Substituting Ground Ginger For Fresh Ginger
I grew up in a family of foodies that loved to cook and eat interesting meals. My father was a chef before becoming a restaurateur, my mother is an avid home baker and I’m a dedicated amateur who loves to try new things. And so when I moved out on my own, I decided to take this love of cooking and eating and put it into my own kitchen.
One thing I’ve always been curious about, though, has been substitutions. As a rule, I prefer to use fresh ingredients whenever possible because they bring more flavor than pre-prepared or otherwise processed ones do. But sometimes, there are certain recipes where using fresh ingredients would be impractical (e.g., no fresh garlic, onions, etc., available at all times). So what can you do? If you’re like me, you may have tried adding fresh ginger instead of ground ginger. Unfortunately, while this is often recommended as a good way to add some zing without resorting to salt, it doesn’t work quite as well. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not ideal either. The problem lies with how different they truly are.
Fresh ginger, which is also known as unrefined ginger root, contains around 10% essential oils, whereas most commercially prepared ginger products contain only 2%, according to the National Institutes of Health. These oils give fresh ginger its characteristic pungent and spicy aroma, as well as many health benefits. However, these oils are also very volatile — meaning they evaporate quickly — making them difficult to store. This volatility makes it hard to keep them from affecting other foods, including those that don’t even come close to their threshold. When used directly on meat or fish, fresh ginger oil will cause the meat to become spicier and ranker over time, making it unpleasant to consume. In addition, they’re much harder to digest, requiring special enzymes to break down. Also, since fresh ginger roots are harvested during spring, summer, and fall, they tend to be less potent due to the shorter amount of time the plant spends exposed to sunlight. Finally, although fresh ginger does taste better than ginger powder, it’s still not comparable to its powdered counterpart.
For all these reasons, the American Institute of Cancer Research recommends that people avoid direct contact with fresh ginger oil and stick to consuming it through supplements instead. That said, if you must use fresh ginger, here’s the substituted ratio: substitute ¼ teaspoon ground ginger for every 1 tablespoon grated ginger. This should allow your meal to stay flavorful without being too overpowering. Of course, you’ll want to experiment with different ratios depending on the recipe.
If you’d rather cut back on spice, you could try replacing fresh ginger with dried ginger powder. Although it’s slightly less powerful than fresh, it’s still pretty effective and won’t affect the flavors of your meal too adversely. Just make sure you buy a high quality one; brands such as Frontier sell theirs in smaller quantities than others, allowing you to get more bang for your buck.
You can also try using fresh ginger paste instead of powder. There are two ways to go about doing this. One method is to simply grate fresh ginger and mix it with water until you reach the desired consistency. You could then squeeze it through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve to remove the fibrous parts and discard. The other method involves chopping fresh ginger into small chunks and mixing it with sugar, vinegar, and spices until you reach the desired consistency. Once again, you could strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids and dispose of them. Then just stir in enough water to thin it out to a paste.
The latter method produces a stronger ginger paste, but it’s probably easier to prepare. Both methods produce similar results, however, both are far from ideal. While fresh ginger paste will help you retain more of its flavor, it’s still not great to eat and requires refrigeration once made because of its higher moisture content. Plus, it can easily become sticky and clumpy, which is problematic given that you need to apply it thinly and evenly throughout the dish. Lastly, it takes longer to dissolve in liquid than fresh ginger alone, so it can potentially impact the overall texture of a dish. It’s certainly not the worst alternative, but it’s definitely not ideal either.
So, why bother trying to find a replacement for fresh ginger at all? Because sometimes, substitutions aren’t necessary. Sometimes, a simple swap of one ingredient for another is all you need to create a delicious yet healthy version of whatever you were going to serve. For example, instead of using butter, you could replace it with olive oil or coconut oil, reducing calories significantly and keeping saturated fats relatively low. Instead of using sour cream, you could replace it with plain Greek yogurt, giving you a healthier dip with fewer added sugars. Instead of using canned tomatoes, you could use diced fresh tomato, cutting sodium intake further. Substituting ground ginger for fresh ginger works in places where it wouldn’t normally be practical, but there are plenty of instances where it fails miserably. In these cases, I’d recommend sticking to a purer form of ginger (i.e., fresh), especially if you’re someone who prefers to incorporate whole ingredients over powders. At least then, you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.
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