- Lemon Grass Growing Guide
- The Wonder of Lemongrass Plants
- Botanical Basics of Lemongrass
- Six Steps to Wintering Your Lemongrass Indoors
- Preserving Lemongrass Roots
- Harvesting Lemongrass
- Using Lemongrass in the Kitchen
- Lemongrass in the Garden and the Kitchen
- How to Grow Lemongrass from Seed
- Growing Lemongrass from Cuttings
- Lemongrass Plant Care
- How to Preserve Lemongrass
- How to Use Lemongrass
- Curries and Soups Using Lemongrass
- Main Courses Using Lemongrass
- Drinks Using Lemongrass
- Lemon grass
- Choose the best
- Prepare it
- Store it
- Cook it
- Quick Asian Fishcakes
- Thai Corn and Shrimp Salad
- Pork, Lemongrass, and Noodle Stir-Fry
- Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Thai Green Curry, Snap Peas, and Carrots
- Coconut Curry Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp
- Ginger-Sesame Waffles with Indonesian Fried Chicken
- Lemongrass-Ginger Chicken Soup with Swiss Chard
- Lemongrass Chicken Meatballs in Green Curry Broth
- Vietnamese Spareribs with Chile and Lemongrass
- Spicy Lemongrass Peas
- Lemongrass is easier to prepare than you think!
- How to Stalk A Good Stalk
- How to Prepare Lemongrass:
- Recipes to try:
Lemon Grass Growing Guide
Lemongrass is a lovely fragrant plant, that is easy to take care of. Lemongrass has a lemon-citrus cent and can be used as a delicious herb. It’s most common use is as a seasoning in Asian cuisine, and it also works very well as a tea. Lemongrass tea is said to be a home remedy for certain conditions, because of its aromatic qualities, and its high concentration of antioxidants. Lemongrass essential oil is also used for its many homeopathic benefits as well.
Lemongrass comes in two main varieties, which are East Indian and West Indian. East Indian is known for having deeper red stems, and thinner stocks. While West Indian have thicker greener stocks, and is more commonly used for culinary purposes. They have few subtle differences and are grown under the same conditions.
When to Grow
Lemongrass loves hot and humid climates. Lemongrass is a perennial in growing zones 10 and warmer but can be grown as an annual in cooler climates, though it may be difficult to grow outside in the cooler zones. If planting outside, plant lemongrass after the danger of frost has passed. Lemongrass takes about 100 days and sometimes 4-8 months to be ready for harvest. Lemongrass also can be grown indoors at any time, and is beautiful in a pot.
Where to Grow
Lemongrass thrives in swampy conditions it prefers warm, moist and humid conditions. Grow lemongrass outdoors only in hardiness zones 9 and warmer. Grow lemongrass indoors year round in a very sunny window. If growing in containers, you’ll likely want at least 5 gallons of space for the plant to get to the size you want it to be. Lemongrass should be grown in full sun and should receive a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day although it will still grow a little slower in 3-5 hours as well.
Lemongrass should be planted in wet, fertile soil. Try to avoid soil with heavy clay. Fast drainage is key. Add lots of mature compost before planting. It will do fine in a range of soil pH, 5.0-8.0.
Planting and Dividing
The best way to start a lemongrass plant is from root cuttings from well established stalks. The stalks should be strong, firm and green. Put the bottom inch in a glass of water and set them in a sunny window. Roots should begin to sprout within two weeks. Plant in soil once the roots are 1 – 2 inches long, usually after about 4 weeks.
Transplants should be spaced 3 feet apart and while planting remember they can grow 6 feet tall, though you can always trim them shorter if need. The soil you plant it in should be compost enriched. Wait until after the last frost before transplanting.
If you have a plant that is already started its pretty simple just dig a hole in appropriate soil roughly the same size as the container the plant is currently planted. Remove plant from soil trying to keep as much of the original as you can and place it in the hole. Water well so it settles snug into its new home.
