9 Best Lemongrass Substitutes That Are Easy to Find & Use


Summary of key points

Lemongrass is a popular herb widely used in various cuisines, mainly Southeast Asian dishes. It offers a distinctly citrusy and refreshing flavor with subtle lemon and herbal notes. However, there are instances when lemongrass may not be readily available or accessible. Finding substitutes that provide a similar flavor profile to enhance your recipes becomes necessary.


This blog article explores the most effective lemongrass substitutes when the herb is unavailable, or you want to experiment with different flavors. We will discuss alternatives replicating lemongrass’s citrusy and aromatic characteristics, allowing you to maintain its essence.


Whether you’re preparing Thai curries, soups, or marinades, these substitutes will help you achieve delightful flavors without compromising the overall taste.

Lemongrass and its common uses in cooking

Lemongrass is highly valued for its aromatic and citrusy flavor, which adds a refreshing and tangy element to dishes.

It is widely used in Southeast Asian cuisines, especially Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. It is a critical ingredient in popular dishes like Tom Yum soup, Thai green curry, and lemongrass-infused beverages. Lemongrass is known for its ability to enhance the overall flavor profile of a word, providing an enticing blend of citrus and herbal notes.

Its versatility extends beyond savory dishes. It is also used in desserts, such as lemongrass-infused ice creams, sorbets, and pastries, to impart a refreshing and aromatic element.

Lemongrass is known for its numerous health benefits. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, making it a valuable ingredient in herbal and traditional medicine.

Given its widespread popularity and unique flavor profile, lemongrass has become a staple ingredient in many kitchens. However, when lemongrass is not readily available, it is helpful to know about suitable substitutes that replicate its citrusy and aromatic qualities.

When are lemongrass substitutes needed

There are several situations where lemongrass substitutes are necessary:

  • Unavailability: Lemongrass may only be readily available in some regions, particularly where it is not commonly grown or in seasons when it is out of stock. In such cases, alternative ingredients mimicking lemongrass flavor become crucial to maintaining a recipe’s intended taste.
  • Convenience and Accessibility: Lemongrass can sometimes be challenging to find in grocery stores or local markets, requiring extra effort to source it. Having substitutes readily available can save time and make cooking more convenient, especially when preparing a dish that calls for lemongrass on short notice.
  • Allergies or Preferences: Some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to lemongrass or its essential oils. In such cases, having substitutes allows them to enjoy dishes with lemongrass flavor without any adverse reactions. Personal taste preferences may also drive the need for reserves to explore different flavors while still achieving a citrusy and refreshing profile.
  • Experimentation and Creativity: Substituting lemongrass with alternative ingredients can create creative culinary explorations. It allows for developing unique flavor combinations and adaptation of recipes to suit individual preferences. Trying different substitutes can open doors to more diverse and exciting taste experiences.

By understanding and utilizing suitable lemongrass substitutes, chefs can still achieve delightful flavors in their dishes, even when lemongrass is not readily available. These alternatives provide an opportunity to maintain lemongrass’s citrusy and aromatic qualities, allowing for versatile and flavorful cooking experiences.

Lemongrass Flavor Profile

Lemongrass has a distinct and vibrant flavor profile that differentiates it from other herbs. The following elements characterize its flavor:

  • Citrusy: Lemongrass offers a pronounced citrus flavor reminiscent of lemon, with hints of tanginess and acidity. Lemongrass’ bright and refreshing characteristic gives lemongrass its name.
  • Aromatic: Along with its citrus notes, lemongrass has a strong aromatic quality. When the stalks are bruised or crushed, they release essential oils that emit a pleasant and fragrant aroma.
  • Herbal Undertones: Besides its citrusy nature, lemongrass exhibits subtle herbal undertones. These earthy notes provide depth to its flavor profile, making it a versatile ingredient in various dishes.
  • Mild Sweetness: Lemongrass carries a mild natural sweetness that balances its tanginess and adds a pleasing dimension to its taste.

Lemongrass imparts a zesty, citrus-forward flavor with herbal complexity and gentle sweetness. This unique combination of characteristics contributes to its popularity in various cuisines, adding vibrancy and aromatic touches to dishes.

Understanding lemongrass’ flavor profile is essential when seeking suitable substitutes to replicate its distinct taste in recipes.

Lemongrass substitutes.

When lemongrass is unavailable, or if you want to explore different flavors in your recipes, several substitutes can replicate its citrusy and aromatic qualities. Here are some of the most effective lemongrass substitutes to consider.

Citrus zests:

  • Lemon zest: The zest of a fresh lemon can provide a bright and tangy flavor similar to lemongrass. Use the outer yellow part of the lemon peel, avoiding the bitter white pith.
  • Lime zest: Lime zest can also substitute for lemongrass, offering a tangy and refreshing citrus flavor that complements various dishes.

