and vegetables. It provides a great citrusy, light, fresh, and aromatic taste to barbeques, soups, curries, stews, stir fries, and teas.
It’s used fresh, dry, preserved and as a paste in many Asian countries, some in Africa and even in Latin America. And while its aroma is distinctive, as a cook, you’ll enjoy mixing ingredients and flavors to replicate lemongrass. So, spark up your creativity and discover what to replace lemongrass with in recipes.
1. Arugula Mixed with Lemon Zest: The Best Lemongrass Substitute
While Arugula gives the dish a peppery, tangy taste, lemon zest provides the kick and the freshness that comes with citrus. Do not combine more than one Arugula leaf since the mix will become bitter and you’ll lose that lemongrass vibe.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 arugula leaf + 1 teaspoon of lemon zest Best used for: stews, broths, soups, curries, anything with liquid, especially good in fish dishes
2. Coriander and Fresh Ginger
The herby flavor, freshness and the floral, perfumed aroma of coriander plus the spicy, zingy, intense, and peppery taste of ginger go together well to create a substitute for lemongrass. It’s best to use the coriander stalks since they pack more flavor compared to the leaves. It’s also recommended to use freshly grated or minced ginger to get the same pungent flavor of lemongrass.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger + 2 teaspoons of coriander stalks Best used for: soups, broths, curries
3. Lemon Juice + Lime Zest + Kaffir Lime Leaf = Lemongrass Flavor
The combo of all combos! Make sure to tear the Kaffir lime leaves before adding them to any broth or liquid-based dish. Also, it’s best to add fresh lemon Juice and zest to keep the flavors intense.
1 stalk of lemongrass = 1 tablespoon of lime zest + 1 Kaffir lime leaf + 2 tablespoons of lemon juice Best used for: anything liquid-based