Skip to Content

What herb is similar to lemongrass?

Lemongrass is a popular herb used in many cuisines around the world. It has a sharp, lemony flavor that pairs well with seafood, chicken, beef and curry dishes. Lemongrass stalks look like pale, woody scallions and impart their flavor when used whole, chopped, ground or infused into liquids. Finding an adequate substitute for lemongrass depends on the application, as texture and flavor profile both come into play. Here are some common herbs that make suitable replacements.

Citrus Herbs

Herbs from the citrus family often work as reasonable substitutes for lemongrass in terms of flavor. Options include:

Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena is a flowering herb plant with long, slender leaves that taste like lemon peel. It is sometimes used dried or fresh in place of lemongrass. The flavor is not as intense, so you may need to use more lemon verbena than you would lemongrass. It works well in sauces, marinades, soups and curry pastes.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is another lemony herb that can substitute for lemongrass. It is part of the mint family. The leaves have a milder lemon flavor than lemongrass and make a good replacement in teas and some cooked dishes. Use more lemon balm than you would use lemongrass to achieve the desired lemon flavor.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves come from the kaffir lime tree native to Southeast Asia. They have an intense citrus fragrance and are used in curry pastes and sauces in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines. The lime flavor pairs well with lemongrass in these dishes. Substitute one kaffir lime leaf for two lemongrass stalks, removing the central stem from leaves before using.

Herbs with Lemon Notes

Some herbs contain subtle lemon notes that work in a pinch:


Winter and summer savory are cooking herbs from the mint family. Winter savory has more of a lemon-pepper flavor. Use about 1 teaspoon (0.7 g) of dried savory leaves in place of a lemongrass stalk. Savory is nice with poultry and beans.

Lemon Thyme

Lemon thyme is a herb variety containing thymol, the compound that gives thyme its signature flavor, along with citral, which provides lemon notes. Use it fresh or dried in small amounts in place of lemongrass. It works well in seafood dishes, salad dressings and marinades.

Lemon Basil

This basil variety contains a lemon flavor compound called citral. Use it fresh or dried in pestos, dressings and other recipes requiring lemongrass. The lemon basil flavor is milder, so use more as needed to achieve the intended flavor.

Grassy Herbs

Some herbs mimic the grassy flavor of lemongrass:

Citronella Grass

Citronella grass is mostly known as an insect repellent but is also used in Southeast Asian cuisine. The stalks resemble lemongrass and can be used in similar ways to provide a lemony, grassy flavor. Use the same amount as you would lemongrass stalks.

Lemongrass Powder

Dried, ground lemongrass is an obvious substitute option for fresh lemongrass stalks. Lemongrass powder has a more concentrated flavor, so use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (0.5 to 1 g) powder in place of a stalk. It works well in curry pastes, marinades and anywhere you want intense lemony flavor.


Cilantro leaves and stems have grassy, citrusy notes similar to lemongrass. Use 1/4 cup chopped cilantro in place of a lemongrass stalk. Cilantro adds nice flavor to Thai and Indian dishes featuring lemongrass.

Other Herb Options

Some other herbs make suitable replacements:


Fresh ginger root adds spicy flavor with subtle citrus notes. It doesn’t mimic the lemony flavor of lemongrass but complements many of the same dishes. Replace a lemongrass stalk with about 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger.


Also called Thai ginger, galangal has piney, gingery flavor with a touch of lemon. It is used in Thai cuisine along with lemongrass in recipes like Tom Yum soup. Use the same amount of sliced galangal root as you would lemongrass stalks.


Perilla is an herb common in Korean cooking that tastes like a mix of basil, mint and lemongrass. Its lemon flavor is subtle, so use more perilla leaves when substituting for lemongrass. Perilla works well in marinades, meat dishes and soups.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves have a woodsy, slightly herbal lemon flavor. Use about 3 bay leaves in place of 2 lemongrass stalks, removing bay leaves before serving. The flavor won’t be as bright but can work in soups and sauces.

Non-Herb Lemongrass Substitutes

When herbs won’t work, try these non-herb substitutions:

Lemon Zest

Lemon zest is a good way to infuse lemony flavor without the texture of lemongrass. Use about 1 teaspoon finely grated zest in place of a stalk. Let it infuse into soups, curries and marinades.

Lemon Juice

Replace a lemongrass stalk with about 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. The acidity and flavor mimic lemongrass to some degree. Lemon juice works in marinades, dressings and stir fries.

