This homemade lemongrass syrup is really easy to make with just three ingredients, and adds a lovely bright tropical citrusy flavor to whatever you use it with. It's great in cocktails, made into lemongrass soda, or use it in baking. Tasty in so many ways.
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Lemongrass is one of those ingredients that's used widely in many Southeast Asian cuisines, but somehow rarely elsewhere. Certain ingredients I understand, as they maybe don't travel well or the flavor can be harder to like. But lemongrass always feels to me like something that should be more widely adopted.
Whether it's something you are familiar with or not, this lemongrass simple syrup is a great way to use some. It's easier to prepare than some other ways of cooking with it, but you get a full experience of it's flavor. The syrup is versatile, too, and you can store it to use over a period of time.
What is a simple syrup?
In case you are not familiar with them, a simple syrup is quite simply sugar dissolved in water to make a syrup. It's a common way to add sweetener to cocktails since sugar in solid form doesn't always dissolve in the other usually cold ingredients.
The most classic version is just sugar and water, in equal parts by volume. However there are many, many variations. You can make a rich sugar syrup with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. This version can be handy as it both reduces dilution and keeps better (sugar is a preservative).
You can also flavor syrups in lots of ways. One main way is infusing the syrup with herbs and spices, like ginger syrup and thyme simple syrup. Other versions involve adding ingredients like fruits that release some juices and flavor, like ginger syrup.
This lemongrass syrup is an infusion, as you warm the lemongrass with the sugar and water, let it sit in there as it cools, then strain it away before you store. It might not look like it did much to look at it, but you'll be able to smell that it left it's mark. And you'll taste it, too.
What is lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a grassy plant that comes in many varieties, but the one used most widely for cooking, cymbopogon citratus, is native to Sri Lanka and Southern India. Many other variants of the plant originate from a wide region, covering parts of Asia, Australia and Africa.
The family of grasses go by a range of other names, including citronella grass, Malabar grass and Cochin grass. But certainly in cooking, lemongrass is the most common.
The name is a pretty good description for it, too - it looks grassy and has a citrusy smell and flavor. Though there are hints of other things in there too, such as mint.
It has a wide range of uses in cooking, from infusing Thai soups like tom yum soup, as an essential part of the flavor for Laos dishes like chicken larb, to being crushed into the spice mix for Indonesian dishes like beef rendang.
You can also use the leaves to make tea, as I remember fondly from a hotel we stayed at in Cambodia that had chilled lemongrass tea available whenever you wanted. This syrup reminds me of the tea, just naturally in sweeter form.
Top tip: reduce waste by using the green part
Many recipes using lemongrass call for you to use the white part of the lemongrass stalk, which is the part closer to the base. The reason for this is it is more tender, so works better when you are going to be eating it.
For lemongrass syrup, though, you don't eat the lemongrass so it's a great way to use up those green parts of stems you might otherwise throw away. Still trim the tougher, drier ends, but the main part of the green section is perfect for this.
How to use lemongrass syrup
One of the great things with flavored simply syrups is you can use them in any cocktail that calls for regular simple syrup where the flavor profile might fit. This syrup has a lovely mildly aromatic citrusy flavor, so is great in any cocktail where you are using citrus. It also goes with other tropical flavors like pineapple or guava.
But this syrup can be used in many, more things beyond cocktails:
- Mix some with sparkling water to make a lemongrass soda - I use around 1tbsp of syrup to ½ cup of sparkling water, but you could make it stronger if you like.
- Add some to homemade lemonade in place of some of the sugar for an extra depth of flavor.
- Add some to sweeten both hot or iced tea - it goes well with mint and peach, in particular.
- Drizzle some into a cake for added flavor and sweetness.
- Use it to make a frosting, mixed with powdered/icing sugar for eg a cake or scones.
I'm sure there are many other ways you could incorporate it into baking, too, to add a little flavor - just remember it is roughly equal parts liquid and sugar, so reduce those ingredients in whatever you add it to accordingly.
How long does it last?
As with most simple syrups, this keeps best in a sealed container in the fridge and should last at least a couple weeks, possibly longer. If you see any signs of mould or the syrup becomes cloudy, that's a sign it has spoiled and it's time to throw it away.
This lemongrass syrup has a lovely, lightly citrusy bright tropical flavor that is great for cocktails, to make a soda and more. It takes no time to make and is fun to play around with. Not to mention, it's a great way to use up some extra stalks if you buy lemongrass for something else!
Try these other syrups and infused spirits:
- Pumpkin spice syrup
- Raspberry liqueur
- Cranberry ginger cordial (cranberry ginger syrup)
- Plus get more drinks recipes, from cocktails to syrups and more in the archives.
- ¼ cup lemongrass in chunks (¼ cup is approx 1 full or two short lengths of lemongrass stalk)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- Peel the outer layer from the lemongrass and trim any tough bottom end where it is thickly stuck together. Cut the lemongrass into lengths around ⅔in (2cm) long.
- Place the water, sugar and lemongrass pieces in a small pan and place over a medium-low heat, uncovered.
- Stir the mixture gently as you bring it to a simmer to ensure all the sugar dissolves. Once it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes more, then remove from heat. Set aside and leave the lemongrass in the syrup to infuse it further as it cools.
- Pour the syrup through a strainer/sieve to hold back the lemongrass and store in a sealed bottle/jar in the fridge until needed.