Spicy, sweet, and fragrant ginger is a funny looking knobby root. I’ll admit to ignoring fresh ginger in recipes in the past, because I had not a clue how to peel, grate, or work with it.
Once I discovered just how easy it is to work with giner, it became a kitchen staple in my home.
Unlike many other dried herbs and spices, dried ginger simply can not be substituted for fresh in most recipes. Fresh ginger offers a different dimension to many dishes that can’t be duplicated with dried spices.
Ginger root is a staple ingredient in Asian cooking. It adds a particular type of spice to recipes that’s far different than the spice you get from chilis, black pepper and other spices.
Ginger also brings acidity and just a touch of sweetness to recipes that can be enhanced by other sweeteners, like when you use it in hot tea or baked goods. That teensy bit of sweetness can also be tempered by acidic and salty flavors when you use fresh ginger root in savory dishes.
When you are buying ginger, you do not need to buy a huge amount. Most recipes only call for an inch or two of ginger but at many grocery stores, ginger is sold in large pieces. Unless you’re cooking with ginger several times a day, you probably won’t be able to use all of that good ginger before it goes bad.
There’s a solution! Simply break a knob, about the size you need, off a large piece of ginger. (Yes, that is allowed. I actually was shown how it works by the produce manager in the first store where I bought ginger.)
If you do need or want to buy a larger amount of ginger than you’ll use in a single recipe, it’s very easy to store.
Ginger will keep well in the refrigerator for at least a couple weeks before it’s peeled. Peeled ginger won’t keep for quite as long and should be stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.
Be sure to remove any moisture from the ginger and its container before storage so it stays fresh for as long as possible!
Ginger can also be frozen for 2-3 months. If you are going to freeze extra ginger, I suggest peeling it first. Grating frozen ginger is even easier than grating fresh ginger.
How to Peel Ginger
When I first started cooking with ginger, I had no idea how to peel it. I quickly discovered that it’s nowhere near as intimidating or difficult as I initially thought.
Did you know that you can peel ginger with a spoon? The skin is very thin and just rubbing the tip of the spoon across the ginger removes it easily.
It works so much better than an average vegetable peeler which has a tendency to peel off too much of the actual ginger.
Once the ginger is peeled, you can slice it into disks, create matchsticks or dice it fine. A microplane works great to finely grate or mince it as well.
Fresh Ginger Vs. Dried
Fresh ginger root and dried ginger do very different things in recipes. Fresh ginger delivers a more complex, spicy flavor than its dried counterparts, so I don’t recommend trying to substitute one for the other.
Dried ground ginger is the most common way we get that tasty gingery flavor into gingerbread, ginger cookies and other spiced baked goods. Fresh ginger can also be a delicious addition to certain ginger cookies, cakes and quick breads, as in these amazing looking Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies.
While, again, not a substitute for fresh ginger, I also enjoy the taste and flavor of crystalized (“candied”) ginger. Homemade Candied Ginger is made by simmering fresh peeled ginger root in a simple syrup of sugar and water, then dried.
It’s a delicious spicy snack on its own or chopped up and added to quick breads, muffins or cookies.
How to Use Fresh Ginger
Thai cooking also calls for ginger in many recipes. Thai Steak and Green Bean Stir-Fry calls for fresh ginger to be sauteed with tender pieces of steak and green beans in a light savory sauce. And I have my eye on this Thai Lemongrass Chicken Coconut Curry using fresh ginger and coconut milk to try soon.
There are plenty of ways to use ginger other than stir-fry and curries, too. Ginger Scallion Turkey Meatballs with Chili Dipping Sauce are great for parties, appetizers and any time you need an easy finger food.
Have you ever made Ginger Tea? It’s made by adding fresh pieces of ginger root to boiling hot water, sometimes with lemon and honey. It’s so soothing and comforting served hot and deliciously refreshing served over ice.
You can make an even simpler Homemade Ginger Tea by simply pouring freshly boiled water over a chunk of ginger root and add lemon, honey or sugar to taste. I’ve even known folks to add a little bourbon to the brew for a grown up cough syrup!
If you’re looking for another gingery beverage idea for grown-ups that’s not quite so health conscious, check out these ideas for Homemade Ginger Infused Cocktails for your next party, adult gathering or cozy night in.
My friend Rebecca has been making her own Homemade Ginger Ale for years. It takes a little patience but is perfectly easy to make and world’s better and more gingery than any brand of ginger ale soda you can buy at the grocery store.
Fresh ginger has long been believed to aid in digestion, soothing upset tummies and counteracting inflammation. At the very least, it tastes great and is bound to make you feel better for that reason alone.
If you own a juicer, consider adding chunks of fresh ginger to your favorite vegetable and fruit juice combinations for a little extra flavor and spice. This cold-pressed Orange Ginger Splash Juice sounds like a perfect starting point!
I could write books on all the ways I’ve enjoyed using fresh ginger, but you get the idea! Once you learn how easy it is to peel and cook with it, you’ll never be intimidated by this spicy root again.
What are your favorite ways to cook with ginger?