If you enjoy Thai cuisine, you must have seen slices of what looks like ginger in your meals. A member of the ginger family, galangal gives off a spicy, herbal, and slightly citrusy flavor that you will either love or hate.
But, if you, like me, love galangal, you’d probably end up adding it to every dish that you can. The good news is that you pretty much can!
This flavorful ingredient, also known as Siamese ginger or Thai ginger, is a wonderfully versatile ingredient that can be added to salads, soups, stir-fries, curries, stews — you name it!
If you’ve been using galangal a bit too often and have now run out of it or wish to try a herb that tastes similar to it but is not as spicy and peppery, there are various substitutes you can try in different dishes.
In soups and salads, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass will give you the same refreshing zest of galangal. Horseradish or cinnamon will work beautifully in satays and stir-fries, while ginger and fingerroot are excellent substitutes to add in curries and stews. If you’re preparing rice and noodle dishes, pepper and mustard are great alternatives. And if you want to add that spicy kick to your desserts, just opt for galangal powder or galangal paste. As healthy and delicious as galangal, these alternatives are also gluten-free and vegan.
Here are the top 10 galangal substitutes for you to consider.
- Galangal Substitutes
- Galangal Vs Turmeric
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Considerations
- Other Interesting Guides
A cousin of mustard and wasabi, horseradish has a sharp, pungent, spicy taste that is quite reminiscent of galangal. It can work as a fantastic substitute for galangal in meat or veggie stir-fries, Thai creamy coconut shrimp, chicken satays, and steaks.
Horseradish is best used in its grated form as that’s when its pungent oils are fully released. Grated horseradish is truly pungent and spicy.
However, you can also grind and use it in the last steps of your cooking, especially in soups, for a milder level of spice.
1 teaspoon galangal = 2 teaspoons horseradish
Cinnamon is in no way related to galangal. But it has a spicy flavor profile, and when combined with mace or ginger, the mix gives off a citrusy and sweet flavor, too. That is how you get a taste that resembles galangal’s flavor profile very closely.
Add cinnamon with any of the 2 spices to steaks, stir-fries, satays, or other Asian dishes that call for galangal, like this authentic Malaysian chicken satay recipe.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1 teaspoon cinnamon + mace or ginger
If you’re cooking an Asian-inspired stew or curry, galangal adds a beautifully authentic flavor to the dish. But if you don’t have it on hand, ginger will also work well. After all, both belong to the same family and have similar flavor profiles.
Are galangal and ginger the same? No. Despite their resemblance, galangal has a stronger, more citrusy flavor than ginger. It also has paler and smoother skin than ginger.
If you’re using ginger instead of galangal in your stew or curry paste, make sure that you use it in a 1:1 ratio and add a little lemon juice or zest to get galangal’s zingy flavor.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1 teaspoon ginger
A lot of Thai curries like Thai red curry, Thai green curry, and jungle curry feature galangal for that sharp, spicy, citrusy flavor.
When you don’t have some on hand and don’t have an Asian grocery store in your neighborhood, use fingerroot instead. Another member of the ginger family, fingerroot is also known as Chinese ginger or Chinese keys. Like galangal and the rest of the substitutes on this list, fingerroot is also vegan, so you can easily incorporate it into your vegan diet.
Fingerroot looks a bit like galangal, although its skin is a darker orange-brown. It has a similarly strong, pungent flavor, making it a great alternative to galangal in curries and stews.
Not sure how to replace galangal with fingerroot? Start with a 1:1 ratio of fingerroot to galangal, and add more as needed.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1 teaspoon fingerroot
5. Kaffir Lime Leaves
Galangal is a staple in Thai soups like hearty tom yum soup and tom kha gai soup recipes. Its balanced flavor also makes it a delightful addition to fresh salads and salad dressings.
If you’ve run out of this ingredient and are now wondering, “What is a good galangal substitute?”, try kaffir lime leaves. Commonly used in Thai and Malaysian cooking, they have a fragrant, citrusy, and mildly spicy flavor that makes them a lovely, kid-friendly alternative to galangal.
However, kaffir lime leaves lack the sharp, peppery zing of galangal, so add a little pepper or another spice if needed.
If you wish to know how to substitute galangal with kaffir lime leaves, start with a few leaves and keep adding them till you achieve the flavor that you’re looking for.
1 teaspoon galangal = 2 kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass is another great substitute for galangal in Thai soups and salads like tangy Thai chicken salad made with chicken thigh fillets, coconut milk, galangal, peanuts, and other flavorful ingredients.
