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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, we’ve got you covered! We’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, we’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 dried lemongrass. We’ll include these in our list below, but I also get that you might not have any lemongrass on hand.
In a hurry? Here is a quick table breaking down our favorite lemongrass substitutes.
The easiest substitute is lemon juice + chopped ginger. If you’re cooking a stew or curry, this will add the flavor you need.
|Substitute||Flavor||What It Is Best For|
|Arugula + chopped ginger||Herbal, slightly bitter, and sweet, less lemony.||Best overall|
|Lemon juice + 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|
Use the table of contents below to find the one you’re going to use and we’ll tell you what quantity you’ll need for each of these lemongrass substitutes.
- What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?
- 5 Best Lemongrass Substitutes
- Lemongrass Alternatives That We DON’T Suggest
- FAQ on Lemongrass Substitutes
- Final Verdict: What’s the Best Lemongrass Alternative?
We recently updated this article to add the table above and to give quantity comparisons for each of the lemongrass alternatives we recommended! We decided to test 15 different options and boiled them down to the 5 best lemongrass substitutes.
What Does Lemongrass Taste Like?
We want to make sure we 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 cooking–especially in stir-fries and soup recipes. If you plan on making lots of Thai or Vietnamese food, 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 that mimics the lemon and bitter flavor, but the hardest part is replicating the aromatic/plant/”herby” flavor of the lemongrass.
5 Best 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 we trimmed the fat and cut this down to our top 5 recommendations.
1. Arugula Mixed with Lemon Juice or 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 juice or lemon zest.
This is the best lemongrass substitute because it actually replicates the herb/plant aroma while giving you the bitter and lemon flavors.
For every whole stalk of fresh 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 +half teaspoon of lemon juice
2. Lemon Juice + Chopped Ginger | Easiest
The easiest lemongrass alternative is just a mix of lemon juice and finely chopped ginger.
These replicate the most basic taste of the lemongrass but lack the aromatic and herbal 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 juice and chopped ginger are more concentrated than a whole stalk that is hanging out in your soup and slowly imparting flavor.
Here’s what I recommend:
- 1 inch of lemongrass stalk = 1/2 tsp of lemon juice + 1/2 tsp of chopped ginger.
- 1 tbsp of lemongrass stalk = 1/2 tsp of lemon 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 fresh 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 dried 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 dried lemongrass can overpower the whole meal because it has a higher concentration. For greater results, the dried lemongrass is best for meat dishes and sauces.
One stalk of fresh lemongrass = One tablespoon of dried lemongrass
Lemongrass Alternatives That We DON’T Suggest
Here’s where we get to have a bit of fun.
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
- Lemon Juice + Lime Zest + Kaffir Lime Leaf
- Mint Leaves + Lime Juice + Ginger + Sugar
Why would I want a lemongrass alternative that’s harder to find than the actual thing? That’s dumb.
Most of the recommendations also only really hit on one flavor note from the lemongrass. They have the lemon flavor but don’t hit on the bitter or herbal notes.
All of this will help add some flavor to your dish so they aren’t actually bad suggestions. They just aren’t as good.
If you happen to have them on hand, then great. But odds are, you don’t have Japanese yuzu or preserved lemon hanging out in your pantry.
FAQ on Lemongrass Substitutes
Lemongrass can heighten the taste and aroma of a dish by adding a unique blend of citrus, bitter, and herbal flavors. It’s commonly used in Asian cuisine and imparts great flavor to soups and stews and curries.
Lemongrass can definitely be added to curries, especially in Thai curries that are more citrusy and herbal like yellow or green curry dishes.
Lemon and lemongrass have similar flavors, but are different plants and produce items. Lemon grows as a fruit on a tree while lemongrass grows as a stalk in the ground. Lemongrass will taste more bitter and herbal while lemon will have a focused citrus flavor.
You can use dried lemongrass instead of fresh lemongrass. Dried lemongrass has a stronger flavor because it’s concentrated so we recommend using half of the suggested amount.
The best way to store fresh lemongrass is to wrap it loosely and keep it in the fridge. You can also try mincing the lemongrass into a paste and adding garlic and shallots.
You can keep lemongrass in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, but it will be fresh and have the best flavor for the first 10 days.
Final Verdict: What’s the Best Lemongrass Alternative?
I hope we were able to help you find the best lemongrass substitute for whatever you’re cooking!
Our favorites on this list are the combinations of arugula and ginger or ginger and lemon juice. 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.