9 Best Lemongrass Substitutes to Use for Cooking

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You’ll find that lemongrass is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes, whether you’re cooking a Thai, Vietnamese, or Malaysian recipe. However, if you don’t have lemongrass on hand, or can’t find it near you, there are quite a few lemongrass substitutes you can try to bring that citrusy freshness into your meal.

Take a look at our suggestions for the best lemongrass substitutes to use when your recipe calls for it but you don’t have any.

» Check out the 9 Best Substitutes for Cilantro.


Single-Ingredient Lemongrass Substitutes

While there is no single ingredient that can exactly replace the unique flavor of lemongrass, these options below will come pretty close and give a great boost to the taste of your dish.

#1 Lemon or Lime Zest

lemon zest

This is probably the easiest sub for lemongrass. It’s readily available in stores, or you might have a lemon or lime lying around the kitchen.

The zest from a lemon or lime adds the zing and freshness you find in lemongrass. Just be careful not to grate any of the white pith under the citrus fruit’s skin, as this will add a bitter taste to your dish.

You can use zest in almost any recipe that calls for lemongrass. For each lemongrass stalk, substitute about 1/2 teaspoon of zest.

#2 Lemon Verbena

lemon verbena

The flavor profile of the lemon verbena herb is a combination of bright, sweet, lemony, and herbaceous. This makes it quite a good replacement for lemongrass.

Be careful not to use too much of this herb, though, since its intense flavor can overpower your dish. Chop up one or two leaves for every lemongrass stalk. Lemon verbena can be used in curries, sauces, and tea.

#3 Lemon Balm

lemon balm herb

Lemon balm is a milder herb that gives a sweet citrusy flavor. It works really well as a lemongrass substitute in any dessert.

You can use three to four leaves for every lemongrass stalk in the recipe. To help the lemon balm maintain its flavor, add the leaves towards the end of the cooking process.

#4 Kaffir Lime Leaves

kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves

These lime leaves will add a bright citrus flavor to your dish. However, it lacks the tangy and herbal notes of lemongrass.

Nevertheless, this is a good alternative to use in dishes with a liquid base, like soups and curries. Add one kaffir lime leaf for every lemongrass stalk. Remember to remove the leaves before serving.

#5 Preserved Lemon

preserved lemon

Preserved lemon has that citrusy flavor and tang you want to imitate lemongrass. The flavor is less intense than lemongrass, so use the peel and pulp to get the most out of this substitute.

You can use about ½ preserved lemon for each lemongrass stalk. This sub works great in seafood dishes.

Mixes To Use as a Substitute for Lemongrass

A combination of herbs, spices, and fruit can come even closer to replicating the complex flavor of lemongrass.

#6 Arugula + Lemon Zest

This combo is the closest you’ll get to a perfect lemongrass replacement. The peppery arugula leaf adds a herbal flavor, while the lemon zest brings the citrusy tang.

Combine one arugula leaf and one teaspoon of zest to replace one lemongrass stalk. This combination works well in stews, curries, soups, and seafood dishes.

#7 Cilantro + Fresh Ginger

The herbal freshness of cilantro together with the tang of ginger creates a good substitute for lemongrass. You want to use the more flavorful stalks of cilantro instead of the leaves. Freshly grated ginger also works better to replicate the taste of lemongrass.

Combine two teaspoons of ginger and two teaspoons of chopped cilantro to use in curries, soups, and broths.

ginger root

#8 Mint Leaves + Lime Juice + Ginger + Sugar

The combination of these four ingredients brings all the different elements of lemongrass flavor.

Finely chop 6-8 mint leaves and squeeze two teaspoons of lime juice. Combine this in a bowl with ¼ teaspoon freshly chopped ginger and ¼ teaspoon sugar. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes before you add it to your dish.

#9 Lemon Juice + Lime Zest + Kaffir Lime Leaf

You can substitute lemongrass in any liquid-based dish with this combo.

Use one teaspoon of lime zest and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Remove the hard mid-rib of one lime leaf before adding it to the dish.

Looking for more herb alternatives? Check out these 9 best substitutes for parsley.


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