9 Galangal Substitutes to Spice Up Your Meals


Galangal is a rare fruit native to southern Asia that’s often mistaken for ginger, but it’s actually a little bigger and harder than ginger. It’s an excellent healthy addition to any meal. However, since it’s rare, here are some substitutes for Galangal that may be a little easier to find in your grocery store.

  1. Galangal paste or powder
  2. Fresh ginger
  3. Fingerroot
  4. Kaffir lime leaves
  5. Mace
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Black pepper
  8. White pepper
  9. Lemongrass

Do you have a recipe that calls for Galangal, yet you’ve been unable to find it? In this article, we’ll share nine substitutes you can use instead. We’ll discuss where you can find each of these options and why they work great as alternatives for Galangal.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Photo of freshly picked galangal root piled up
Fresh Galangal root is pale in color. Photo by Komprach Nitiborisutsakul

1. Galangal Paste or Powder

The most obvious substitute for Galangal is Galangal Paste or Powder. This ingredient is also referred to as Galangal Root and is as close as you can get if you’re trying to find a substitute for fresh Galangal.

With that said, it can still be rather tricky to find, especially outside of Southeastern Asian countries. If you live outside those countries, you can probably find it at a Vietnamese grocery store. Some Chinese grocers may have it as well.

Alternatively, you can find options such as CATHAY Thai Galanga Root Powder available on Amazon.com. It’s sodium free and ships straight to your door.

Galangal Powder tastes like the Galangal fruit itself, and its taste can be more easily described as the same as ginger but a little more intense. It’s often used in Thai cuisine, where you can find Galangal in pretty much everything, including curries, seafood, soup, chicken, fish, and more.

Galangal is a very versatile fruit, and you can apply its powder to sweet recipes like cookies and even alcoholic drinks.

2. Fresh Ginger

As already mentioned, ginger and Galangal share many similarities and belong to the same family of plants, so it’s no wonder that ginger is one of our top galangal alternatives.

The ginger you buy at the store can come in different forms, including powdered or dried, but the ideal form for a Galangal substitute is fresh ginger, as the two are very similar.

Fresh ginger can be:

  • Young: It has a lighter taste and thinner skin. It has more water, and it’s a little easier to eat
  • Mature: It has a more robust, spicier taste, and its skin and fiber are thick

The two look relatively similar and have the same color. The only main difference is in their taste. You can learn about the differences between the two types of ginger in this post.

Just like Galangal, fresh ginger is used in many cuisines around the world for both sweet and savory dishes, as well as drinks. In most Asian countries, ginger appears in many types of meat, vegetable, and meat dishes, while many in North America and Europe prefer to use it as a unique flavor note in cookies and quick breads.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4) x
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

3. Fingerroot

Fingerroot is an herb originating from China. People also refer to it as Chinese ginger, Chinese keys, and lesser Galangal. It gets its name from the shape of the rhizome, which closely resembles a finger.

Fingerroot is mainly known for its medicinal uses and is considered an effective antioxidant. It’s also anti-allergic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, and it’s been shown to be effective for wound healing. Because of all this, many have given it the nickname “medical ginger.”

Fingerroot looks quite different from Galangal, but its uses are very similar, and both herbs belong to the same plant family. Fingerroot, however, is more famous for its medicinal uses. Galangal, while still known for its health benefits, is primarily used as a cooking herb.

Aside from its medical benefits, Fingerroot is also a common ingredient in some Asian dishes, while it is mainly frozen or pickled in the West. Some people also like to add it to meals for some extra flavor or spice.

4. Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves originated in Asia and are used as aromatics in Cambodian, Thai, and Indonesian recipes. You can use it in both sweet and savory dishes.

The main similarity between Kaffir lime leaves and Galangal is their taste. Both have a sharp and spicy flavor, with Kaffir lime leaves having a citrus flavor, compared to Galangal, which has a more peppery flavor.

Kaffir lime leaves aren’t particularly easy to find outside of Southeast Asia and are usually only sold in specialty shops where they are properly stored and packaged to remain fresh. It’s very important to buy the leaves fresh as they lose most of their natural oils and will be less flavorful.

If you’re looking to buy Kaffir Lime Leaves, we recommend the Alanya Aroma Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves available on Amazon.com. The leaves are of premium quality when they’re dried, and they’re ready to use after five minutes of soaking in hot water.

The best way to use Kaffir lime leaves is to include them in soups, curries, or stir-fries, as a form of aromatic bay leaves that’ll bring extra flavor to the dish. Seasoned chefs like to crush the fresh leaves with their hands, so they release their aromas before adding them to the dish.

If the leaves are dried, they’ll release their aromas thanks to the heat and moisture while cooking.

5. Mace

Mace is a brown-yellowish spice derived from the nutmeg seed. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and European cuisines, primarily in baked goods and spice blends or savory dishes like soup, fish, sauce, and others.

