Galangal, also known as Thai ginger or Siamese ginger, is an Asian plant of the ginger family mainly used in Indonesian and Southern Asian dishes as a spice. Since it’s not easy to find this herb in common vegatbale stores, you may use galangal substitutes in dishes that require it in some of your favorite recipes.
Galangal has a strong citrusy taste mingled with a bit of pine flavor. It comes with some bitterness and then becomes a kind of cool peppery. It smells like strong menthol and is able to provide meals with a fresh and pleasant aroma.
Because of this strong aroma, some cooks prefer using substitutes for galangal to get a milder flavor and taste for their dishes.
The best substitutes for galangal are galangal paste, galangal powder, ginger or ginger powder, fingeroot, turmeric powder, mustard seeds or mustard oil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, black or white pepper, horseradish, cinnamon with mace, and cinnamon with ginger.
Best Galangal Substitutes To Try
1. Galangal Paste
Galangal paste is the most suitable substitute for galangal as it is made of fresh galangal. Since it is stored, you can use it whenever you want.
Compared to fresh galangal this paste may contain other herbs and seasonings which enhance its flavor. It comes with a milder and subtler flavor. It best works with salads, marinades, stir-fries, sauces and pasta.
In case you avoid using processed products purchased from stores, you can make galangal paste at home, and always have it in your kitchen to substitute with fresh galangal.
2. Galangal Powder
Another easy alternative to fresh galangal is galangal powder. Though it is not as aromatic as fresh galangal, it can still replace fresh ones in cooked dishes. Compared to fresh galangal and galangal paste, this powder tends to last longer. It can serve as a common spice for many dishes.
½ teaspoon of powdered galangal can be used instead of 1 inch of fresh galangal. However, galangal powder offers less flavor and if you want a stronger aroma, then add more.
3. Fresh Ginger or Ginger Powder
If you can’t find any of the above-mentioned versions of galangal, then opt either for fresh ginger or ginger powder. Galangal belongs to the ginger family and you can safely use ginger instead of it. Compared to galangal, which is more peppery and citrusy, ginger is spicier.
While fresh ginger is a better substitute, you can still go for ginger powder if the fresh option is unavailable. Powdered ginger has a milder taste and you may use a little bit more of it in dishes to get the desired flavor similar to galangal.
Fingerroot is another spice originating from the ginger family. It is quite aromatic to substitute galangal. However, fingerroot offers a milder flavor and if you want to provide your dish with a subtle taste, then this can be the right choice.
Fingerroot is not as pungent or hot as galangal or ginger. It has peppery notes in its taste. You can use fingerroot especially in fish recipes as it has a neutralizing effect.
5. Turmeric Powder
Turmeric powder is produced from Curcuma longa which is a plant from the ginger family. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which provides it with bright yellow color.
This super healthy spice is widely used in Asia, India and the Middle East but it is quite easy to find in many stores. It comes with a milder flavor than galangal and can make your dish more appealing thanks to that bright color.
6. Mustard Seeds or Mustard Oil
One of the most unique alternatives to galangal is mustard. You can use either its seeds or oil. Mustard seeds serve as a topping on burgers and hotdogs. They have a pungent and hot flavor. Whenever you need to add a spicy touch with that pungency to your dish, you can use mustard seeds instead of galangal.
They also make dishes denser in texture. You can use mustard seeds in side dishes as well as season cooked dishes and seafood. It will provide the mildest and most pleasant spicy taste to your meals.
As for the mustard oil, it comes with the same flavor profile as mustard seeds but when you add it while cooking it becomes kind of mildly sweet. Compared to mustard seeds the usage of mustard oil is more versatile. It is added in salads, roasts and dips as well as cooked dishes such as deep-fries, fries, baked goods, roasts and grilled dishes.
The biggest advantage of mustard oil is that it will not only serve as oil for cooked meals but can also be used to replace galangal due to its pungent flavor and taste.
Lemongrass is a tropical grass mainly popular in seafood recipes. It is often used in Thai cuisine. Due to its pungent flavor and citrusy aroma, lemongrass can substitute galangal in several dishes.
It reminds of an aromatic mixture of tart lemon and mint. Compared to powdered spices, lemongrass is a better option as it has a fresher taste and will make meals smell better.
Lemongrass can be used in seafood recipes, and if you don’t mind a little bit of a sour taste in your dish, then choose it instead of galangal.
8. Kaffir Lime Leaves
When it comes to garnishing, kaffir lime leaves are a good replacement for galangal due to their fresh green color and citrusy flavor. They are perfect for stir-fries and curry. These leaves are considered to be an essential herb in Thai cuisine.
Kaffir lime leaves can be used fresh in salads, soups, curries and sauces. You may add as much as you want until you reach the desired taste. So, start with small amounts. Since it’s mainly citrusy, the final flavor reminds of lime zest.
9. Black or White Pepper
Several galangal recipes requesting spicy peppery notes rather than minty, can work well with black or white peppers. Besides being spicy, these peppers also have slightly reflected citrucy touches. Black peppers come with a stronger spicy taste than white pepper.
White pepper best goes with seafood and whitefish. You can use black pepper for a warmer and hotter flavor. All kinds of meat, seafood, fish, soups, stir-fries, stews and salads taste better with black pepper.
The hot spice of horseradish is made of the horseradish roots. It belongs to the same family of mustard and wasabi and is often used in cooking. Due to its flavor you can substitute it with galangal in sauces, meat and fish dishes.
Besides the roots you can also use fresh horseradish leaves if you have them in hand. Compared to the roots, which also contain the oil of the plant, leaves bring only the aroma and a little bit of hotness. As for ground horseradish it offers a subtler and milder flavor.
11. Cinnamon and Mace
One interesting replacement for galangal is the mixture of cinnamon and mace. While none of these spices remind of galangal when used separately, they can still bring a pungent and intense aroma when mixed together.
Cinnamon and mace blend is an excellent substitute to galangal in stir-fries, curries, and other dishes that call for galangal.
12. Cinnamon and Ginger
If you don’t like the previous combination, then this may be a better mixture to replace galangal. Cinnamon mixed with ginger is another good choice for curries and stir-fry dishes. Since ginger is closer to galangal in its taste and flavor, you may reach a fantastic aroma for your dish when you mix it with cinnamon. Cinnamon, in its turn, has a kind of bitter and slightly warm taste.
FAQs on Galangal
Where to buy galangal?
Fresh galangal is sold in grocery stores and markets next to fruits and vegetables. Galangal powder is found in the condiment section.
What’s the best galangal substitute?
The best galangal substitute is considered to be ginger. It is sometimes mixed with other spices like cinnamon or lemon juice for a better taste. However, it’s the number one substitute for galangal.
How long can galangal last?
Galangal can last a week if kept fresh in the fridge. However, you can freeze it and keep it for up to 2 months in a resealable plastic bag. If powdered or grinded, you can keep it in a jar for several months.
If you are not familiar with the taste of galangal but want to try it in your dishes, then these galangal substitutes may help you decide how to use galangal in different dishes. Keep in mind that it is basically used with seafood, curry and stews as well as in sauces.