Lemongrass has a citrusy, mildly floral, and pungent flavor. But it’s not so pungent that your kids can’t tolerate it, which means you can add it to your little ones’ meals for that extra kick of flavor.
When subbing in lemongrass for galangal, add a pinch at first and increase the quantity in case you want a stronger flavor. If you want to take the heat level up a notch, add a spice like cinnamon or pepper for that fiery punch.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1.5 teaspoons lemongrass
Most spicy and pungent Thai and other Asian dishes call for galangal in their recipes. And when you can’t get your hands on galangal, mustard seeds make for a great alternative in noodle and rice dishes such as this easy-to-make Thai stir-fry red rice. This condiment has a pungent flavor that can step in as a handy substitute for galangal.
White mustard seeds add a mild spice level, but if you want to increase the heat quotient and pungency, use the brown or black versions instead.
To use mustard seeds as an alternative to galangal, grind them finely and add to your fried rice or noodle recipe. You can also add whole seeds.
Mustard oil is also a good option to use in place of galangal. Like mustard seeds, the oil, too, has a pungent taste and aroma along with a bitter flavor. This flavor reduces and becomes sweet when cooked.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1 teaspoon ground or whole mustard seeds or mustard oil
Both black pepper and white pepper have a sharp, spicy, peppery zing that makes them good substitutes for galangal in fried rice and noodles.
Like galangal, black as well as white pepper can also taste mildly citrusy and pine-like, which helps balance out their spicy flavor.
But if you need the stronger citrusy flavor that you get with galangal, add some lime or lemon zest or juice along with the pepper.
1 teaspoon galangal = 1 teaspoon black or white pepper
9. Galangal Paste
Believe it or not, the spicy galangal root is also used in desserts and bakes like cakes, puddings, custards, ice creams, and candies for a spicy kick. If you don’t have this ingredient in your pantry, use galangal paste as a substitute for fresh galangal.
You can also easily find galangal paste in local supermarkets, so you can buy it in bulk and freeze it for up to 6 months. This way, you can always have this ingredient on hand while making desserts, cookies, and cakes.
When using galangal paste in place of fresh galangal, remember that the paste is rather potent as it is the more concentrated form of fresh galangal. So use it sparingly.
1 inch of fresh galangal = 1/2 teaspoon galangal paste
10. Galangal Powder
If you can’t get fresh galangal or galangal paste for your baking, try the powdered form instead. It is usually available in grocery stores and supermarkets, or you can also source it online. Moreover, galangal powder lasts a long time, so the chances of running out are lower than with fresh galangal.
However, the powdered form may lack the intense flavors of fresh galangal. To make up for it, you can add some ginger to galangal powder to elevate the flavors.
Whenever possible, always try to use the fresh version as that punch of spice that you get with it is better than with galangal powder.
1 teaspoon fresh galangal = 1/2 teaspoons galangal powder
Galangal Vs Turmeric
It’s easy to get confused between galangal and turmeric since they look quite similar, but they both have very distinct tastes that are not interchangeable. While galangal is citrusy and has a sharp zing to it, turmeric has an earthy flavor and is slightly more peppery.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Galangal? Where Does Galangal Originate From?
Galangal root is a fragrant spice native to Southeast Asia. The root originates from Indonesia, Thailand, and China and has been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for decades to treat a variety of ailments. It is also used in Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Indonesian cooking.
What Does Galangal Taste Like?
Galangal packs a unique punch of flavor that spices up and yet balances out the dishes that it’s added to. It has a fresh, spicy, peppery, sharp, citrusy, and sweet taste that makes it a prized ingredient in Asian cooking.
Is Galangal The Same As Mango Ginger?
Although galangal and mango ginger look a lot alike and belong to the same ginger family, they are different. Mango ginger tastes earthy, floral, and mango-like, whereas galangal has a spicier, sharper zing.
Galangal is a popular addition to Asian-style dishes like satays, soups, and noodles. Its complex flavor profile, from spicy to peppery to sweet, makes it a wonderfully versatile ingredient.
If your local grocery store doesn’t stock this spicy root, our list of galangal substitutes should help you out. Whether you want an alternative that has a bolder flavor or a milder option that your kids can enjoy, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs and tastes.
Tried any of the 10 substitutes from our list? Tell us what you found interesting about it, or anything else that you’d like to add, in the comments section below. We are all ears!
Other Interesting Guides
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nancy do it, no judgment here) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.