Water lemongrass frequently. It’s hard to over water a lemongrass plant, it is used to constant moisture, but it will not tolerate dried out roots, that is the fastest way to kill your plant. No need to keep the soil muddy, but definitely keep it moist. In very dry areas, you should mist the leaves with a spray bottle consistently.
Lemongrass needs a lot of nitrogen in order to thrive. For best growth use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer on it every few weeks. Be careful if you are planting lemongrass with other plants, because a lot of plants don’t do well with that much nitrogen.
You can begin harvesting lemongrass once it has grown to 1 foot tall. Harvest entire stalks by slicing them off at soil level, below the swollen ends. The stalks you harvest should be from the outside of the plant and make sure the stalks are at least ½ inch thick. You should not break them off by hand, it is better to cut them off, You might need to peel off the outer layer of the stalks before you use them if they are too firm or dry.
Tips & Advice
Lemongrass is a fragrant plant. I recommend planting lemongrass in places that you will smell them. The pleasing smell of lemongrass works well in back yards, along walkways or driveways, or even in your home.
The Wonder of Lemongrass Plants
Fragrant plants are among the most prized botanicals and are widely cultivated all over the world. Of all the aromatic plants and herbs, lemongrass is one of the oldest and best loved. It has a range of benefits that medicinal and culinary herb gardeners should know about. Any gardener interested in adding some excitement to a vegetable garden should take a closer look at what lemongrass has to offer. Gardeners wishing to cultivate fragrant plants, ornamental grasses, or landscape plants should also be aware of the exciting possibilities lemongrass opens up.
Botanical Basics of Lemongrass
Like many of the other species grouped into the Cymbopogon genus, lemongrass is native to the temperate, warm, and tropical regions of Oceania, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. It is a tall, bushy, perennial grass that grows up from a tightly packed central clump. Each plant can reach three to five feet in height, which makes it a dramatic landscape plant. Pests are unlikely to trouble lemongrass and your plants will flourish so long as the weather is warm enough.
Lemongrass grows best in zones 8 and warmer, though it can be cultivated in greenhouses and other climate controlled environments. It can also be grown indoors. This plant likes full sun though care must be taken not to allow the soil to dry out. A water mister will help maintain optimal soil moisture levels without water-logging the plant or its roots. Clay-rich soils will impede the draining action required to keep the plant surrounded by an optimal moisture level. Some all-purpose fertilizer, fish emulsion, or liquid plant food can be added to the soil surrounding your lemongrass plants every two weeks or so throughout the growing season.
Six Steps to Wintering Your Lemongrass Indoors
You can winter your lemongrass by bringing it inside until temperatures return to above 40 degrees F. To prepare them for winter and spring, just follow these steps:
- Trim grass till stalks are just a few inches high.
- Use a spade or trowel to separate several stalks away from the central clump.
- Place these stalks into several pots prepared with soil.
- Keep potted plant soil lightly moist.
- Return the potted plants to a sunny location as weather warms.
- Replant your lemongrass once the temperature has risen sufficiently.
Take care not to over-water a wintering lemongrass plant. Stimulated roots can grow quickly and may even break the pot containing the plant.
Preserving Lemongrass Roots
Another easy way of preserving your lemongrass plants is to winter the roots in a cellar, basement, or other dark cool location. Once the stalks have been cut down and repotted, all you need to do is lightly water the soil to keep the roots alive. Only a little water is necessary and your plants will require watering just a few times throughout the season. After the temperature has risen in spring, the stalks and roots can be planted wherever you would like a clump of lemongrass to grow.
You can begin harvesting lemongrass as soon as the plant is well enough established to tolerate a few stalks being cut. Tender stalks can be gently snipped near the base though longer, tougher stalks should be harvested together in clumps that are dug up and separated from the rest of the plant. Prepared portions of these longs stalks can be found in grocery stores with extensive produce sections and shops specializing in Asian foods.