Lemongrass Paste or Puree: Pre-made lemongrass paste or puree is a convenient option that captures the essence of the lemongrass flavor. It is typically available in tubes or jars and can be easily incorporated into marinades, sauces, and curries.

Lemon Verbena: Lemon verbena leaves have a strong lemony flavor and aroma, making them an excellent substitute for lemongrass. Use them in moderation, as their potency is higher than lemongrass.

Kaffir Lime Leaves: Kaffir lime leaves offer a distinctly citrusy and aromatic flavor, commonly found in Southeast Asian cuisine. They can impart a tangy and refreshing element to dishes with lemongrass.

Lemon Balm: Lemon balm leaves have a lemony scent and mild citrus flavor. They can replace lemongrass in teas, desserts, and savory dishes.

Lemon Thyme: Lemon thyme is an herb with a lemony aroma and taste. Its herbaceous and citrus notes make it a viable substitute for lemongrass, particularly in Mediterranean-inspired recipes.

Lemon Basil: Lemon basil has a varied aroma and flavor. It can replace lemongrass in Thai and other dishes with desired citrusy elements.

Lemon Peel: Dried or fresh lemon peel can substitute for lemongrass, providing a bright and citrusy flavor. Use it in moderation to avoid overpowering the dish.

Lemongrass Essential Oil: Lemongrass essential oil is highly concentrated and potent. It should be used sparingly, diluted, and with caution. A tiny amount can add strong lemongrass flavor to recipes.

These lemongrass substitutes offer varying degrees of similarity to lemongrass flavor, allowing you to choose based on desired taste and availability. Experimenting with these alternatives can add a delightful twist to your culinary creations when lemongrass is unavailable.

Usage, Tips and Considerations

When substituting lemongrass for other ingredients, consider the following tips and considerations:

 Recommended Ratios and Conversions:

  • For citrus zests (lemon zest, lime zest), start with approximately one teaspoon of spice for every stalk of lemongrass required in the recipe. Adjust the amount based on your taste preferences.
  • When using lemongrass paste or puree, follow the instructions on the packaging. One teaspoon of paste or puree can substitute for one lemongrass stalk.

Suitability for Different Cuisines and Dishes:

  • Citrus zests, lemongrass paste, and lemon verbena work well in various cuisines, including Asian, Mediterranean, and desserts.
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lemon balm, lemon thyme, and lemon basil complement Southeast Asian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
  • Lemon peel and lemongrass essential oil can be used in various dishes, including savory and sweet recipes.

 Adjustments to Cooking Techniques:

  • When using substitutes like citrus zest or dried lemon peel, consider adding them earlier in the cooking process. This will allow their flavors to infuse and mellow.
  • If using herbs like lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon thyme, or lemon basil, add them towards the end of the cooking process to preserve their fresh flavors.

Personal Taste Preferences:

  • Experiment with different substitutes to find the flavors that suit your taste preferences and the dish you are preparing.
  • Start with small amounts and gradually adjust the quantity based on the desired citrus flavor intensity.

Potency and Dilution (Lemongrass Essential Oil):

  • Lemongrass essential oil is highly concentrated and potent. Always dilute it before use.
  • Follow the essential oil instructions for proper dilution ratios. A drop or two of essential oil suffices for an entire dish.

Allergies and Sensitivities:

  • Consider any allergies or sensitivities to substitute ingredients, especially when using essential oils or herbs.
  • If you have known allergies, consult a healthcare professional before using substitutes.

Remember that while lemongrass substitutes can provide similar flavors, they may only partially replicate lemongrass flavor. Adapt and adjust the reserves based on your personal preferences and recipes’ specific requirements. Enjoy the culinary exploration and create original and flavorful dishes!


Without lemongrass or exploring different flavors, several suitable substitutes are available. Citrus zests, lemongrass paste, lemon verbena, kaffir lime leaves, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon basil, lemon peel, and lemongrass essential oil can all provide a citrusy and aromatic profile reminiscent of lemongrass. By understanding these substitutes’ flavor profiles and characteristics, you can confidently experiment with various cuisines and dishes.

Consider the recommended ratios when using substitutes, adjust cooking techniques, and be mindful of personal taste preferences. The replacements mentioned in this article offer versatility and adaptability, allowing you to maintain lemongrass essence even when it is not readily available.

Remember, while substitutes can add their unique twist, they may only partially replicate lemongrass flavor. Embrace the opportunity to explore and experiment, and let your culinary creativity shine. Enjoy the journey of discovering new flavors and creating delicious dishes that capture the senses.

Autumn is an Editor @ WholeYum, passionate about holistic health and nutrition.


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