Galangal is a spice whose origin can be traced back to southern Asia. It has a distinct spicy flavor profile which makes it a great addition to most dishes.
Galangal belongs to the ginger family. Its appearance is similar to that of ginger, so it’s no wonder most people link the two.
There are three main galangal varieties;
- Light galangal- has several similarities with ginger and is native to India.
- Greater galangal- It is big in size and has a milder flavor compared to other varieties.
- Lesser galangal- its flavor is more pungent and peppery compared to greater galangal.
You may want to substitute galangal with something else because you find its flavor too intense, or you can’t seem to find it close to where you live.
Whatever the reason, you are in luck because there are several readily available ingredients you can use in its place.
Some ideal substitutes include; ginger, lemongrass, fingerroot, kaffir lime leaves, ginger powder, white pepper, black pepper, cinnamon & mace, cinnamon & ginger, galangal powder, and galangal paste.
In this article, we will discuss the above substitutes in detail. We will also look at its flavor and where to buy it.
I would describe the flavor of galangal as pungent with slightly spicy and citrusy notes.
Its flavor is very similar to that of ginger, but it is more pungent in comparison.
Although galangal has a unique flavor, it is not difficult to substitute it with other ingredients. Here are some ingredients that make for suitable alternatives.
Ginger is arguably the best galangal substitute. Galangal belongs to the ginger family, so ginger and galangal have several similarities.
Both of them have a spicy, tart, and somewhat sweet flavor. Additionally, they are very aromatic. Note that a little bit of ginger goes a long way, so use it sparingly in your dishes.
If you are a fan of galangal’s citrusy flavor, add some fresh lime leaves or lime zest to get your desired flavor.
You can substitute galangal with ginger in various dishes, including; stir-fries and curries. Prepare the ginger by grating, chopping or dicing it, then add it to your dish.
Ginger is readily available since you can find it in any supermarket or grocery store near you. Both fresh and dried ginger will give you desirable results.
Lemongrass is known for its intense flavor and distinct fragrance. It is commonly used in Thai cuisine, specifically stir-fries and curries.
As its name suggests, lemongrass has a citrusy flavor, although it is not related to lemon in any way. It also has an earthy and slightly acidic flavor.
If you need a substitute for galangal, you can use a pinch of lemongrass. It makes for an ideal replacement in soups, stir-fries, and curries. It goes a long way in brightening these dishes and adding freshness.
Note that lemongrass is not as pungent as galangal, so if you want a pungent substitute, lemongrass may not be a perfect choice.
Like ginger, fingerroot and galangal belong to the same family. Therefore, it’s only natural that it is an ideal galangal substitute.
Fingerroot and galangal are different in resemblance. A fingerroot is long, orange, and resembles a thin carrot. Its flavor is pungent and very much like that of galangal.
Fingerroot is a popular ingredient in Asian and Thai curries. Therefore, you can comfortably use it in place of galangal when making curries.
To substitute galangal with fingerroot, only use half the amount the recipe requires.
Kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves can come in handy in recipes that call for galangal. They are popularly used in Thai and Asian cuisine.
Like galangal, kaffir lime leaves are fragrant with a distinct citrusy flavor. It would be best to add a little at a time because they can easily overpower your dish.
To use the leaves, remove the centre veins, then chop up the leaves or use your hands to tear them to smaller pieces, then add them to your sauces, soups, salads, or curries.
Ginger powder has a flavor profile similar to that of galangal. Therefore, you can use it as a substitute.
Ginger powder has a citrusy flavor similar to that of galangal, although it is not as pungent. If you’re looking for a less pungent substitute, ginger powder is a great option.
It works well in stir-fries and curries.
White/ black pepper
If you want a substitute that will give you a pungent peppery flavor with an earthy aroma, pepper is an ideal choice. You can either use white or black pepper in place of galangal.
Black pepper is spicy and hot. Its intense flavor makes it a great addition to meats, salads, stir-fries, soups, stews, and fish. You can also use it as a marinade or dry rub on meats and fish.
White pepper is milder in comparison. It is not as spicy or hot as black pepper. Instead, its flavor is dominantly nutty and earthy. Additionally, it has a distinct citrusy aroma. I highly recommend using it in whitefish and seafood.
Cinnamon and Mace
When combined with mace, cinnamon is an ideal substitute since its flavor profile is similar to that of galangal.
These two spices combined enhance the flavor of dishes that call for galangal. They have a mild citrusy flavor that is similar to galangal’s.
Cinnamon and ginger
A combination of cinnamon and ginger is also an ideal replacement for galangal. If you don’t like mace, just mix the cinnamon with ginger instead.
I recommend using this substitute in stir-fries and curries as they replicate the flavor of galangal.
Galangal powder is another ideal substitute. Since its primary ingredient is galangal, its flavor profile is pretty much the same. However, galangal powder is not as pungent as fresh galangal.
You can buy galangal powder in a supermarket close to you. If they don’t have it in stock, you can always order online.
Manufacturers make galangal paste using fresh galangal and other ingredients, including; sugar, salt, water, and citric acid. They also add flavoring agents.
Store-bought galangal paste is milder compared to fresh galangal. It works best in noodle sauce, pasta, marinades, salads, and stir-fries.
Galangal does not require cooking, so you can add it directly to your dish after you’ve finished cooking.
If you’re sceptical about store-bought galangal paste, you can make your own at home. It’s pretty easy.
Where to buy Galangal
Unfortunately, galangal is a bit difficult to find in the United States. It is unlikely that you would find it at your local store.
You can buy galangal at Asian speciality stores or premium supermarkets. I highly recommend buying from Asian specialty stores because the galangals are usually fresh there.
Alternatively, you can buy galangal online. There are a few reputable vendors who stock it.
Galangal is a fantastic ingredient that adds depth to various dishes. However, it can be a little bit difficult to find.
If you can’t get it in your locality, substitute it with any of the substitutes we have discussed above. Most of them are readily available and will give you decent results.
My favorite substitutes are ginger, lemongrass, fingerroot, and kaffir lime leaves. Try them today, and let me know how your dishes turn out in the comments below.