Do you want to learn how to cook with lemongrass? I’ve got a tutorial for you on how to trim it and prepare it for different dishes!

A person holding a stalk of lemongrass on a wooden cutting board with a cartoon word bubble that says, "I’m not afraid of you, lemongrass!"

Lemongrass is easier to prepare than you think!

Confession: I was afraid to cook with lemongrass up until our trip to Vietnam. I was intimidated by this tough, lemon-scented stalk in part because one of my pals ended up in the emergency room when her knife sliced her finger instead of the stalk. But to be honest, I just didn’t know how to prepare it properly.

After visiting Vietnam and eating dish after flavorful dish perked up with this fragrant stalk, though, I decided to figure out once and for all the best ways to prepare lemongrass for different dishes. And you know what? It’s pretty simple. In this quick post, I’ll show you how to teach that stalk who’s boss. (You can also watch the quick Periscope video I shot that shows you how to do it!)

How to Stalk A Good Stalk

Lemongrass can usually be found in the produce section of fancier grocery stores or your local garden-variety Asian supermarket. (Tip: Lemongrass is typically much cheaper and fresher at an Asian market ’cause it turns over more frequently.) These long stalks are sold in bunches or individually. Choose the ones that smell fragrant, have greenish exteriors, and are slightly pliable. Avoid the stalks that are dried out, brittle, and bruised.

A person peeling off the tough outer leaves of a lemongrass stalk over a wooden cutting board


Wrap fresh lemongrass stalks in plastic wrap, and store them in the fridge for up to a few weeks. Alternatively, you can store the tightly wrapped stalks in the freezer for a few months.

How to Prepare Lemongrass:

You can use different parts of the stalk for different preparations, but you still need to trim the lemongrass the same way to get to the good stuff.

I normally start by cutting off about an inch from the root end, and I also trim off the dried-out leaves at the top of the stalk.

Cutting the tough end off of a lemongrass stalk on a wooden cutting board.

Lemongrass for a Stir-Fry, Paste, or Marinade:

If you’re using the lemongrass in a stir fry, curry paste, or marinade, peel off the tough outer layers of the stalk until you’re left with the tender core. But if you’re using the whole stalk to flavor a soup or stew, you don’t need to be nearly as diligent ’cause you won’t be ingesting it.

Peeling off the tough outer layer on a lemongrass stalk.

If the lemongrass will be used in a marinade, curry paste, or stir fry, you just want to use the lower, tender part of the stalk (about 4-5 inches from the bottom).

Cutting a trimmed lemongrass stalk so that it is the tender part near the base, about 3-4 inches from the root end.

Because you’ll be eating it, use a microplane rasp grater to grate trimmed lemongrass to make sure you don’t have any tough, stringy bits in your dish. (As I mention in our cookbook, I use a microplane to make ginger snow with frozen ginger, too.)

Using a microplane rasp grater to mince a trimmed piece of lemongrass.

No microplane? No problem! You can pound the stalk with a meat pounder or a small cast iron skillet before mincing it very finely.

Someone smashing a trimmed piece of lemongrass with a meat pounder on a wooden cutting board.

You need to cut against the grain of the fibers or you’re gonna get a bunch of stringy bits in your food.

Mincing a trimmed and smashed piece of lemongrass with a chef's knife on a wooden cutting board.

Alternatively, you can pound the chopped lemongrass in a mortar and pestle or blitz it with the rest of your marinade or curry paste ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Lemongrass for stews and soups

Wondering how to cook with lemongrass if you’re using lemongrass stalks to flavor a stew or soup, cut the stalk into three segments…

Cutting a trimmed piece of lemongrass into three pieces on a wooden cutting board.

…and bash the heck out of ’em.

Smashing a piece of trimmed lemongrass with a metal meat pounder on a wooden cutting board.

This way, the stalks’ll release their yumminess into whatever you drop them into! Please note that you don’t eat the lemongrass when you use them in this fashion—fish out the stalks before you serve the final dish (or warn your unsuspecting guests to do so).

Trimmed lemongrass that has been pounded with a mallet. This lemongrass is ready for soups and stews.

Tie the stalk in a knot!

Another great way to prepare thin stalks of lemongrass for stews and soups is to bash a trimmed stalk and tie it in a bow before plopping it into your pot. You can watch this helpful video from the folks at Saveur to see how it’s done.

Now that you know how to cook with lemongrass, go forth and implement my tips!

Recipes to try:

[Originally posted on October 29, 2015. Updated on January 10, 2020.]

Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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