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Substitutes for Ground Ginger – What can I use instead?

Substitutes for Ground Ginger – What can I use instead?

Ground ginger has a very distinctive flavor and is used in a whole variety of both sweet and savory foods in cuisines from around the world. There’s no exact swap for ground ginger, but depending on the context in which it is being employed you should be able to replace ground ginger with either another kind of ginger product or another complementary spice.

As spices last such a long time if stored well, we can often find that a pot of ground ginger or similar has far less left in it than we expected. Or, indeed, that the power of the ginger has faded over time. I know I’ve had both situations happen in my kitchen!

If you’re a regular cook, though, you’ll probably have at least one other spice or ingredient that can fill the gap in your recipe left by ginger.

What that is, though, depends on how the ginger was intended to work within the food you’re making.

What is Ground Ginger Used For?

Ground ginger is an unusual spice because it is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Ginger is also used in drinks, and finally as a medicine or supplement.

Ginger in Savoury Foods

Both fresh and ground ginger, as well as ginger paste, are used in curries and stir-fries. Ginger goes well with cardamom and cumin, and you’ll see that combination in many Indian and West Indian recipes. Ground ginger is also great for salad dressings or marinades, as it can be mixed into oil well.

In savory foods, ginger is often balanced with spice or garlic so that its fiery kick is accentuated and its sweetness takes a back seat.

Ginger in Sweet Foods

We often think of ginger as an autumnal flavor, and that’s borne out in the way it is used in baking and other sweet foods and drinks. Ginger is a key element in pumpkin spice, which is used for pumpkin pies as well as spiced fall drinks. Ginger is also, obviously, the namesake ingredient in gingerbread and ginger snaps.

Citrus goes well with ginger — lemon, lime or orange. This is a good combination in drizzles and frostings to top baked goods.

Ginger For Health

Ginger tea has a reputation for calming an upset stomach, and ginger has been used for a long time to treat motion sickness, bloating and general gastrointestinal complaints.

The medical benefits of ginger derive from phytonutrients called gingerols. These gingerols are anti-inflammatories and are present in great quantities in fresh ginger. Ground ginger is not as rich in phytonutrients, but it’s still useful to fight inflammation. If you’re going to use ground ginger for an upset stomach, try to find ground ginger that has not undergone irradiation as this destroys up to 70% of gingerols normally present in the dried spice.

What are the best substitutes for ground ginger?

1. Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger is an excellent replacement for ground ginger, especially in savory dishes. Beware, though, it’s very fiery and distinct and doesn’t do well as a substitute for ground ginger in baking.

Fresh ginger, also known as ginger root, is found in the produce section of most stores. The easiest way to peel it is with a teaspoon, and because of the sinewy texture of the root, it’s best grated or very finely chopped.

Ginger root has a higher water content than ground ginger, so needs to be cooked off for longer. Add ginger root, finely chopped, at the same time you add (or would add) chillis and garlic. You can also use grated fresh ginger in dressings and marinades.

If a recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger, you’ll need a tablespoon of fresh ginger. So, if your recipe asked for a teaspoon of ginger you’d instead add four tablespoons of fresh. Fresh ginger freezes well, so why not mince or grate some and keep it frozen for culinary emergencies? You can even freeze individual portions in ice cube trays, adding the frozen ginger paste straight to a hot pan when you want to use it.

2. Crystalized Ginger

Crystalized ginger is an excellent substitute for ground ginger in sweet baking recipes. Crystalized ginger is just ginger root that has been candied. That means it has been chopped, cooked in sugar water and rolled in sugar crystals.

Because of how it’s made, crystalized ginger will bring a lot of sweetness to the food it’s added to. You obviously wouldn’t want to add it to a curry, but you should also consider the additional sugar when you replace ground ginger with crystalized in sweet food. You can either reduce other sources of sugar slightly or wash the majority of the large sugar crystals on the surface of your crystallized ginger off before you use it.

You should mince crystalized ginger as finely as possible before adding it to your baking. Use ½ a cup of crystallized ginger for every teaspoon of ground ginger called for in your recipe.

3. Cinnamon and Mace

When replacing ground ginger with another dried spice you’re less trying to exactly replicate the flavor of ginger than trying to find a flavor that is complimentary or works with similar foods.

Ground cinnamon works in both savory and sweet foods, and cinnamon sticks are great in curries and drinks. Just take them out before you serve! Cinnamon doesn’t have the kick ground ginger is known for, but it is deep, sweet, and aromatic.

Mace certainly has a kick, but it lacks that autumnal depth common to cinnamon and ginger. Combining cinnamon and just a little mace is one way to hit many of ground ginger’s notes without actually imitating it. Mace can also be used in sweet and savory foods.

Use one cinnamon stick when a half teaspoon of ground ginger is called for. If you’re using ground cinnamon, mace or a mixture of the two you can do a direct swap. That is, a teaspoon of either per teaspoon of ground ginger called for or a half teaspoon of both when a teaspoon of ground ginger is called for.

4. Allspice

Another dried spice that can replace ground ginger, allspice is a staple of Caribbean cooking. Despite its name, allspice is in fact a single spice and not many spices muddled together!

Allspice is in actual fact a dried berry, also known as Jamaica pepper because it resembles back peppercorns before it is ground. Allspice is reminiscent of cloves and nutmeg, though a touch more peppery. It complements sweet foods but is also used in a lot of South Indian curries. Of course, that means it also works in Indian and Southeast Asian curries, where ground ginger would often be used!

You should be able to make a 1:1 swap of ground allspice for ground ginger.

5. Mint

My final potential swap for ground ginger might come as a bit of a surprize. This one, though, is a swap to be made if you were looking for the medicinal properties of ginger.

Much like ginger, mint tea is used to settle the stomach. It’s also known for its general calming effects and is generally rich in nutrients. Plus, mint tea is incredibly easy to make! Just bruise some mint leaves in a mug, pour over boiling water and allow the leaves to infuse. When it’s cooled a little, you can drink it. Ginger and mint together also make a good tea together, so if you’re a little short on one you can bulk it out with the other!

How to Store Your Ground Ginger

If you’ve totally run out of ground ginger, hopefully, one of these substitutes suits your needs and is in your kitchen. But obviously, the best-case scenario is having all the ingredients you need!

If you buy a large jar of ground ginger to replace the spice that has run out or gone bad you should be able to keep it in great, in fact delicious, condition for up to a year. To do so, make sure the ginger is kept in a totally airtight container and in a genuinely cool, dark and most importantly dry place.

If any liquid, even liquid from the air, gets into dried spices they will be ruined. Ground ginger that has had contact with water will end up claggy and sticking together and could even develop mold.

These tips apply to all dried spices. Why not create a dedicated space for all your spices somewhere that fits the bill?



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