To prepare your harvested lemongrass, begin by cutting down the tough tops of the stalk until you have several inches of softer, lighter colored plant matter near the base of the plant. The root fibers can also be trimmed though a few roots near the base of the plant can be retained to keep the stalk fresh in a glass of water. You can retain all portions of the stalk that are close together; stalks that have separated into individual blades can be cut. Once the harvested stalks have been trimmed, carefully rinse all dirt and grit from the surface and pat dry. These prepared stalks can be stored in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for one to two weeks. The taller grass-like portions of the plant can be added to vases of flowers for a dramatic and lightly fragrant addition.
You can also freeze your lemongrass harvest to preserve it for future use. To do this, take the rinsed, dried prepared stalks and use a sharp knife to cut the stalk into slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Collect these round slices into a freezer bag and freeze. Your lemongrass will remain fresh tasting for up to a year.
Using Lemongrass in the Kitchen
Vietnamese Style Lemongrass Soup
Though lemongrass plants have been celebrated for their showy ornamental quality, it is best known as a culinary ingredient in the traditional foods of Southeast Asia. As the name suggestions, lemongrass has a light lemony flavor that it easily imparts to soup, stir fried dishes, curries, and other foods. This simple Vietnamese style soup has loads of flavor and color. Serve this festive dish at home, take it to a potluck, or serve it when entertaining guests.
You will need:
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 thinly sliced shallots
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, sliced into two inch pieces
- 4 Tbsp curry powder (mild, medium, or hot as you prefer)
- 2 peeled carrots cut into diagonal slices
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 8 – 10 sliced button mushrooms
- 1 lb tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 small potatoes cut in quarters
- 1 14 ounce can of coconut milk (regular or light)
Garnish: Sprigs of fresh cilantro, fresh bean sprouts, chopped peanuts
Optional: 2 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce
To prepare this dish, heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Saute shallots and onions until translucent. Add ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and curry powder. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently to combine flavors. Stir in carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, and tofu; try to avoid breaking the tofu when stirring mixture together. Add water and vegetable stock to the pot, along with red pepper flakes, lime leaves, bay leaf, and vegetarian fish sauce (if using). Cover and bring mixture to a boil, then stir in potatoes and coconut milk. Once the curry is boiling again, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, around 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve over white or brown rice and garnish with cilantro, bean sprouts, and peanuts.
Spicy Coconut and Pumpkin Soup
Lemongrass complements the rich flavors of coconut and pumpkin in this rich soup. This recipe is a great way to serve up the flavors of summertime in winter when you crave a warm, satisfying meal. Though full fat coconut milk can be used, the light variety brings all the same flavor and texture without the extra calories.
You will need:
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 Tbsp vegetable soup base or bouillon granules
- 3 cups water
- 1 14 ounce can of light coconut milk
- 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, and ginger until onions are soft. Stir in red pepper and cumin, cooking until spices are lightly toasted (1 – 2 minutes). Next add the soup base, water, coconut milk, and pumpkin. Stir until a smooth, even mixture forms. Allow soup to heat thoroughly (5 – 10 minutes). Taste for flavor and add salt and pepper to finish dish. Serve hot immediately or use an immersion blender to create a smoother dish; allow soup to reheat before serving.
A Refreshing Hot Lemongrass Tea / Tisane
Though lemongrass stalks are trimmed down to give access to the softer portions near the root, the long blades can still be retained for use. One traditional way of using lemongrass is in a hot steeped beverage. Even though we might refer to this drink as a tea, technically it is a tisane. Tea beverages are specifically those that contain leaves from the tea plant. A soothing lemongrass tisane can be made with fresh or preserved plant material.
To prepare lemongrass tea, fill a kettle or saucepan with water and heat till nearly boiling. While the water is heating, chop lemongrass into portions pieces approximately one inch long. When the water is ready, add lemongrass pieces to the water or place the lemongrass into a teapot or other brewing container and pour the hot water over it. Let your tisane steep for five to ten minutes, or until it has reached your preferred strength. Remove the stalks with a slotted spoons or pour the preparation through a strainer to remove all plant material before serving.
