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What can I substitute for fresh ginger?

Ginger is a popular spice used in many cuisines around the world. Its unique flavor adds a warm, zesty kick to both sweet and savory dishes. However, fresh ginger can be difficult to find depending on where you live. It also has a relatively short shelf life before it starts to dry out. If you don’t have access to fresh ginger or simply ran out, there are several ingredients you can use as a substitute in recipes.

Why Use Ginger?

Before looking at ginger substitutes, let’s first examine why ginger is used in cooking in the first place. Understanding its role in a dish can help determine what will make a good alternative.

Here are some of the main reasons for using ginger:

  • Flavour – Ginger has a sharp, spicy and slightly sweet flavor that adds warmth and zing to both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Aroma – When ginger is cooked, it releases a robust, peppery aroma that enhances the smell of the entire dish.
  • Texture – The fibrous texture of fresh ginger adds interest to dishes like stir fries, curries, and baked goods.
  • Acidity – Ginger adds a subtle acidity to dishes which can help balance out richer, fatty flavors.
  • Health benefits – Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and also helps improve digestion.

The ideal ginger substitute will mimic some of these qualities while providing a similar spicy, pungent flavor.

Dried Ground Ginger

One of the closest and most convenient substitutes for fresh ginger is ground dried ginger. Dried ginger powder is made from dehydrating fresh ginger root. The drying process concentrates the flavor, making it more intense.

PROS:

  • Very convenient – dried ginger can be found in the spice aisle of any grocery store.
  • Adds authentic ginger flavor.
  • Long shelf life.

CONS:

  • More concentrated in flavor than fresh – use a lighter hand as too much can make dishes taste overly strong.
  • Loses some of the fresh, bright notes of ginger.
  • No fibrous texture.

SUBSTITUTION RATIO:

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger = 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Dish Substitution Notes
Curries, stews, soups Good direct 1:1 substitution. The long cook times allow the dried ginger flavor to mellow out.
Baked goods Use a little less than the recipe calls for as the concentrated flavor can overwhelm. Start with 3/4 tsp per 1 Tbsp fresh ginger.
Stir fries, marinades Dried ginger lacks the fresh pungency needed for quick cooking dishes. Pair with another fresh item like garlic or citrus juice.

Ground Ginger Substitutes

If you don’t have ground dried ginger in your pantry, there are a couple quick substitutions:

Ginger Powder Blend

Many stores now carry ginger powder spice blends. These combine dried ginger with complementary spices like cinnamon, allspice, cumin and cardamom. The blend dilutes the potency of straight dried ginger, while adding extra flavor complexity.

Ratios vary by brand. As a general guideline, use a 50/50 blend of the ginger powder substitute + regular ground ginger in equal amounts as ginger powder called for in recipes.

DIY Ginger Powder

You can make your own ginger powder at home with a food processor, blender or spice grinder. Here’s how:

  1. Peel a large knob of fresh ginger (no need to peel if organic).
  2. Chop into small cubes.
  3. Place pieces in food processor and pulse into a fine powder.
  4. Use a spoon or mesh strainer to sift out any fibrous bits.
  5. Spread powder on a baking sheet and allow to dry, stirring occasionally, until completely dried.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

Use homemade ginger powder the same as store bought, substituting 1 tsp powder per 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger.

Fresh Ginger Substitutes

When you’re completely out of ginger in all forms, there are a few suitable flavor stand-ins:

Garlic and Onion

Using extra garlic and onion is a common substitute for fresh ginger. Both provide pungency and spice. Garlic also offers some anti-inflammatory benefits. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but the heightened aromatics can help compensate in dishes that would normally rely on ginger.

Try mincing extra garlic and onion and sautéing them in oil before adding other ingredients. You can also rub garlic powder onto meat before cooking.

Allspice

Allspice is named for its flavor echoes of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. It can provide the warming spice notes of ginger, without the gingery zing. It works well in baked goods.

Use about 1/4 teaspoon of allspice per inch of fresh ginger root called for. It tends to be potent, so start with less and adjust amounts as needed.

Galangal

Galangal is a root that looks like ginger and shares some flavor characteristics. It has a sharp, peppery taste with citrusy notes. It’s used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking and can often be found fresh in ethnic markets.

You can substitute galangal for ginger using a 1:1 ratio. Adjust any other spices in the recipe as needed since the flavor won’t be exact.

Turmeric

Turmeric is another anti-inflammatory root that can be used dried or fresh. It lacks the spicy heat of ginger, but offers musky, orange-like undertones. It works well in curries.

Substitute about 1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder or 1 inch fresh turmeric per 1 Tbsp fresh ginger.

Lemon or Lime Juice

Citrus juice can provide acidity and brightness similar to ginger. Try replacing ginger with lemon or lime juice in stir fries, dressings, marinades and other raw applications. Start with 1 tsp juice per inch of ginger and adjust as needed.

Substitute Best Uses Substitution Ratio
Ground ginger Baked goods, soups, curries, stews 1 tsp per 1 Tbsp fresh
Garlic, onion Stir fries, sautés, marinades No set ratio – add more to taste
Allspice Baked goods, curries 1/4 tsp per 1 inch ginger root
Galangal Thai and Asian dishes 1:1
Turmeric Curries, stews 1/4 tsp powder or 1 inch fresh per 1 Tbsp ginger
Lemon/lime juice Dressings, marinades, stir fries 1 tsp per inch ginger

Non-Flavor Substitutes

If you’re completely out of ginger and acceptable flavor substitutes, there are a couple ways to mimic the textural qualities of fresh ginger:

Celery Root

Celery root, also called celeriac, can provide a similar fibrousness and chew as fresh ginger. While the flavor is obviously much different, it works well grated into slaws, stir fries, and baked into quick breads.

Peel celery root thoroughly and grate on the fine holes of a box grater. Substitute a 1:1 ratio for fresh ginger.

Jicama

Jicama is a round Central American vegetable with a thin tan skin and crisp white flesh. Like celery root, it can be grated and used raw to replicate the fibrous texture of ginger without much flavor.

Peel and grate jicama on the fine holes of a box greater before adding it to slaws, stir fries or other dishes.

Preserved Ginger

In a pinch, you can use preserved ginger products like pickled ginger or crystallized ginger chips. However, the flavor and texture will be quite a bit different from fresh ginger. Use with discretion:

  • Pickled ginger – Found in the Asian aisle, it’s pink in color and very pungent. Its vinegar brine can quickly overwhelm other flavors. Best in small amounts in dressings.
  • Crystallized ginger – The sugar coating gives this a different, candied flavor profile. It can work as a texture replacement in baking.

Conclusion

Ginger has a unique flavor that’s difficult to exactly replicate. But in most recipes, its role can be sufficiently filled by using ground dried ginger, garlic, citrus juice or spices like allspice, turmeric and galangal. For the texture it adds, turn to fresh options like celery root or jicama. While pickled and crystallized ginger products are very shelf-stable, proceed with caution as their flavor profiles are significantly altered.

The next best option to ginger substitutes is to keep fresh ginger root on hand. Properly stored in the crisper drawer of the fridge, fresh ginger can last 2-3 weeks. You can also freeze grated ginger portions to have it at the ready whenever a recipe calls for the real thing.