Mace is the red lacy coating of the nutmeg seed. Once the tree matures, it splits open, and the aril separates from the seed. The red aril is then left to dry, and after about two weeks, once it changes color, the aril is ready to be processed into a spice or sold as-is.

The ground form of mace is more common than its whole form. However, it’s always best to purchase whole mace and grind it yourself for the best flavor. The taste is like nutmeg and has a sweet, warm, and spicy kick. However, mace is a little less sweet and softer. Mace’s flavor can also be described as the child of cinnamon and pepper.

Mace is an excellent Galangal replacement, as you can add it to pretty much anything. Though it’s best to use ground mace directly out of the jar and add it to spice mixes or sprinkle it on top of sweets.

You can roast the blades and let them cool off before adding them to your meal to maximize flavor. This process can help bring out the essential oils from the spice.

6. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices on the market and is used in cuisines worldwide. People have been using cinnamon for centuries, and in the past, it was mainly popular for its health benefits. Today, most know it as the perfect finish on a hot cider or a freshly baked apple pie.

One of the reasons for cinnamon’s worldwide popularity is that it grows across different continents, including Asia, Europe, and North America.

While people have used cinnamon for health benefits since it was first discovered, today, there are very few studies that show the ingredient is a healing agent. Nowadays, people mainly use it for its taste. With that said, cinnamon is still rightfully considered a healthy spice, as it contains antioxidants and other beneficial substances.

Unlike Galangal, which is a bit more versatile and can be used in various dishes, cinnamon is mainly limited to sweetened foods and drinks, primarily sweet pastries, chocolate dishes, and sweet beverages. Cinnamon also goes very well with fruits like peach, bananas, and plum.

Unlike most other spices on this list, cinnamon is widely available in stores and easy to find.

7. Black Pepper

Black pepper is one of the earliest spices known to man and remains one of the most used to this day. It grows in India and tropical parts of Asia but is widely available all over the world. It’s made by cooking the unripe fruits for about 10 minutes. During this time, the fruits change color and turn dark-brownish or black.

The fruits are then left to dry anywhere from 5 to 12 days. Once dried, they’re ready to be consumed. By crushing the berries, they release all their pepper flavor and oils. Black pepper tastes spicy but not particularly hot.

It’s very nutritious, and some people even take it by mouth for treating various conditions such as asthma, stomach pain, bacterial infection, arthritis, and more.

Piperine, a chemical found in black pepper, is attributed for many of its health benefits, as it appears to reduce pain, improve breathing, and have positive effects on the brain.

When it comes to cooking, black pepper is one of the most popular ingredients and is present in nearly every household. Just like Galangal, black pepper is a very versatile spice, and while it’s mostly found in savory dishes, it can often add a kick to some sweet dishes.

It’s a common ingredient in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. You can also rub it or sprinkle it onto hamburgers, sausages, or fish before or after cooking for some extra flavor.

8. White Pepper

White pepper comes from the same plant species as black pepper, but instead of cooking the unripe seeds, you need to cook and dry the ripe seeds to get white pepper. White pepper is less popular, but it’s still a decent substitute for Galangal, with many uses and benefits.

Compared to black pepper, white pepper has a more bright, sharp, and barbecued taste, making it an excellent addition to your meals and a good substitute for Galangal.

White pepper can be poorly packaged, so when shopping, it’s best to look for a creamy white color as pure as possible, with the least amount of gray or black specks. Their size should also be uniform. Also, whenever possible, it’s best to buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself.

Despite being less familiar than its “bigger” brother black pepper, white pepper has increased in popularity in recent years. It goes particularly well with pork, but you can use it with pretty much anything else as well. Instead of black pepper or Galangal, you can put white pepper in soups, stews, or marinades or combine the spices for maximum flavor.

9. Lemongrass

Lemongrass may be intimidating to cook with at first, considering its larger than usual size, especially compared to ginger and Galangal. However, once its stalk is crushed, Lemongrass releases a flavorful aroma that’s key to many Asian dishes.

You can recognize Lemongrass for its resemblance to green onion, with the main difference being the Lemongrass stalks are woodier and tougher.

As its name suggests, Lemongrass releases a lemon-floral flavor that’s unlike anything else you’ll find. With this unique combination of lemon and mint, Lemongrass adds a nice flavorful touch. You must be careful when you use it, because if you use too much, it can overpower other flavors.

Lemongrass isn’t as close to Galangal as some other plants on this list when it comes to taste. With that said, you can still use it for much of the same things as you would Galangal.

For example, Lemongrass works great in curries, salads, soups, stocks, pasta sauces, and even desserts. You can easily add it instead of Galangal to any dish for some extra flavor. The taste will undoubtedly be different, but it’ll be just as good.

You can find Lemongrass in most Asian grocery stores, and it’s also sold in some specialty and health food stores. When buying Lemongrass, make sure that it isn’t brownish and dried up. Fresh Lemongrass will have firm and yellowish stalks, with green tips.

Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

Recent Posts