This bright, zesty beverage can be enjoyed as is or sweetened with a little honey, sugar, or agave nectar. A lemongrass tisane can be enjoyed first thing in the morning for a natural pick-me-up or any time you want a warm boost. You can also add a little chopped lemongrass to any of your favorite herbal tisane beverages. Lemongrass blends very well with fruit flavors, mint, and other mildly sweet herbs.
Lemongrass in the Garden and the Kitchen
Lemongrass is a versatile, attractive plant that has won the hearts of gardeners around the world. It is easy to grow in the right climate conditions and provides a wealth of delicious stalks to enjoy. Whether grown as an ornamental or for culinary use, you will certainly fall in love with the enjoyable lemongrass plant.
How to Grow Lemongrass from Seed
Fresh lemongrass isn’t something you see every day. It’s one of those things that’s usually reserved for ethnic markets and specialty stores. You can imagine my surprise when I came across bundles of fresh lemongrass in our local food coop, with a big bright tag that says “Locally Grown in Vermont.”
Vermont grown lemongrass?!?! Really? I always assumed I’d have to live in the south pacific to grow something as exotic as lemongrass. We already have homegrown Hawaiian ginger and tiny chocolate trees started from locally grown cocoa pods, so it’s time to add lemongrass to our exotic garden!
Beyond the fact that it’s just exciting to see something tropical growing right in your own yard, lemongrass is a natural mosquito repellant. Even if you’re not an adventurous cook and you never plan to harvest, lemongrass is still beautiful, fragrant and naturally repels mosquitoes.
Lemongrass can be a bit tricky to grow from seed and requires extra attention to ensure germination. In cold climates, lemongrass should be started indoors to ensure that it has time to mature in a short growing season. The problem is, they also require high humidity and a soil temperature of roughly 70 degrees to thrive.
For the best success, try using seedling trays with a plastic dome to contain moisture and warmth. A seedling heat mat will be a big help at keeping the soil a continuous toasty 70 degrees. It’s a tricky balance because they require a moist but not “wet” environment, and with all that humidity and warmth, fungal issues are not uncommon. If you’d like to try it, lemongrass seeds are available here.
Growing Lemongrass from Cuttings
Since lemongrass can be so difficult to grow from seed, most gardeners start lemongrass from cuttings. The trick is, lemongrass stalks can be difficult to find. If you happen to have a good ethnic market or an upscale food coop, you might just get lucky. Even still, if you want to grow lemongrass stalks, they have to have a bit of the base intact. If you cut off the top and bottom inch of a carrot, it won’t be able to grow, and lemongrass sliced up too high just won’t root.
I’ve seen lemongrass stalks in those tiny plastic “fresh herb” boxes at the grocery store, and they’re just a 3-4 inch section of the middle of the plant. If you look at the bottom of the stalk, there should be a distinct end of the above-ground portion, and below that is the rooting base. That must be intact for success. If the plant us cut up high enough that you can see actual rings, like when you slice through a leek or scallion, then it won’t grow.
In the picture below, you can see where the leaves wrap together at the bottom of the lemongrass stalk, and then the new growth roots and shoots come out below that point.
Lemongrass cuttings rooted in water. They’re already sending up new shoots.
If you’re lucky, and full completely intact lemongrass stalks are available at your local supermarket or ethnic market, buy the freshest looking ones and put them in a jar with 1 inch of water. It can take about a month for them to develop healthy roots, so be patient. For most people though, the best option is to buy pre-rooted lemongrass cuttings online, and those are ready for planting on arrival.
Lemongrass Plant Care
So now you’ve got a few lemongrass plants growing, how do you tend them? Honestly, once it’s growing, lemongrass is very easy to tend. The plants tend to self-propagate, and they’ll constantly send off side shoots and expand even in small pots.
