The Best Simple Lemongrass Substitutes

Lemongrass Substitutes

A fragrant cornerstone of Thai cuisine, lemongrass can be difficult to source. Here are my favourite simple Lemongrass Substitutes…

What is Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is a herb traditionally used in Thai cooking. It can be eaten raw or cooked and adds a unique aromatic lemony fragrance to dishes. It’s often blended into Thai curry pastes but can also be used as an ingredient on its own.

The Best Lemongrass Substitutes

1. Lemon Zest

While the fragrance isn’t as intense and complex, lemon zest is the closest common ingredient to lemongrass. Substitute about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest for each stalk of lemon grass.

2. Lime Zest

As with lemon zest, lime won’t be as intense but it will give some fragrance to your dish, so a better choice than just leaving the lemongrass out. Start with substituting 1/2 teaspoon zest for each stalk.

3. Lime Leaves

If you don’t have access to lemongrass, you probably won’t happen to have a Makrut (kaffir) lime tree in your back yard. But if you have some of these gorgeous leaves, they can be finely chopped into ribbons using scissors and then used wherever your recipe calls for lemongrass. As a start use 3-4 makrut lime leaves for each stalk of lemongrass. This won’t work with regular lime leqves as they don’t have the same fragrance.

4. Basil, Mint or Coriander (Cilantro)

Another option is to skip the lemongrass in your finished dish but serve with fresh herbs like basil, mint or coriander (cilantro). If you have Thai basil, even better. Again the flavour will be different but the extra aromatics from the herbs will mean you’re not missing the lemongrass.

5. Preserved Lemon

This is a bit left-field, but the Moroccan preserved lemons do have a fragrance that is vaguely similar to lemongrass. Preserved lemons are a LOT more salty though, so be prepared to use less seasoning. I’d start with 1 teaspoon chopped perserved lemon for each stalk of lemongrass.

How to Store Lemongrass

Will keep for weeks (if not months) in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Can be frozen and will be easier to slice once defrosted.

How to Prepare Lemongrass

Trim the bottom cm (1/2in) of each stalk to remove the tough bulby bit. Remove the fibrous outer leaves. I usually discard about 3 outer leaves.
Then finely slice the stem into rounds. If you’re going to be pureeing it in a curry paste, no need to be too particular.

But if you are just adding the round into your curry or other dish, make sure you slice it very finely as it can be unpleasant to have coarse bits of lemongrass in your meal.

The other option is to cut the trimmed stalks into cylinders about 10cm (4in) long and them bash them with a mallet or the handle of your knife. Then simmer these bruised stalks in your sauce. This helps the flavours permeate and you can remove the stalks before serving – although they can be lovely to chew on if you like.

Delicious Lemongrass Flavour Pairings

  • Chilli & Lemongrass
  • Fish & Lemongrass
  • Ginger & Lemongrass
  • Chicken & Lemongrass

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Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x