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Nothing is worse than starting to cook a new recipe and realizing you’re missing a key ingredient. If you’re looking for a last-minute alternative for lemongrass, I’ve got you covered! I’ll show you the best lemongrass substitutes you can scrape together in your kitchen.
If you’re at the grocery store and need to find a lemongrass replacement because they ran out, I’ll also help you find the right one for whatever you’re cooking.
The best substitutes for whole lemongrass are going to be other forms like lemongrass paste or preserved lemon. I’ll include these in my list below, but I also get that you might not have any lemongrass on hand.
The easiest substitute is lemon zest + chopped ginger. If you’re cooking a stew or curry, this will add the citrusy flavor you need.
|Substitute||Flavor||What It Is Best For|
|Arugula + chopped ginger||Herbal, slightly bitter, and sweet, less lemony.||Best overall|
|Lemon or lime zest + chopped ginger||Lemon and bitter, but no herbal flavor.||Easiest and most available|
|Coriander + ginger||Bitter and herbal, but no lemon flavor||Great for Indian food and curry dishes|
|Dried lemongrass||Citrusy and herbal, but less lemon||Great for tea or meat dishes|
|Lemongrass paste||Citrusy, herbal, and garlic/onion.||Most similar and great for stews and soups|
- What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?
- 5 Top Lemongrass Substitutes
- Lemongrass Alternatives That I DON’T Suggest
- FAQ on Lemongrass Substitutes
- Final Verdict: What’s the Best Lemongrass Alternative?
What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?
I want to make sure I help you find the best lemongrass substitute for what you’re making. So let’s talk real quick about what lemongrass tastes like.
Lemongrass is super common in Asian cuisine–especially in stir-fries and soup recipes. If you plan on making lots of Thai or Vietnamese food or stir fries, you should go ahead and stock up on lemongrass paste.
In my opinion, lemongrass has three primary flavors: lemony, bitter, and herby? I don’t even think “herby” is a word, but it just tastes like you’re eating a plant.
The taste is best described as a mix of ginger and lemon.
It’s easy to find a lemongrass alternative like preserved lemon, that mimics the lemon balm and bitter flavor, but the hardest part is replicating the aromatic/plant/”herby” refreshing flavor of the lemongrass.
5 Top Lemongrass Substitutes
There’s nothing worse than trying to find a quick answer on the internet and getting a list of 19 different options to read through.
That’s why I trimmed the fat and cut this down to my top 5 recommendations.
1. Arugula Mixed with Lemon Zest | The Best Lemongrass Substitute
Arugula is a leafy green similar to kale or spinach, but it has a much more bitter taste. It’s a bit more peppery of a flavor while lemongrass is a bit more subtle and slightly sweet.
If you were eating it whole, it might not work–but in soups or curries, this is actually fantastic.
Any kind of lemon will do the trick: lemon zest, lemon balm or lime zest.
Lemon zest is the best lemongrass substitute because it actually replicates the herb/plant aroma while giving you the bitter and lemon balm flavors.
For every whole stalk of lemongrass required in the recipe, it can be replaced with a few arugula leaves and a teaspoon of lemon zest.
1 tablespoon of chopped lemongrass = half tablespoon of arugula leaf +half teaspoon of lemon zest
2. Lemon Juice + Chopped Ginger | Easiest
The easiest lemongrass alternative is just a mix of lemon zest and finely chopped ginger.
Theis combination of lemon zest with fresh ginger will replicate the most basic taste of the lemongrass but lack the aromatic and herbal lemongrass flavor. The good news though is that this is also what you most likely have on hand in your kitchen.
The tricky part is getting the right amount. If you’re using a whole lemongrass stalk, then you need to be careful not to overdo it–especially in soup or stews.
The lemon and chopped ginger are more concentrated than a whole stalk that is hanging out in your soup and slowly imparting citrus flavor.
Here’s what I recommend:
- 1 inch of lemongrass stalk = 1/2 tsp of lemon zest + 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger.
- 1 tbsp of lemongrass stalk = 1/2 tsp of lemon or lime juice + 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp of lemongrass paste = 1/2 tsp of lemon juice + 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger + 1/2 tsp of chopped garlic.
If you’re trying to find a lemongrass paste substitute, I recommend adding some chopped garlic since that’s a common ingredient in the paste form!
4. Lemongrass Paste | Most Similar
This is a bit of a cop-out, but if you’re at the store and they’ve run out of whole lemongrass, then lemongrass paste is the next best thing.
Lemongrass paste is going to come mixed with other ingredients which can add extra flavor to whatever you’re cooking. It often has garlic and shallots so if you’re recipe calls for those, you might want to adjust how much you use.
Lemongrass Stalk to Lemongrass Paste Conversion
1 tbsp of chopped lemongrass stalk = 1 tbsp lemongrass paste 1 tablespoon
1 whole lemongrass stalk = 1 tbsp lemongrass paste
If you cook it in a soup, make sure to give it time to cook through the dish.
5. Dried Lemongrass | Best for Tea
Lemongrass normally comes as a whole stalk, but it can be dried out to use later. It’s a great lemongrass stalk substitute when you’re cooking.
The lemongrass has a really strong herbal and citrus flavor but lacks the bitterness and hint of sweetness you get from the whole stalk.
Too much of the lemongrass can overpower the whole meal because it has a higher concentration. For greater results, lemongrass is best for meat dishes and sauces.
One stalk of fresh lemongrass = One tablespoon of lemongrass
Lemongrass Alternatives That I DON’T Suggest
When I was looking into all of the best lemongrass substitutes, I was frustrated reading the lists that other people were putting out there.
- Keffir Lime Leaves
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Verbena
- Preserved Lemon
- Japanese Yuzu
- Fresh lemon Juice + Lime Zest + Kaffir Lime Leaves
- Mint Leaves + Lime Juice + Ginger + Sugar
All of this will help add some flavor to your dish so they aren’t actually bad suggestions. They aren’t as good. If you happen to have them on hand, then great. But odds are, you don’t have Japanese yuzu, lemon verbena, or preserved lemon hanging out in your pantry.
FAQ on Lemongrass Substitutes
What does lemongrass do to a dish?
Can you add lemongrass to curry?
What’s the difference between lemon and lemongrass?
Can I use dried lemongrass instead of fresh?
How do you store fresh lemongrass?
How long will lemongrass keep in fridge?
Final Verdict: What’s the Best Lemongrass Alternative?
I hope I was able to help you find the best lemongrass substitute for whatever you’re cooking!
My favorites on this list are the combinations of arugula leaf and ginger or ginger and lemon. These give you the most flavor and are the easiest substitutes to use!
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.