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Lemongrass Substitute: 12 Best Lemongrass Alternatives

Whether you’re making a bold curry, fragrant soup, or zesty marinade, these lemongrass substitute ideas will ensure that you don’t miss out on the vibrant flavors of lemongrass!

With fresh herbs, fruits and a few store-bought products on our list of lemongrass alternatives, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect lemongrass substitute to give your dish a refreshing, citrusy boost!

All About Lemongrass

Lemongrass grows in tropical climates and is characterized by its thin, pale green stalks that can grow up to six feet in length. The lower stalk of lemongrass is widely used as an herb in cooking, especially in Vietnamese and Thai cuisines.

When lemongrass stalks are cut or crushed, they release a wonderful aroma that adds a unique flavor to soups, curries, stir-fries and more! For more information about how to trim and prepare lemongrass, check out this article.

lemongrass substitutes

The Best Lemongrass Substitutes

Whether you’re in a pinch and can’t find fresh lemongrass, or you’re simply looking to switch things up in the kitchen, we have the perfect lemongrass substitute for you!

1. Lemongrass Paste

Lemongrass paste is a quick and easy lemongrass substitute. It’s typically sold in tubes or jars and can generally be found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. There are some shelf stable pastes available, but I tend to prefer the refrigerated versions for their more vibrant flavor.

Keep in mind that lemongrass paste often has added ingredients, such as salt, oil, garlic and other seasonings. This may affect the overall taste of your dish.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 2-3 teaspoons lemongrass paste.

2. Ground Lemongrass

Lemongrass powder is an excellent pantry staple when fresh lemongrass is unavailable. The powder is made by drying fresh lemongrass and then grinding it into a fine powder. The powder will lack a bit of the brightness of fresh lemongrass, so try adding something like lime juice or zest as well for a fresh flavor boost.

Ground lemongrass has a more concentrated flavor than fresh lemongrass, so we recommend starting with less and adding more as needed.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 1 teaspoon ground lemongrass.

3. Lemon Zest

Lemon zest can be used to add a citrusy and bright flavor to your recipe. We find it to be an especially good lemongrass substitute in soups and marinades.

Because lemon zest lacks the herbal notes of lemongrass, consider adding something like fresh mint leaves or cilantro along with the zest for best results.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 1 teaspoon lemon zest (finely grated).

4. Lime Zest

Lime zest is another great lemongrass substitute option! It’s less acidic and slightly milder than lemon zest, which makes it great for both sweet and savory dishes.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 1 teaspoon lime zest (finely grated).

5. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a popular garden herb from the mint family. It’s sweet and citrusy with vaguely minty undertones. We find it to be an excellent addition to dishes with fish or poultry.

It’s best to add lemon balm towards the end of cooking for maximum flavor.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 2 teaspoons lemon balm (chopped).

6. Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena is another herb that can add a lemony flavor and aroma to your dish. It pairs well with flavors such as honey and vanilla, which makes it a great replacement for lemongrass in desserts.

As with lemon balm, it’s best to add lemon verbena towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 2 teaspoons lemon verbena (chopped).

7. Makrut Lime Leaves

Makrut lime leaves are dark green and glossy with a bright, citrusy aroma. You can add them whole for a zesty addition to curries and soups. Or thinly slice the leaves and sprinkle them over salads and stir-fries.

One quick note: You may also find makrut lime leaves labeled as kaffir lime leaves, but this term is generally no longer used due to offensive connotations.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 5 makrut lime leaves.

8. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice isn’t a perfect lemongrass substitute, but will work in certain instances. Because lemon juice lacks the herbal flavor of lemongrass, consider adding something like green onions or cilantro to your dish as well.

Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over your final dish to add a bright, citrusy flavor.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice.

9. Lime Juice

Lime juice works similarly to lemon juice as a replacement for lemongrass. We often prefer lime juice over lemon juice in dishes such as curries and soups.

Squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice over your final dish to add a fresh, tart flavor.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 1-2 tablespoons lime juice.

10. Cilantro

Fresh cilantro has a citrusy flavor, making it a viable alternative to lemongrass. It’s extremely versatile and can add depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes, balancing out any heavier flavors.

Chopped cilantro (both the leaves and tender stems) can be added to marinades or used as a garnish to give your dish a pop of fresh flavor.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 4 tablespoons cilantro (chopped).

11. Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger has a sweet and warm flavor with citrusy notes. Although ginger has a more intense, spicy flavor than lemongrass, it can be an excellent lemongrass substitute when you want to add complexity to your dish.

Fresh ginger can be overpowering in some dishes, so make sure to adjust to taste. We recommend adding ginger early in the cooking process, so it has time to mellow and blend with the other ingredients.

1 fresh lemongrass stalk (crushed or finely chopped) = 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (minced or finely sliced).

12. Store-Bought Broth with Lemongrass

Somewhat new to the market (at least in the US), are bone broths that already contain lemongrass flavoring. This won’t work for all recipes, but is great for soups or dishes that call for a small amount of chicken or beef broth.

Kettle & Fire sells a Lemongrass Ginger Bone Broth that we’ve been able to find at multiple local grocery stores and it’s great in a pinch!

Substitute lemongrass bone broth for chicken or beef broth in equal proportions.

And make sure to check out these posts for more substitution ideas and inspiration:

Lemongrass Substitutes: FAQs

What does lemongrass taste like?

The flavor of lemongrass is both citrusy and herbaceous.

What cuisines use lemongrass?

Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian countries. It is especially popular in Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Maylaysian and Indonesian cuisines.

What are some recipes that use lemongrass?

Some of our favorite recipes using lemongrass include tom kha gai, Vietnamese grilled lemongrass pork chops, and thai yellow curry.

Can lemongrass substitutes also work as lemongrass paste substitutes?

Yes! Lemongrass paste is typically made from fresh lemongrass, which is finely chopped or blended into a paste.

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