8 Best Substitutes For Lemongrass

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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If you need a lemongrass substitute, there are plenty of common ingredients and herbs that can get your recipe back on track.

What is Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a type of grass native to Australia, Asia, and Africa that is commonly cultivated for its rich aroma, culinary applications, and possible medicinal uses. With its distinct citrus flavor, this grass can be used in many different forms – fresh, dried, powdered etc. It is a popular ingredient in dressings, sauces, curries, soups, stews, marinades, and teas. However, in some parts of the world, it is not as commonly found in every spice rack, so a lemongrass substitute may be necessary.

Substitutes for Lemongrass

The best substitutes for lemongrass include kaffir lime leaves, arugula, and lemon verbena, among others.

Lemon Zest

Adding just a thin strip from a lemon peel to a dish can create a lemony flavor, but don’t use too much, as this is slightly more potent than the taste of lemongrass, and has certain bitter elements.

Strands of lemongrass on a light green background

Lemongrass is used fresh or dry and adds a zing to Thai dishes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Common in many Thai dishes, these hearty leaves possess a similar citrusy aroma to lemongrass, and can be diced up and used for many similar dishes.

Lemon Tree Leaves

The leaves of the lemon tree have a subtle citrus flavor that can work in certain soups or broths, but it isn’t strong enough for curries.

Arugula

Arugula can provide a slightly spicier flavor to your dishes than lemongrass, so use it sparingly, and pair it with some lemon juice, if possible.

Lemon Verbena

When you dice up the leaves of the lemon verbena plant, it is almost identical to the powerful aromatic compounds in lemongrass, making it one of the best substitutes available.

Flatline view of a whole lemon, cut lemon pieces, ginger, peeler and lemon leaves on a slate surface.

Lemon can change the character of any dish, balancing different flavors. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ginger & Coriander

These two spices don’t seem like a logical lemongrass substitute, but their combined flavors can mimic the flavor in numerous dishes.

Lemon Balm

Although this plant is in the mint family, it has citrus notes that make it popular as a replacement for lemon verbena and lemongrass.

Lemongrass Powder

The dried and ground form of lemongrass is a concentrated and highly flavorful spice that can easily replace fresh lemongrass.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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