Read This Before Buying Lemongrass

If you've ever had Thai food, you've probably noticed a certain unique, ginger-citrus flavor. Most likely, you were tasting lemongrass, a tall, thick-bladed grass that grows in tropical regions (via The Epicentre). Prepared lemongrass stalks are a staple in Thai dishes. The Spruce Eats also notes that the herb is used in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India. It's also found in about 95% of Cambodian dishes, "give or take," according to Bon Appétit. Lemongrass comes fresh, frozen, dried, or powdered.

Besides adding a ton of flavor, lemongrass may also bring health benefits, according to Healthline. The plant is an antioxidant and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Lemongrass may improve digestion, reduce cholesterol, and lower systolic blood pressure

While it might be easiest to find lemongrass at specialty Asian food stores, Bon Appétit says it is increasingly sold in more mainstream supermarkets. Look for it as a powder or as dried slices in the spice aisle. The bulbs are sometimes found with the frozen foods. After bringing it home, The Spruce Eats recommends storing lemongrass stalks in the fridge loosely wrapped, or in the freezer, either whole or finely chopped. 

How should you use lemongrass?

Once you're ready to cook with lemongrass, Bon Appétit explains that it is necessary to peel the tough outer layer first. Use the portion between the root and the point on the stalk where the color changes from yellowish-white to green. Fully extracting the flavorful aromatics from the fibrous plant often entails a few steps. Cambodian chef Nite Yun tells Bon Appétit that lemongrass should be pounded or processed into a paste, grated, or finely chopped.  

Use lemongrass chopped or as a paste for marinades, stir-fries, or sauces. Chef Gil Payumo prefers fresh lemongrass, but he told Bon Appétit that the powdered form will work for these uses, too. The green stalk adds flavor to soups and slow-roasted dishes. Lemongrass also works in ways you might not expect, in ice cream or as an infusion to flavor vodka. 

Lemongrass can add a new dimension of flavor to your dishes if you've never tried to cook with it before. Just remember that the stalk is very tough, so chop it up thoroughly or remove larger pieces before serving, as The Spruce Eats recommends. In addition to the flavor boost, you might see some health benefits, too.