Skip to Content

6 aromatic lemongrass substitutes your aunt didn’t tell you about!

Are you following a Southeast Asian recipe that calls for lemongrass? 

This unique herb has a special lemon and herb flavor that stands out in any dish—which means you can’t afford to skip it. 

Lemongrass is used in many Thai and Vietnamese dishes as a flavoring because of its crisp and deep lemony essence. 

In case you’ve run out or can’t get your hands on lemongrass, you may be wondering, what can I use as a substitute for lemongrass? 

Thankfully, although the flavor is difficult to replicate, you can use a lemongrass replacement that most closely matches this aromatic grass. 

Here is the closely-guarded list of what to use instead of lemongrass that should save the day!

1. Lemon zest and arugula 

Lemon zest is widely considered to be the best lemongrass substitute that is widely available. It has a similar citrusy flavor and is also easily accessible. All you have to do is grate a lemon to get the zest. To bring the herbal flavor of lemongrass to your dish, combine the lemon zest with arugula. For every one stalk of lemongrass, add one teaspoon of lemon zest and one arugula leaf. Although you can directly buy lemon zest, the fresh variety that you grate yourself is noted for its better results.  

2. Ginger and coriander

Using a combination of coriander stalks and fresh ginger can also serve as a substitute for lemongrass in cooking. For every one stalk of lemongrass, use two teaspoons of ginger and an equal quantity of coriander stalks. Note that it’s essential to use the stalks of coriander and not the leaves because their flavor could get intense.Ginger has quite a potent flavor as well, so make sure you keep tasting your recipe and add a bit of ginger at a time, so you don’t overdo the flavor.If you end up using dried instead of fresh ginger, you only need 1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger to replace two teaspoons of fresh because dried or ground ginger has a stronger flavor.You can use this combination in liquid-based dishes such as soups and broths for best results. 

3. Kaffir lime leaves

Kaffir lime leaves feature a citrusy scent to them which closely mimics that of lemongrass. You’ll have to separate the midrib of the leaf before you add it to your dish. After you’re done cooking, you should remove the leaves from the dish before serving because they’re typically not eaten, just used for their flavor. Some people also prefer a combination of lemon juice and lime zest with the kaffir lime leaves. Use two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, one tablespoon of lime zest, and one kaffir lime leaf for every one stalk of lemongrass that is called for in your recipe.This combination works best in soups and curries. 

4. Kreung

Kreung or lemongrass paste is another lemongrass alternative. This substitute, which has Cambodian origins, is made of crushed lemongrass, shallots, and galangal. You can substitute one tablespoon of kreung paste for every two stalks of lemongrass. This option may not be your go-to because it is difficult to find. 

5. Lemon verbena

You can substitute two lemon verbena leaves for every one stalk of lemongrass for best results. And because verbena has a very strong flavor, start with one leaf and work your way up to make sure it doesn’t overpower your dish with its essence.Lemon verbena leaves are best used in dishes that only require a small amount of them because of their flavor. When using these leaves, chop them up into tiny pieces before adding them to your dish. They work best in sauces and curries and even savory cakes.

6. Dried lemongrass

If you’re out of fresh lemongrass but have dried lemongrass, you’ll only need a small amount of it to replace the fresh variety. You can substitute one stalk of fresh lemongrass with one teaspoon of the dried version. Keep checking the test—the dried variety has a stronger flavor, so you have to be careful not to add it all at once. 

The bottom line

You now have at least six alternatives that you can opt for if you find that you’re out of fresh lemongrass. Because most of these options have very intense flavors of their own, it’s smarter to start off in little amounts and add more as per your taste. Still, these alternatives are all bound to stand out, like your aromatic lemongrass would to any dish!