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Galangal or galangal root is a spice that originates from southern Asia before and is a close relative to ginger.
Galangal is closely similar to ginger but has a lighter and tarter flavor than ginger. Galangal has a similar appearance to turmeric; this can make it challenging to differentiate these three ginger brothers from each other.
Galangal has a host of different benefits; it can be used for food seasoning or medicinal purposes.
Now, if you do not have access to galangal and you are pressed for time, there are different galangal substitutes you can use instead, all of which will be discussed in this article.
Best Galangal Substitutes
Below are some of the best substitutes for galangal that you should really check out!
The first substitute option is ginger; this shouldn’t come as a surprise as it is the closest thing to galangal you can get. Galangal belongs to the ginger family, so they are bound to share so many similarities.
Both plants are highly aromatic, pungent, and sometimes have a sweet and tart taste. Their only major difference is that galangal is more peppery and citrusy, while ginger is spicier.
Ginger in powder form tends to have a more subtle flavor, unlike the fresh ginger, which needs to be used in small quantities as a little goes a long way.
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This is another close substitute for galangal, turmeric is a spice gotten from the turmeric plant, and it is also known as Indian saffron. It is commonly used in Asian and middle eastern cuisine but also used worldwide.
Turmeric is also a part of the ginger family, which means there’s a shared similarity between galangal, ginger, and turmeric. Turmeric spice is gotten from the root of the turmeric plant, which has a knotty outline just like a ginger root.
Ground turmeric, however, stands out amongst the other spices because of its vibrant yellow-orange color; this also makes turmeric useful as a natural coloring agent.
Turmeric is a convenient replacement for ground galangal; it is packed with an earthy and pungent aroma and has a slightly bitter flavor. Turmeric tastes nice and is also similar flavor-wise to horseradish.
Horseradish is also similar to galangal root in terms of aroma and flavors, making it a great substitute as well. It is the root of the horseradish plant that is substituted for galangal due to its aromatic properties, but the leaves can also be used in cooking.
Horseradish shares a similar family as wasabi and mustard. If you want to experience its hotness and pungency in full potential, opt for freshly grated horseradish root, as it releases all its oil better this way.
If you want a subtle version that still produces the right level of pungency and spiciness, you can use ground horseradish. About 1.5 teaspoons of a quality horseradish powder is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of fresh horseradish, so use accordingly.
Fingerroot is another plant relative of galangal; it is highly aromatic and is a common ingredient in Asian cuisines. Fingerroot belongs to the same family as ginger and turmeric and can be referred to as a more subtle option in the ginger family.
If you do not want the intense flavoring galangal adds to a dish, you can opt for fingerroot instead, as it has a subtle flavor profile.
This doesn’t indicate that fingerroot is neutral tasting; it simply is less pungent and peppery than its close relatives.
Fingerroot has an earthy and mildly bitter flavor and a warm mouthfeel, just like ginger. It also adds a light touch of peppery flavor to dishes.
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5. Black Pepper
If you are trying to replicate that peppery, pungent flavor and warm, earthy aroma that galangal adds to a dish, you can use black pepper.
Pepper produces a much more intense aroma, and you achieve more flavor when freshly ground pepper is used instead of the pre-ground product.
Black pepper is intensely hot and spicy compared to galangal spice. It can be added to all kinds of meat, fish, soups, stews, salads, and stir-fries. You can also add some pepper into dry rubs and marinades, so the meat or fish soak up as much flavor as possible.
6. White Pepper
Yet another type of pepper that can be substituted for galangal is white pepper. It is a subtler, milder version of pepper, and it isn’t as hot as black pepper. White pepper has a unique citrusy aroma that goes well with seafood and whitefish.
Unlike black pepper that has a dominant flavor note of spiciness and hotness, white pepper has a more earthy and nutty flavor, with a slight hint of a unique peppery aroma.
Mustard is a pungent condiment that is topped on burgers, hotdogs, and different dishes, but that isn’t the only mustard variant available.
The mustard condiment used as a topping or dip is made from tiny mustard seeds, which are the hottest, most flavorful mustard variant.
This makes mustard condiment a suitable replacement for galangal paste, especially when you need a thick consistency. Mustard is thick, aromatic, and easy to incorporate into any dish whenever you need to add a dash of pungency to your cooking.
8. Mustard Oil
Oil can be extracted from mustard seeds and is a subtle way to add a hint of pungency to your dish alongside a mildly bitter and earthy flavor that turns to sweetness as it is cooked.
Mustard oil can be used for a variety of things, such as a finishing oil on your roasts, dips, and salads.
It can be used for cooking, as it has a very high smoke point of about 480°f. Mustard oil can be used for deep-frying, frying, baking, roasting, and grilling.
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9. Galangal Paste
If you can find fresh galangal, the paste variants which is made from fresh galangal can be used instead. Keep in mind that the store-bought galangal paste may contain additional ingredients such as citric acid, water, salt, sugar, and sometimes other flavoring agents.
If you do not want any of the processed ingredients altering the taste of your dish, you can make homemade galangal paste.
However, store-bought galangal paste usually has a longer shelf life, and you are able to add that unique galangal flavor and aroma to your dish without worrying about adding too much.
Galangal paste is a subtler, milder variant and is an excellent choice for pasta sauce, stir-fries, salads, or a marinade. Many people opt for the paste form of galangal as it doesn’t require any cooking for the flavors to develop, meaning they can be added to cooked meals.
Lemongrass is a tropical and subtropical perennial grass type. However, it is mostly produced in India, and they produce the highest amount of this aromatic, citrusy plant.
Note that lemongrass isn’t particularly related to lemon, but the aroma and the flavor of the grass are quite similar to the citrus. Lemongrass has a refreshing, earthy, slightly acidic, and citrusy flavor, with a bit of pungency.
If you do not mind a reduction in the pungency and hotness of the final dish, then this galangal substitute is an ideal choice for you.
Lemongrass adds a touch of brightness and freshness to your dish. Fresh lemongrass is much stronger than the powder, so use it accordingly.
11. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Kaffir lime leaves are a vital ingredient in Thai cuisine, as well as all over southern Asia. Kaffir lime leaves are extremely aromatic, fragrant, and citrusy, so add a little bit at a time, having a taste each time until you reach the desired flavor.
The leaves can be used fresh and added to soups, sauces, curries, and salads. You will need to remove the center vein and chop up the fresh leaves before using. It has a taste similar to lime zest, but it is primarily citrusy.
The best galangal substitute depends on the dish you are preparing and the flavor you want to be prominent in your dish. Ginger, turmeric, and fingerroot are, however, regarded as the best substitute for galangal, the only difference being in the level of pungency and hotness.
The galangal paste also makes a great alternative for fresh galangal, but it has a milder and subtler flavor compared to the fresh plant.
Other substitute options like horseradish, black pepper, white pepper, mustard, and mustard oil are more on the savory, peppery, spicy side, so they should be added with caution.
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