Pungent and sweet at the same time, ginger is a spice unlike any other. Originally from southern China, ginger quickly caught on with traders on the spice route and made its way to India, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe while becoming known for its medicinal effects in soothing digestive upset. Today, India grows the most ginger worldwide.
Experts advise that you use the form of ginger for which your recipe calls whenever possible. A quick trip to the market may be worth it, but you can usually substitute ginger powder for ginger root using the recommended ratio.
Remember Your Substitution Ratio
Fresh ginger is one of those spices you don't always have on hand. When you buy it for a recipe and have some left over, it may spoil – usually by growing mold – even when kept in the refrigerator. So, when a recipe calls for fresh ginger, you may wonder if it's OK to use powdered ginger instead of fresh.
The simple answer is yes, you can substitute one for the other by using powdered ginger when a recipe calls for fresh ginger and vice versa. However, you cannot substitute on a one-to-one ratio. You use much less of the powdered form because it is concentrated, although the exact amount of powdered ginger to use depends partly on personal taste. The substitution formula for powdered and fresh ginger is: 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger = 1 tablespoon fresh ginger.
Since there is a big difference between 1/8 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon, start with 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger, stirring as the ground ginger is dissolving. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes and then taste it. If the ginger taste is apparent and seems like the appropriate amount to you, stop there. If you'd like a stronger ginger flavor, continue adding the ginger powder 1/8 teaspoon at a time until you're satisfied with the result.
Substitute Ginger Powder for Ginger Root
Is fresh ginger a good ground ginger substitute? Just because one can be substituted for the other doesn't mean it's always a good idea to do so, as the two provide different flavors to a recipe. Ground ginger has a more one-dimensional taste than the complexity of fresh ginger. This will be more obvious if you've previously enjoyed a recipe made with one and then try to substitute one for the other.
Prepare Fresh Ginger for Use
Fresh ginger is a curious-looking food, with its gnarled, bony points and thin, brown skin. Many cooks use a vegetable peeler to peel away the skin, which does work but tends to take unnecessary pieces of the precious ginger with the skin.
An easier way is to use a spoon to scrape off the thin skin and then slice it according to the directions in your recipe, which may call for you to mince it finely, slice it diagonally or julienne it into thin strips. You may want to remove large pieces after cooking so they flavor the dish, but you don't eat them.
Know the Types of Ginger
Fresh and powdered ginger are only two types of the spice you may come across at a market or as an ingredient in a recipe. The types of ginger are:
- Crystallized ginger
- Dried ginger.
- Fresh ginger
- Pickled ginger
- Powdered ginger
Each type of ginger is unique, and one cannot always be substituted for another kind. For example, crystallized ginger is typically sugar coated, so it would be a good choice for baked goods but not for a main dish unless you want it to be sweetened. Pickled ginger, on the other hand, most likely would not be the best choice for pastries.
Exchange Other Spices for Ginger
If you're in the middle of assembling your dish and realize you're totally out of all forms of ginger, you have several options. For example, if you need a substitute for ginger in stir fry or baked goods, try cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice in place of ginger.
You can use one-to-one substitution if your recipe also calls for ground ginger but use less of the ground spices if your recipe specifies fresh ginger. Be aware, though, that your recipes will taste different because there's no spice quite like ginger.