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How to Use Lemongrass in Cooking

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Lemongrass is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used in many types of dishes. Whether you’re looking to add a bit of brightness to a soup or curry, or want to infuse your rice with a fragrant lemongrass aroma, here are a few tips on how to use lemongrass in your cooking.

Lemongrass being prepared for cooking on a wooden board.
How to use lemongrass in cooking.

Cooking with lemongrass

Lemongrass is a tropical grass with a lemon-like grassy flavor. It is a popular ingredient used in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines.

Lemongrass can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, curries, and stir-fries. It is also a popular flavoring for fish and chicken and vegetables.

If you’re looking to add a bit of brightness and fresh flavor to your cooking, this is a great ingredient to experiment with.

What to cook with lemongrass

Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. It is commonly used in soups, curries, broths, stir-fries, and spring rolls.

It pairs well with other fresh ingredients frequently used in these regions such as ginger, lotus root, Asian greens, bean sprouts, mushrooms, chilies, bok choi, and tropical fruits (like coconut).

Lemongrass goes with most meats, including chicken, beef, pork, and lamb, as well as fish and other seafoods. It can also add some refreshing zing to starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and couscous.

Other herbs and spices that work well with lemongrass include cilantro, ginger, honey, garlic, lime leaves, turmeric, chives, basil, parsley, and thyme.

Try:

  • Adding it to soups and curries
  • Using it as a rub or marinade for meats
  • Adding it to stir-fries
  • Adding it to the cooking liquid when steaming or poaching

How to cook with lemongrass

Whole lemongrass has a bulb, a white lower section of stalk, and a green top section of stalk.

Normally only the white central part of the lemongrass stalk is used in cooking. The bulb and green stalk are often already trimmed off the lemongrass you see in the store.

How to prepare lemongrass

To prepare lemongrass to use in a recipe, peel off the stiff outer layer of leaves. Then cut off the bulb (if it is still attached), and trim the green leaves off the top.

You will be left with the whiteish lower section of the stalk. This can be prepared in a few ways depending on the dish you are making.

The simplest way to use lemongrass is to place the prepared lemongrass stem whole in soups, curries, and when steaming or poaching foods. For a more intense flavor you can cut the lemongrass into shorter sections.

Whole lemongrass is not consumed. So, if you are serving the cooking liquid, make sure that the lemongrass stalk is either removed from the dish or is very obvious to your guests so that they don’t eat it.

You can place the chopped lemongrass stems into a tied piece of cheesecloth to make it easier to remove once you have finished cooking.

You can also use lemongrass in recipes where it will be consumed. However, the lemongrass stem is too fibrous and tough to be eaten as it is.

It will need to be finely chopped, grated, or ground with a mortar and pestle (or food processor) to make it soft enough to chew.

Once you have it finely chopped or minced, you can add it to sauces, marinades, curry pastes, fillings for spring rolls, and dressings.

Other ways to use fresh lemongrass

You can also get creative with using lemongrass in cooking. Try:

  • Using the stem as a skewer to make kebabs of chicken or prawns
  • Infuse lemongrass in hot water to make a refreshing drink
  • Use a section of the stem as a drink stirrer for a cocktail or homemade lemonade
  • Add finely grated lemongrass to mayonnaise or salad dressing

How to use dried lemongrass

Fresh lemongrass is more flavorful than dried, so it is best to use it when it is available. However, you can also use dried lemongrass for most recipes.

To use it in soups, curries, or other infusions, simply place a piece of it into your dish. It is best added close to the beginning of the cooking process.

If you want to use it minced or chopped, then you’ll need to soak it in water for at least 30 minutes before using it.

How to use powdered lemongrass

Powdered lemongrass can be used in the same way as fresh minced lemongrass, by adding to sauces, marinates, and curry pastes.

However, you will want to use it sparingly as it can be quite strong. Start by adding less than you think you need, and be sure to taste as you go, adding more if you think it is needed.

Final thoughts

Lemongrass is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. When cooking with lemongrass, it’s important to use fresh lemongrass for the best flavor.

Lemongrass can be used in soups, curries, stir-fries, and marinades. It’s also a great addition to tea or lemonade.

When using lemongrass, cut off the bulb, and trim the green stalk before using. Then either mince or use whole (just remember to retrieve it from your dish before serving!)


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