What’s a Good Lemongrass Substitute?

Lemongrass is a plant from the grass family and is also known as citronella grass. It has the aromas of the citrus fruit lemon hence its name. The stalk of lemongrass is a crucial ingredient in many dishes, such as pho. It can also be ground up into pastes and used in curries. 

It is a myth that lemongrass tastes like lemons. It does have a unique citrus-like flavor, but the taste is too light and minty to taste exactly like lemon.

If you are looking for a lemongrass substitute then read on to find some excellent alternatives for any dish.

Substitutes for Lemongrass

1. Lemon Zest

Lemon Zest is an excellent substitute for lemongrass in dishes like pad thai and pho. 

With a similar flavor and the ease of controlling the quantities used, it is easy to recreate a dish, which is why it’s the best option in most cases.

2. Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice is another good option to use as a lemongrass alternative because it is easy to control the volume of liquid you add. This fact also makes lemon juice an ideal choice for dishes that have a liquid or sauce component. 

If you can’t get fresh lemon juice, the flavor might not be as strong, and it can be more acidic. So store-purchased lemon juice should not be the first substitute that you consider. However, it goes well in dishes like Thai curries with other flavors to balance out some of the acidity, with this being the case.

3. Lemongrass Paste

Another great option is Lemongrass Paste. If you can’t get fresh lemongrass or lemon juice, it might be an option you prefer. It can last a long time and can be purchased online, so it is easy to keep on hand for emergencies. It works well in all kinds of dishes, from curries to broths and more. 

You can dilute lemongrass paste by placing it into a bowl and adding a tablespoon or two of hot water before adding it to your dish. Doing this will also allow you to understand better how strong the flavor will be when you add it during cooking.

4. Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir Lime Leaves are often widely available to purchase either online or in grocery stores. This fact makes them an accessible and viable replacement for lemongrass.

What about flavor? They are not as powerful as some of the other options on this list, but they offer some lemon-like middle notes that will work their way into curry, soup, and similar dishes.

5. Lime

Another good option that you can take should you not source any of the above items is lime.

You can use either lime juice or lime zest in many dishes as an alternative for lemongrass. Fresh lime works well in mild curries because limes are less acidic than lemons. Since the flavor of lemongrass is relatively mild, it makes it a good substitute for recipes such as those.

If the acidity, citrus flavor, and slight sharpness of lemon are more critical to the dish’s overall flavor, opt for one of the above alternatives.


No matter what dish or recipe you’re creating you should be able to find a perfect lemongrass substitute in the list above. Whether you need something available, or something that matches the taste and you don’t mind going to get it one of those substitutions will work wonders.