Lemongrass has an incomparable flavor. The lemon tang is not only assertive but can transform a dish. In fact, it’s a large reason that Southeast Asian cuisine has such a distinct flavor. It’s used quite frequently in Thailand, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian cuisines.
Whilst it’s a key part of Asian cuisine, it’s also useful in a variety of other ways beyond the kitchen. Lemongrass oil is an effective repellent for mosquitos and houseflies. Citral, a chemical derived from lemongrass is also used in cosmetics and perfumes (because of its lemony smell of course). And lastly, lemongrass tea is delicious too. In Jamaica and in other regions of the Caribbean, it’s called “fever grass”. This is because lemongrass tea is said to combat fever as well as other cold and flu symptoms.
Despite lemongrass being such a useful (and tasty) plant, there is a big downside: it doesn’t last forever. However, to prevent lemongrass from going bad you can freeze it. So, you don’t have to worry about it going bad before you get the chance to use it all. Read on to learn everything you need to know about freezing lemongrass to prolong its shelf life.
Can You Freeze Lemongrass?
Yes, lemongrass can definitely be frozen. In fact, it freezes beautifully! Freezing is a great way to prevent it from going bad. This is great news, because fresh lemongrass can quite easily go bad. That’s because it’s often sold at the grocery store in bundles of several fresh lemongrass stalks. Usually, a single recipe doesn’t call for so much, leaving you with plenty of lemongrass leftover.
By freezing lemongrass, you can make sure that you always have some around the house. It can be particularly useful if you’re fond of making Thai curries or perhaps you’re sick and you want to drink some “fever grass” to help with some of the symptoms.
Whatever the reason, you can’t go wrong by always keeping some lemongrass in your freezer for whatever the occasion may be.
Freezing lemongrass is also pretty easy and straightforward. There are just a few things that you should keep in mind for the best results, and to preserve the quality and flavor.
Preparing Lemongrass for Freezing
First, it’s important to note that there are two distinct parts of the lemongrass plant that you may want to freeze: the leaves and the stalk.
The lemongrass stalk is the main part that’s used in foods and tea. However, lemongrass leaves can also be used in herbal teas or other drinks so you may want to freeze them as well.
Sometimes, when you buy lemongrass you only get the stalks, leaving you no other option. However, if the lemongrass you bought has the leaves, then you should remove them and freeze them separately. Preparing lemongrass for freezing is comprised of just a few steps, and they are as follows:
- First, remove the leaves as previously mentioned. Peel off and discard the 2 or 3 outermost leaves. Then, cut the rest of the lemongrass leaves off where they branch off from the stalk. If you would like to keep them, set them aside.
- Then, peel the lemongrass stalk. Remove the ends and the outer woody layer.
- The three best ways to freeze lemongrass are when it’s chopped, minced, or pureed. However, it’s not necessary as I’ll go over freezing lemongrass whole later. But, if you’d like to prepare it in any of the three aforementioned ways, you should prep it accordingly.
- Finally, if you’re planning to freeze the leaves too, you need to wash, dry, and chop them before freezing.
How to Freeze Lemongrass
Once you’ve prepped it and it’s ready to freeze, I recommend that you separate the minced, chopped, or pureed lemongrass into individual portions. This will make using it in the future much easier. This is how you should do it:
- Use a tablespoon to measure the amount of lemongrass that you would like. Then, place it, and wrap each individual serving in plastic wrap.
- After you’ve wrapped all the individual portions, protect them further by adding an additional layer and place them all together in a freezer bag, or freezer-safe container.
- Label the bag or container and place it in the freezer.
- You can also use a vacuum sealer for extra protection if you’d like. Make sure that you leave a little bit of space between each portion so you can easily cut a single serving out of the package without disturbing the other portions you’d like to keep frozen.
- Lastly, if you’re freezing the lemongrass leaves, wait for the leaves to dry off after washing them and then place them in a freezer-safe bag or container. Label and put them in the freezer.
- Tip: a good way to make it easy to portion and wrap the pureed, chopped, or minced lemongrass is to first put a layer of plastic wrap over an empty ice tray and then fill each depression with a serving of lemongrass. Then, after they are all filled, use scissors to cut the plastic wrap between each of the individually filled “cubes” and then tightly seal the plastic wrap.
Freezing Lemongrass Whole (Without Preparation)
If you’d like to keep your options open in the future and keep the lemongrass whole when you freeze it, you can do that too! This is even easier than when you prepare it. However, it’s not ideal as the lemongrass will lose its firm texture after it’s been frozen. But, if you’re interested in doing it this way, this is how you freeze lemongrass whole:
- First, remove the tips and peel off the woody outer layer like you would do with the other preparation.
- Next, make sure that it’s clean by rinsing it off in cool water and then allow it to dry. If they are still moist when you put them in the freezer they will stick together, so it’s important that they are allowed to fully dry before they are frozen.
- Trim the stalks so that they’ll fit nicely into a freezer-safe bag or container.
- Fill the bag or container as much as you can and squeeze as much air out as possible.
- Label the bag/container and place it in the freezer.
How Long Can You Freeze Lemongrass For?
Fresh lemongrass can be frozen (whole, or prepared) and keep its best quality for about 6 months. After 6 months the quality will start to decrease. While it will still be safe to eat after this point, you may start to notice the difference in the taste and aroma, as it will start to degrade.
To keep it at its best quality, longer, you should use a vacuum-sealing machine if you have one. By vacuum-sealing lemongrass it can last for up to 1 year before the change in taste and aroma will be noticeable.
How to Thaw Lemongrass
Though it depends on what exactly you’ll be using it for, most of the time you don’t have to worry about thawing frozen lemongrass at all. If you’ve chopped it, minced it, or pureed it to be used in cooking then you can simply add the desired portions into whatever you’re cooking.
If you’ve frozen your lemongrass whole you also usually won’t need to thaw it. However, if you want to crush it (or “bruise” it) before cooking, which is suggested sometimes, then you should leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour to let it soften.
For whatever reason, if you didn’t use the lemongrass after it’s been thawed it’s not recommended that you refreeze it since it’s such a delicate flavor. This is also a reason that you should freeze it in small portions so you can take it out only when you are just about to use it.
Other Storage Options for Lemongrass
My favorite way to store lemongrass is to use the ice tray method, but with a twist. I like to add a bit of ginger and chili to the minced lemongrass before freezing it. This allows the dish to really be boosted with flavor while also being super convenient. But this is not the only combo you can make. You can also add garlic, cilantro, or any other seasoning or spice you like!
There is also another “ice tray twist”. If you like to reduce the amount of plastic wrap you use, you can also freeze the prepared lemongrass directly in the ice tray and make lemongrass ice cubes. You simply put the desired amount of chopper, minced, or pureed lemongrass directly into the slots in the ice tray. But make sure to leave a little room as you top up each slot with enough water to submerge the lemongrass. Then, put the ice tray into the freezer and allow it to completely freeze – usually overnight. Then, you can remove the ice tray from the freezer and take the ice cubes out and transfer them into a freezer-safe bag or container and return it to the freezer.
Can You Freeze Lemongrass Paste?
Yes, you can freeze lemongrass paste. All you need to do is put the lemongrass paste in an airtight, freezer-safe container or freezer bag and place it in the freezer.