Dried Lemongrass

Dehydrated lemongrass has the same flavor as fresh but loses the fibrous texture. It works well as a substitute in teas, soups and curries by using about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per stalk of fresh.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Dried kaffir lime leaves can substitute for lemongrass in various dishes, though they have a floral, perfume-like fragrance. Use about 2 whole dried leaves in place of one lemongrass stalk, removing before eating.

Substitution Amounts

Here is a handy table summarizing substitution amounts for lemongrass:

Substitute Substitution Ratio
Lemon verbena 1 lemongrass stalk = 2 tsp fresh lemon verbena
Lemon balm 1 lemongrass stalk = 2 tsp fresh lemon balm
Kaffir lime leaves 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 kaffir lime leaf
Winter savory 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tsp dried savory
Lemon thyme 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tsp fresh lemon thyme
Lemon basil 1 lemongrass stalk = 2 tsp fresh lemon basil
Citronella grass 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 citronella stalk
Lemongrass powder 1 lemongrass stalk = 1/4-1/2 tsp powder
Cilantro 1 lemongrass stalk = 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Ginger 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tsp grated ginger
Galangal 1 lemongrass stalk = same amount galangal
Perilla leaves 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tbsp perilla leaves
Bay leaves 1 lemongrass stalk = 3 bay leaves
Lemon zest 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 tsp lemon zest
Lemon juice 1 lemongrass stalk = 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Dried lemongrass 1 lemongrass stalk = 1/2-1 tsp dried
Dried kaffir lime leaves 1 lemongrass stalk = 2 dried leaves

Choosing the Best Substitute

When choosing a lemongrass substitute, consider the recipe and whether you need to mimic its grassy flavor, fibrous texture or both. Herbs like lemon verbena and kaffir lime leaves get closest in flavor while ingredients like lemon zest and juice add tangy citrus notes. For texture, go with a grassy herb like cilantro or woody bay leaves.

Combine ingredients like lemon basil and ginger to get a closer flavor match. And keep in mind that dried options like lemongrass powder pack an intense flavor punch, so adjust amounts as needed. With so many substitution possibilities, you can recreate the magic of lemongrass in your cooking.

Storing and Keeping Lemongrass

To maximize fresh lemongrass flavor and cut down on waste, proper storage is key. Here are some tips:

– Store fresh lemongrass stalks dry and loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Make sure they are dry before storing or they will get slimy.

– Place cut lemongrass in an airtight container and store in the freezer for several months. It will retain flavor well when frozen.

– To freeze, cut stalks into 4-6 inch pieces first. Freeze in a single layer then transfer to an airtight bag.

– Dried lemongrass and lemongrass powder keep well in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Store in an airtight container away from light and moisture.

– Preserve lemongrass flavor by infusing it into olive or coconut oil. Simply add some bruised stalks to a bottle of oil and let it sit for 2 weeks before straining and using.

With proper storage methods, you can keep fresh lemongrass on hand or bulk buy dried versions so this zesty herb is always within reach.

How to Prepare Lemongrass

Preparing fresh lemongrass involves removing the tough outer layers to reach the softer, useable part inside. Here’s how:

– Cut off the lower bulb end and trim the very top. Remove any discolored or dried ends.

– Peel away the stiff outer layers until you reach the pale, tender core. Only the lower 6 inches or so is generally usable.

– Give the stalks a bruising to help release the flavors. Use the back of a knife to smash them.

– Slice, mince or pound the tender core as needed for the recipe. Very thinly slice it for infusing into liquids or soups.

– Avoid wasting the outer layers. They can be used to infuse flavor into stocks.

With this simple prep, fresh lemongrass is ready to add its unique citrus flavor and aroma to your favorite dishes. Enjoy its versatility in soups, curries, teas, marinades and more!


Lemongrass is a singular herb that adds aromatic lemon notes to many savory dishes. Thankfully, suitable stand-ins can provide similar flavors and textures when lemongrass is unavailable. Herbs like lemon verbena, lemon balm, kaffir lime leaves and lemon basil mimic the lemony taste. Grassier herbs like cilantro and citronella replicate the stalks’ fibrous nature. Dried lemongrass, lemon zest and lemon juice also substitute well in a pinch. With proper storage and preparation, fresh lemongrass can infuse food with its bright, grassy flavor. But when you need a substitute, herbs with lemon and grassy notes are the best alternatives.