The only real risk is cold temperatures. Lemongrass is a subtropical plant and cant handle freezing temperatures. Ideally, they want temperatures constantly above 50 F. Only the very hottest regions of the United States can grow lemongrass outdoors.
For the rest of us, it’s a potted plant that comes indoors for the winter. Honestly, it comes indoors for the spring and fall here in the frozen north too. We only have maybe 2-3 months of the year where temps don’t dip below 50 at night.
Lemongrass plants require good moisture, in well-drained soil. Be sure to water often to keep the soil just damp but not soggy. Since they’re mostly green grassy material, lemongrass plants are high nitrogen feeders. Be sure to top dress with compost every few weeks, especially since they’ll likely be in a pot and unable to send their roots scavenging elsewhere. Fertilizers like worm castings or alfalfa meal will ensure vigorous growth.
At the end of the growing season, when outdoor temperatures are approaching 50 degrees F, it’s time to shift your plants to indoor mode. Cut the stalks back, leaving them about 6 to 8 inches tall and move the pots indoors to a well ventilated sunny spot that stays consistently warm through the winter months. Reduce feeding and watering, just barely keeping the soil moist.
In the spring, divide the overwintered lemongrass into new pots with ample space to resume growth. Resume watering and feeding, and begin the process all over again. You should have plenty of lemongrass babies to share with your friends, or enough for heavy harvests, your choice.
Now comes the part we’ve all been waiting for…the harvest. Use your finger to dig a bit around the roots, exposing the base of the stalk. With a sharp pair of scissors or a knife, cut the lemongrass off just below the soil level, where the stalk narrows and turns to roots. Stalks should be at least 1/2 inch in diameter at the base before you attempt to harvest, but they can grow much larger if you give them time and nutrients.
The tightly bundled base of the plant is the part that’s most commonly used in cuisine. It’s also the best for preserving in rice vinegar as pickled lemongrass for use all winter long. The leafy tops are more delicate, and they can be chopped and dried for refreshing teas.
How to Preserve Lemongrass
The simplest way to preserve lemongrass is by freezing. Take whole stalks and wrap them tightly in plastic or a Ziploc bag. The stalks can be removed one at a time for use in cooking. When freezing lemongrass, a bit of the freshness is lost and the texture can become a bit woody, but the distinctive flavor remains.
I preserve my lemongrass in rice vinegar for use all winter long. Small pieces of lemongrass are quickly pickled in the rice vinegar, and they can be stored in the refrigerator for months at a time. The main benefit of this method is that the lemongrass infuses into the vinegar, and rice vinegar is used in many of the recipes that call for lemongrass anyway.
Another great option, if you plan to use lemongrass in creative homemade cocktails, is to infuse lemongrass in a bit of vodka. That’ll add a unique twist to your summer drinks.
How to Use Lemongrass
Once you successfully grow lemongrass at home, there’s going to be a lot of lemongrass to harvest by the end of the summer. Once it gets going, there’s almost no stopping it. Here are some inventive ideas for using your home harvested lemongrass:
Curries and Soups Using Lemongrass
- Thai Green Curry with Chicken
- Easy Vegan Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
- Nourishing Gaps Diet Soup
- Lemongrass Curry Soup with Cashew Cream
- Vegan Thai Lemongrass Coconut Curry Soup
Main Courses Using Lemongrass
- Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches
- Lemongrass Grilled Pork Tenderloin
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork
- Lemongrass Chicken
- Thai Grilled Chicken
- Mango Lemongrass Lemon Wraps
- Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Lemongrass Beef
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Lemongrass Chicken
Drinks Using Lemongrass
- Lemongrass Lemon Drop Recipe
- Ginger Lemongrass Ice Tea
Although lemon grass is central to Asian cuisine, especially Thai, it works well in Western dishes, too. This mixing of flavours is sometimes called ‘fusion’.
Also called citronella or sereh, it grows in dense clumps, from which the individual stems are cut.
