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Substitute for lemongrass

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I remember posting this question a while back, but a search didn't turn anything up. So here I am once again, about to make a recipe that calls for lemongrass but I have none. I have the dried stuff in a jar, but was advised by wise hounds that it is a poor substitute, and I found that to be the case. I even soaked it in boiling water but found it lacking. Will anything else do? Would grated citrus zest (lime and/or lemon) come close? I'm tried a few local markets (including Fairway) and found none, and am not in a position to run down to Chinatown or even another neighborhood, thanks to torrential rains and a sick baby. Thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. What's the recipe for? The quick answer is, there really is no great substitute, but sure, grated lime (my first choice) or lemon would probably help out the recipe.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DGresh

      Vegetables in homemade coconut milk.

    2. The easiest substitute would be some fresh ginger combined with lemon zest. it definitely will not be the same but it will be just as bright. Although totally different than lemongrass, lime leaf has a very unique, floral character. you can find this product in most asian markets and the best part is they can be stored in the freezer. I like infusing sauces or broths with a combination of ginger, lemon zest, cilantro stems and a lime leaf. Good luck!

      3 Replies
      1. re: napolean

        I have all of the ingredients you mention except the lime leaf, so I can make up some of that combo and see how it works. I will be passing one more market later today, and I'll pop in and see if they have either lemongrass or the lime leaf. Thanks.

        (Quick question, as I've never used lime leaf. Is it used whole and discarded or ground up with the other items you mentioned?)

        1. re: napolean

          Napolean - you're right on targt w/ginger and lemon zest, 'tho I'd be tempted to add a bit of lime zest as well - and Clarissa - I think not grated zest - thin threads that you could remove would come close to lemon grass taste

          1. re: Alice Letseat

            Lime strips that can be removed sounds good, and easy. Thanks.

        2. Nothing is a very good substitute, IMO. Go with what the others have recommended (though you will be far less likely to find fresh kaffir lime leaves then you will lemongrass -- I am surprised Fairway didn't have any. Whole foods almost always does. Neither carry lime leaves to my knowledge.

          Next time you do see lemongrass, buy a whole lot, as it freezes well and can be used to make all kinds of things (eg infused teas, etc)

          4 Replies
          1. re: C. Hamster

            Dumb question here, but what's the best way to freeze it? I'm assuming whole, wrapped first in plastic wrap and then heavy-duty foil. Is that what you do? Yes, I was disappointed at Fairway, as I've found some good surprises there recently, including some beautiful key limes. To be honest, the lemongrass I've bought there was pretty lousy, rather beat up, and very overpriced, but I would have settled for that when I was there last night.

            I miss Adrianna's Bazaar, the place that used to be across the street. They always had everything, even lime leaves, and supplied accompanying recipes.

            1. re: Clarissa

              I clean up my lemongrass first so I can use it directly from the freezer..

              I trim off the icky outer layer(s) and trim the top off. I do save a lot of the top for things like infusing broth and other liquid, and save the bottom part for cooking.

              I just put in a quart freezer bag and squeeze out the air and in she goes.

              I am lucky enough to grow wonderful lemongrass in my garden, so I freeze a lot of it for winter use.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Thanks for the helpful freezing tips. I will definitely try it. Am jealous about the garden full of lemongrass thing.

                1. re: Clarissa

                  Yes, I do the same thing. Lemon grass grows like a weed. It will grow in a pot, too, so you can do it even if you don't have a garden. It does like hot weather.

          2. I don't know if you are still looking for a substitute for lemongrass, but I found something that I tried... the rind of one lemon and a few sprigs of cilantro equals 2 stalks of lemongrass. It is passable in a pinch, though it prompted me to plant some lemongrass of my own in a container on my patio. Now I have all I need. Good Luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: qberz

              Thanks for the tip! I'll be using it tonight.

              1. re: QSheba

                I know this post is old, but just to add my 2 cents-i heard this tip from an asian cooking show and works like a dream...
                when i have time on a weekend, i put cleaned lemongrass in my small food prep, then put the pureed grass in small ice cube trays till almost full. then i fill them with water. it will be very little water as you have pretty much filled the cubes with lemongrass pulp. then freeze solid. when frozen, pop the cubes out and store in plastic freezer container. just add a cube or 2 as you need them. do NOT thaw or throw away juice as a lot of flavor is in the juice. It tastes almost completely fresh!
                I also do this with fresh ginger and works like a charm! The flavors stay good and strong.

                1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                  You can also skip the ice cube process and simply freeze flat in a ziplock, breaking off however much you need as you go along.