Lemongrass is a common tropical island herb that adds a touch of lemon and ginger flavor to dishes.
It is a popular ingredient in South Asian dishes and can be eaten raw or cooked; it is often blended into Thai curry pastes and is used by some people to spice up their tea and other drinks.
Lemongrass, however, is not always in season, so you will need good lemongrass substitutes such as kreung, dried lemongrass, lemon zest, keffir lime leaves, and others when you can find lemongrass.
Best Lemongrass Substitutes
There are a number of substitutes for lemongrass, some of which are readily available depending on the season, so you might want to opt for an item you can easily access or buy and store for future use.
You will also need to be wary about the amount of the lemongrass substitute you use, as you do not want any overpowering flavor ruining your dish.
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1. Lemon Zest
Lemon zest is the closest and best substitute for fresh lemongrass, and you can find lemons easily in your local market or store all year round.
Grate some fresh lemon zest into your dish to recreate the tangy citrus taste similar to that of lemongrass.
If your recipe calls for two small stalks of lemongrass, you can use zest from one medium-sized lemon instead.
For a more creative touch, you can mimic the herbal notes of lemongrass with an arugula, which has a peppery taste. Simply add a single arugula leaf alongside a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.
This combination delivers a flavor you would get from one stalk of lemongrass and is excellent for fish stew and broth.
2. Kreung (Lemongrass Paste)
Lemongrass paste, also known as kreung, is a combination of shallots, galangal, and crushed lemongrass; it originates from Cambodia and is another great lemongrass substitute; it can be used in numerous dishes.
Substitute one tablespoon of kreung paste for a tablespoon of chopped fresh lemongrass.
Kreung paste can be found in squeezable tubes, making it easy to use and store. It can be purchased online, in Asian food stores, or any grocery stores that carry Cambodian food items.
3. Dried Lemongrass
Dried lemongrass is a great substitute for dishes that use meat and poultry and have a sauce base.
Keep in mind that that concentration of herbal and citrusy flavor is higher in dried lemongrass, so add it to your dishes with caution.
One stalk of fresh lemongrass can be substituted with one teaspoon of dried lemongrass.
4. Keffir Lime Leaves
Keffir lime leaves are citrusy, so when added to dishes, it produces a citrus aroma similar to that of lemongrass. It can be used whole or torn with the midrib removed.
For an even more enhanced citrus flavor, especially in soups and curries, you can add lime juice and lime zest, or lemon juice and lemon zest alongside the leaves to your dish.
Substitute one keffir lime leaf, one tablespoon of lime zest, and two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice for every stalk of lemongrass your recipe calls for.
Remember to take out the keffir lime leaves from the dish before serving as they are not edible, the same as you would remove a bay leaf.
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5. Fresh Coriander And Ginger
To add a zesty and aromatic flavor to soups and broths without using lemongrass, you can add two teaspoons of coriander stalks and two teaspoons of fresh ginger root, crushed or minced for every one lemongrass stalk the recipe calls for.
Coriander stalks are packed with a unique and intense flavor compared to their leaves, making them a better substitute.
Fresh ginger root also mimics the flavor of lemongrass, with a combination of sweet and pungent taste. When combined, a flavor closely similar to lemongrass can be achieved and can be used in many dishes.
6. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is another great lemongrass substitute and is suitable for desserts. For every stalk of lemongrass a recipe calls for, you will need four lemon balm leaves.
Lemon balm leaves add a delectable citrus flavor and aroma to dishes; they should be chopped and added towards the end of the cooking process, this is to allow the leaves to retain their delicate flavor.
You can usually find lemon balm readily at the herb section of your local stores and supermarkets, and they are available in both dried and fresh forms.
Lemon balm makes an excellent choice of substitution for lemongrass when making lemon curd tartlets. It also has great health benefits like easing cramps, digestive problems, and headaches.
7. Lemon Verbena
Lemon verbena has a lemon-like flavor, similar to lemongrass. They produce a similar zing just like lemongrass, but with a less succinct flavor and aroma
Lemon verbena also has medicinal uses with a prominent herby fragrance that is almost if not much more powerful than that of lemongrass. So, exercise caution when using lemon verbena as a substitute for lemongrass.
Lemon verbena can be recognized by their long leaves with pointy ends alongside a rough texture. Although it has a citrusy flavor, lemon verbena has much less lemon per inch, so you may need to add in some lemon zest as well.
You need two leaves of lemon verbena per stalk of lemongrass, and remember to take them out before serving the dish. You don’t want to get a sour mouthful when you take a bite of your meal.
Lemon verbena can be used whole, or you can decide to finely chop or tear the leaves before adding it to your dish to release the flavor properly.
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8. Japanese Yuzu
Japanese yuza is another citrus fruit that can be used as a lemongrass alternative. This fruit has an exterior color similar to a lemon and is sized like a grapefruit. If you are familiar with yuzu juice, you should already know its zest has hints of mandarin orange!
Japanese Yuzu is commonly used in East Asian cuisines for sweet and savory dishes like curries or fish recipes.
This fruit produces less juice and is more difficult to extract the same amount of juice compared to a lemon or lime due to its larger pips.
When substituting, replace 2 small stalks of lemongrass with at least two or more yuzu to extract sufficient liquid. You will need to taste the dish as you add the yuzu liquid gradually; they add a powerful flavor to dishes, so adding too much may spoil your recipe.