A fragrant element commonly added in Asian cuisine, lemongrass has a pleasant aroma and a citrus and lemon flavor with mint overtones. Its subtle flavor complements rather than overpowers other ingredients in a dish, making it a fantastic addition to numerous recipes including dipping sauces and teas.
If you’ve run out of this amazing ingredient or just want to keep a few alternatives handy, this list offers 8 of the best lemongrass substitutes that’ll save the day.
1. Dried Lemongrass
Compared to fresh lemongrass’ bright flavor, dried lemongrass is more intense in its citrus and herbal flavor. Dried lemongrass also lacks the bitter notes and hints of sweetness that you find in fresh lemongrass, making it a great ingredient to add to teas and meat-based recipes.
When using dried lemongrass in place of fresh lemongrass, keep in mind that it will not have the fresh, complex flavors or the woody aroma. To fix this, stew dried lemongrass for a few minutes to get a similar aroma. As dried lemongrass has a stronger flavor, we recommend that you start with a small amount and taste as you go to avoid overpowering the meal.
1 lemongrass stalk = 1 teaspoon dried lemongrass.
2. Lemon Zest
Lemon zest has a zesty citrus flavor and the freshness of lemongrass but it’s not as intense or complex. The good news is, lemon zest is almost always readily available in most houses and performs admirably well in a variety of cooking recipes.
When using lemon zest as a substitute, make sure to grate only the yellow bits to give the dish a subtle lemon flavor. Avoid grating the white pith as it’s quite bitter and can spoil the recipe’s overall flavor profile. You can also add one arugula leaf with every teaspoon of lemon zest to recreate the herbaceous flavor of lemongrass.
1 lemongrass stalk = 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest.
3. Preserved Lemon
Preserved lemon has a zesty flavor and a scent that is similar to lemongrass, but it is milder than the original ingredient. While it works well in a variety of recipes that call for lemongrass, it really shines with shrimp, prawns, and other seafood-based dishes.
Because preserved lemon has a milder flavor, it will not overpower your dish when used as a lemongrass substitute. You can use its pulp as well as peel, but keep in mind that preserved lemons are saltier than lemongrass. So, the amount of seasonings in your recipe may need to be adjusted depending on your recipe.
1 lemongrass stalk = 1/2 preserved lemon.
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and has a mild, sweet flavor as well as a pleasant citrusy aroma. It’s a great substitute for both fresh and dried lemongrass in any recipe, but it’s especially good in tea and desserts.
To use, simply chop lemon balm leaves and add them toward the end of your cooking. It will help preserve as much of their subtle lemongrass-like flavor as possible. You can easily find lemon balm in the herb sections of grocery stores. It’s also well-known for its health benefits, making it a top-tier substitute for the original ingredient.
1 lemongrass stalk = 4 lemon balm leaves.
5. Lemon Verbena
Lemon verbena is a herb similar to lemongrass. It has a citrusy and herby flavor that compliments everything from sauces, curries, and soups to savory cakes and cocktails. While lemon verbena does have an intense flavor profile, it still is a great substitute in a pinch if you don’t have lemongrass.
When using it as a substitute, simply use whole or chopped lemon verbena leaves. However, do it in moderation because the leaves contain a high amount of oil, which might dominate the recipe’s distinct flavor and scent. You may also want to remove the leaves before serving the dish to avoid getting a tough piece of the leaf with a strong, sour taste in your mouth.
1 lemongrass stalk = 2 lemon verbena leaves.
6. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Kaffir lime leaves have a citrusy flavor similar to lemongrass. It performs best in liquid-based recipes where it infuses the dish with delicious goodness and adds a vibrant, refreshing flavor.
To use it in place of lemongrass, you can either use it whole or remove the midrib and tear the leaves and then add it to recipes. Because the leaves are not suitable for consumption as they are too tough to eat, it is best to remove them after the dish has been cooked. Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass also have similar flavor profiles, so you can use them in equal amounts.
1 lemongrass stalk = 1 kaffir lime leaf (Add 1 tablespoon of lime zest + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice for more citrusy flavor).
7. Japanese Yuzu
Japanese yuzu, a fruit belonging to the citrus family, has a strong sour, tart taste. It is used in both savory and sweet dishes and is a great substitute for lemongrass in seafood dishes including sauces and curries.
The pulp and zest of the Japanese yuzu can both be used, but the zest offers classic citrus and floral notes. When using it to substitute for lemongrass, make sure you start with a tiny amount and adjust to taste. Also, keep in mind that Japanese yuzu is not particularly juicy, so you may need to squeeze the fruit a lot to get the required substitution quantity.
1 lemongrass stalk = 2 yuzu fruits.
8. Lemongrass Paste (Kreung)
Lemongrass paste, also known as kreung, lends a pleasant lemony, herbal, and minty flavor to diverse dishes, but it works best in stews and soups. In addition to lemongrass, it also contains other ingredients like shallots, galangal, ginger, and garlic.
If you use it as a substitute, keep in mind that kreung will contain a variety of additional ingredients, each bringing its own flavor to the dish. So, when using kreung as a stand-in for lemongrass, adjust the amount of seasonings for your recipe.
1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste.
Friendly tip: If you want to avoid the other flavors in kreung, make your own lemongrass paste. This recipe will serve as a handy guide.