Lemongrass Substitutes for Thai Curries and Fusion Soups

Chris Starks
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Cooking with Lemongrass

The flavor of lemongrass is a cross between parsley and a grassy lemon flavor. Lemongrass is a fragrant herb that adds a slightly sharp and tangy taste to a dish without overpowering other flavors. Where possible, fresh lemongrass should be used in recipes as this adds a brighter and more complex flavor, whereas dried lemongrass tends to have a more woody flavor.

You should consider removing the tough outer leaves to help keep the flavor of the lemongrass intact. You can cut the stalk, add it to the dish while cooking but discard it right before eating. Unlike many types of leaves, you don’t want to eat the lemongrass stalks, you just need the flavor.

It’s often used in Thai recipes, and it’s a great addition to fusion curries and soups. When shopping for lemongrass, look for short stalks or stalks with thick outer rings to impart the best flavor.

Substituting Lemongrass

Most online Thai recipes make use of lemongrass. If you have not tasted lemongrass before, then don’t fear. It’s entirely possible to substitute lemongrass for other ingredients in Asian recipes. The curry paste imparts the lemongrass flavor to Asian curries, so if you swap out the curry paste for any other Asian paste or spice mix, the final dish will taste different but still great.

If you’d like to substitute lemongrass, the following are the options:


If you’re an avid Thai food connoisseur and are a fan of it, you would know that lemongrass is a must-have ingredient for Thai flavored dishes. Although you usually cut the lemongrass stalks and discard the base, fresh and frozen lemongrass is ready and available these days.

Due to its availability, lemon is probably the most straightforward lemongrass substitute. The zest of one lemon is good enough to replace one stalk of lemongrass in your favorite dish. You can also pair lemon zest with arugula to add more of the lemongrass notes to the dish. Lemon juice is better for liquid recipes such as curries or fusion soups, where the extra liquid will not alter the dish’s consistency.

Ginger and Cilantro

Ginger, garlic, and cilantro make an excellent substitute for lemongrass in Thai curries and fusion soup. Lemongrass is a fragrant herb used to flavor curry and other Asian dishes. It’s commonly but mistakenly used as a tea because it’s easy to find.

Suppose you are into making Thai soup at home and don't have access to fresh lemongrass. One stalk of lemongrass can be substituted using two teaspoons of cilantro stalks alongside two teaspoons of fresh ginger. It is essential to use cilantro stalks rather than leaves as the stalks are richer in flavor.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

When it comes to cooking Thai cuisine, a few different herbs found in Thai kitchens may seem like they could be interchangeable, but they are not. While they may look similar and smell somewhat identical, each herb has its unique flavor and distinct usage.

Kaffir lime leaves are used often in Thai cooking and will give soups, curries, stir-fries, and all other Thai dishes a distinct flavor.
It's important to note that although lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves can be used interchangeably in some instances, you shouldn’t use them interchangeably in every dish. Kaffir lime leaves should never be used in place of lemongrass for stir-frying or poaching.

While making Thai curry or soup, you can replace one stalk of lemongrass with one Kaffir lime leaf, two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and one tablespoon of lime zest for best taste.


Specific Thai curry paste flavors can be challenging to replicate in Western kitchens because we don’t have access to Thai herbs, spices, and ingredients.
One of the prominent flavor profiles is kreung gaeng, which comes from kreung, the dried petals of fruit banana trees. Kreung is a type of paste that includes lemongrass and a range of other ingredients such as galangal, lime zest, shallots, turmeric, garlic, and chilis.

Commonly used in Cambodian cooking, kreung makes a handy lemongrass substitute similar to Thai curry pastes.

Use a tablespoon of kreung paste to replace a tablespoon of chopped lemongrass. This substitute adds a mix of different savory flavors and is not suitable for sweet recipes.

Japanese Yuzu

Japanese yuzu (green citrus rind) makes a suitable replacement without the need to grate fresh lemongrass. Yuzu’s tart flavor and the bitter aftertaste are similar to lemongrass and look like a little yellow lemon with the green outer skin. Yuzu grated rind comes packed in juice or dry powder, and when using it as a substitute is very easy. Use yuzu in moderation as it will quickly
overpower the dish.

Other Lemongrass Alternatives

Lemongrass is a highly aromatic tropical grass from Southeast Asia used in Thai curries and fusion soups to add essential Thai flavors. In addition to the substitute as mentioned above, you can substitute lemongrass with one of the following herbs too:

  • Lemon Verbena leaves
  • Lemon balm leaves
  • Arugula

Final Words

Lemongrass has become my one-stop cure-all for Thai curries and other mixed flavors!
It adds a rich, unique, authentic flavor and aroma that is hard to replicate. The taste of lemongrass resembles that of ginger but with a slightly more citrusy undertone. It lightens the body of a curry, making it fresh and zingy, and it also adds a bit of an unexpected crunch.

When using lemongrass, one thing to remember is that it’s pungent, so the amount you’d typically use in a recipe is small. The trick is to slice the lemongrass thinly before using it in a dish.

Another thing to keep in mind is that lemongrass will fade out, so always keep an extra piece of lemongrass in the freezer to put in at the last stage of cooking in case needed.