Lemongrass look a little like fat spring onions, with the same swollen base, but the stalk is woodier, and composed of tightly packed grey-green leaves. The fragrance and flavour is unique – lemony, but sweet – and is quite subtle until the stalk is cut or bashed. The stalks are available freeze-dried, too.
All year round.
Choose the best
Fresh lemon grass stalks should feel firm and heavy, with no bruising. If it feels light, it will probably have dried out too much.
You can use lemongrass whole, sliced or pounded to a paste. To use whole, slice off the very bottom of the stalk, and peel off any dried-out layers, then bash the woody top end with a rolling pin to soften, and help release some of the aromatic oils.
Whole freeze-dried lemon grass can be prepared in the same way. For chopping or pounding, only the bottom seven or eight centimetres are edible – slice off and discard the rest. Then chop finely or pound to a pulp in a pestle and mortar.
Stored wrapped, in the fridge, fresh lemon grass will keep for a couple of weeks. Freeze-dried whole lemon grass should be kept wrapped up, in a cool, dark place.
Use whole lemon grass in stews and curries (remember to fish it out before serving). Chop and use to make marinades and soups or add to stir-fries. Use as a flavouring for crème brulee or steep a stalk in a bottle of vodka for cocktails (clean and bruise a lemon grass stalk, then put it in a nearly full bottle of vodka for 3-4 days, shaking occasionally; then remove the stalks).
Try lemon zest.
What is it?
Lemongrass, a stiff grass native to India, is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. Evergreen in warm climates, lemongrass is a sharp-bladed, perennial, blue-green grass that grows in 3- to 6-foot-tall cascading clumps.
This citrusy plant plays a starring role in many Southeast-Asian cuisines, adding its unique flavor to everything from curries to cold drinks. Not long ago, it was nearly impossible to find, except in Asian markets. But these days, lemongrass is going mainstream, making its way into the produce section of your supermarket.
In addition to its uses in the kitchen, it’s valued medicinally as a remedy for a wide range of ailments, from stomach troubles and fever to depression. As the name suggests, it has a citrus aroma and lemony flavor. It can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.
How to choose:
Much of lemongrass’s flavor is concentrated in its lower, cane-like stalks, which is why most markets sell them already trimmed of their leafy tops, leaving just a few short, spiky blades still attached. Look for firm, pale-green stalks with fat, bulbous bottoms and reasonably fresh-looking tops (they may be a little dry but shouldn’t be desiccated or yellowed).
How to prep:
There are two main ways to cook with lemongrass, and each determines how you handle it. To infuse teas, broths, soups, and braising liquids, trim off the spiky tops and the bases, crush the stalks with the side of a knife to release their aromatic oils, and then cut them into 1- or 2-inch pieces. Remove the pieces before eating (they tend to be woody) or eat around them.
To use lemongrass in marinades, stir-fries, salads, spice rubs, and curry pastes, trim the top and base of the stalks—you want to use only the bottom 4 inches or so. Then peel off any dry or tough outer layers before finely chopping or mincing. Lemongrass holds up to long cooking and gains intensity the longer it’s cooked. If you’d like a strong lemongrass flavor, add minced lemongrass at the start of cooking, browning it along with the other aromatics. For a lighter, fresher lemongrass flavor, add it near the end of cooking.
Though lemongrass stalks measure a foot long or more, almost all of the flavor is contained in the bottom 5 inches or so of the stalk. To get to that flavor, cut away the thinner top portion of the stalk and the very woody base. Then peel away the tougher outer layers to get to the more tender part of the stalk. (You can use all these scraps to make a soothing herbal tea; steep them in boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain.) Even after peeling, lemongrass is quite fibrous, and it’s best to either use it whole to infuse flavor and then remove it, or chop it very finely. To make chopping it easier, use a sharp knife and slice it into thin rounds first.
How to store:
To store, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two to three weeks, or freeze for up to six months.
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Pork, Lemongrass, and Noodle Stir-Fry
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Ginger-Sesame Waffles with Indonesian Fried Chicken
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Lemongrass-Ginger Chicken Soup with Swiss Chard
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Lemongrass Chicken Meatballs in Green Curry Broth
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Do you want to learn how to cook with lemongrass? I’ve got a tutorial for you on how to trim it and prepare it for different dishes!
Lemongrass is easier to prepare than you think!
Confession: I was afraid to cook with lemongrass up until our trip to Vietnam. I was intimidated by this tough, lemon-scented stalk in part because one of my pals ended up in the emergency room when her knife sliced her finger instead of the stalk. But to be honest, I just didn’t know how to prepare it properly.
After visiting Vietnam and eating dish after flavorful dish perked up with this fragrant stalk, though, I decided to figure out once and for all the best ways to prepare lemongrass for different dishes. And you know what? It’s pretty simple. In this quick post, I’ll show you how to teach that stalk who’s boss. (You can also watch the quick Periscope video I shot that shows you how to do it!)
How to Stalk A Good Stalk
Lemongrass can usually be found in the produce section of fancier grocery stores or your local garden-variety Asian supermarket. (Tip: Lemongrass is typically much cheaper and fresher at an Asian market ’cause it turns over more frequently.) These long stalks are sold in bunches or individually. Choose the ones that smell fragrant, have greenish exteriors, and are slightly pliable. Avoid the stalks that are dried out, brittle, and bruised.
Wrap fresh lemongrass stalks in plastic wrap, and store them in the fridge for up to a few weeks. Alternatively, you can store the tightly wrapped stalks in the freezer for a few months.
How to Prepare Lemongrass:
You can use different parts of the stalk for different preparations, but you still need to trim the lemongrass the same way to get to the good stuff.
I normally start by cutting off about an inch from the root end, and I also trim off the dried-out leaves at the top of the stalk.
Lemongrass for a Stir-Fry, Paste, or Marinade:
If you’re using the lemongrass in a stir fry, curry paste, or marinade, peel off the tough outer layers of the stalk until you’re left with the tender core. But if you’re using the whole stalk to flavor a soup or stew, you don’t need to be nearly as diligent ’cause you won’t be ingesting it.
If the lemongrass will be used in a marinade, curry paste, or stir fry, you just want to use the lower, tender part of the stalk (about 4-5 inches from the bottom).
Because you’ll be eating it, use a microplane rasp grater to grate trimmed lemongrass to make sure you don’t have any tough, stringy bits in your dish. (As I mention in our cookbook, I use a microplane to make ginger snow with frozen ginger, too.)
No microplane? No problem! You can pound the stalk with a meat pounder or a small cast iron skillet before mincing it very finely.
You need to cut against the grain of the fibers or you’re gonna get a bunch of stringy bits in your food.
Alternatively, you can pound the chopped lemongrass in a mortar and pestle or blitz it with the rest of your marinade or curry paste ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Lemongrass for stews and soups
Wondering how to cook with lemongrass if you’re using lemongrass stalks to flavor a stew or soup, cut the stalk into three segments…
…and bash the heck out of ’em.
This way, the stalks’ll release their yumminess into whatever you drop them into! Please note that you don’t eat the lemongrass when you use them in this fashion—fish out the stalks before you serve the final dish (or warn your unsuspecting guests to do so).
Tie the stalk in a knot!
Another great way to prepare thin stalks of lemongrass for stews and soups is to bash a trimmed stalk and tie it in a bow before plopping it into your pot. You can watch this helpful video from the folks at Saveur to see how it’s done.
Now that you know how to cook with lemongrass, go forth and implement my tips!
Recipes to try:
- Slow Cooker Lemongrass and Coconut Chicken Drumsticks
- Instant Pot Lemongrass and Coconut Chicken
- Bo Kho (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew)
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
- Tom Kha Gai
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!