How to: Cook with Ginger

After almost five years (!!) of experimenting with food through Budget Bytes, ginger has become one of my all time favorite ingredients. It was completely new to me when I started the blog, but once I learned how to use it I fell in love. If you’re unfamiliar with ginger, I hope this post will inspire you to give it a shot. It’s freaking fantastic.

How to Cook with Ginger

Ginger has a unique flavor. It has kind of a spicy bite, but some how it still works equally well with both sweet and savory dishes. It’s great in cookies, smoothies, stir fries, curries, and even meatloaf. Yes, meatloaf. Here are a few of my favorite ginger containing recipes to give you an idea of just how versatile this root is…

Sweet Ginger Recipes

Savory Ginger Recipes

And that’s just a few… type the word “ginger” into my search box up in the top right of the page and you’ll see just how often I use ginger. It’s pretty easy to use, no more difficult than garlic, in fact. If you’ve avoided it in the past because you just weren’t sure how to handle it, scroll on. I’ve got you covered.

How to Cook with Ginger

Old vs FreshWhen you’re looking at the ginger in the grocery store, make sure to look for a plump, firm root with smooth skin (like the one on the right). It should never look dry, shriveled, soft, or rubbery (like that sad guy on the left).

BreakMost recipes call for just one or two inches of fresh ginger, but the roots at the store will be large and with many appendages. It’s perfectly okay to break off a small nub from the large root—like bananas. You can break off the amount you need and leave the rest. There is no pressure to buy the whole thing. Now, if you did want to buy the whole thing, you can break off what you need at the moment and keep the rest in you freezer. Personally, I just break off a small amount at the store each time. It’s usually priced per pound, so a small nub is very inexpensive.

PeelNext you’ll probably want to peel the ginger. I say “probably” because I always do, but one time I was watching an Indian cooking show and the host said she never peels her ginger and that she actually liked the flavor. You don’t say! Well, if you decide against peeling, make sure to wash it well. Ginger grows underground, in dirt and stuff. You can scrape the paper-thin skin off with the side of a spoon, or use a vegetable peeler. Whichever you prefer.

Slice or MinceOnce you have the ginger peeled (or not peeled) there are a few things you can do with it. You can slice it into thin medallions, or go a little further and mince those medallions into tiny pieces. The medallions are nice for infusing liquids because they’re easily removed (like in the chai concentrate). Mincing is nice because you get a lot of flavor without huge pieces. Ginger actually has a really nice texture and I enjoy eating larger pieces of it in my food, but it’s not for everyone.

NOTE: see how the ginger slices look kind of blue or grey? That means the ginger is getting old. Fresh ginger has a really nice light yellow hue.

Grated GingerIf you want really small pieces, you can grab a small holed cheese grater and grate the ginger into a super fine texture. I usually end up doing this just because it’s much quicker than using a knife to mince the ginger. Sometimes, when the ginger is really fresh, it will drip juice as you grate, so make sure to do this over your pot or skillet so none of the flavor is lost!

Garlic and GingerAnd just one more note… Garlic and ginger together is one of the most magical flavor combinations in the entire world. Trust me. Try it. Soon. This combination is the start to many great curries and stir fries. The smell as they sauté in a skillet is absolute heaven. Ahhh my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

So, what are you waiting for? Go get you some GINGER!

And for those of you who are already ginger lovers: What are you favorite ways to use ginger? Your favorite ginger tips and tricks? Share the knowledge :D

52 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    After making 3 of your dishes with ginger (asian sticky wings, easy sesame chicken, and chicken yakisoba) I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this! I love the way it tasted in your recipes, but have to admit I had no idea what I was doing – at the store and in the kitchen. Thanks for teaching me to cook and save money. :)

  2. Heather says:

    Thank you for this guide!!! I had no idea I could just break off a little piece, it saves ginger from going bad and lot of money and my conscience. I can finally tell which ginger is fresh. I always suspected, but never really knew! I made my first successful Indian dish! Fresh is better!

  3. Caroline Z says:

    Favorite cooking ingredient: Ginger-garlic paste. I’ve been doing a lot of Indian cooking lately, and it’s often used in those types of recipes. I use it for Asian cooking too!

    You can grate equal parts ginger and garlic and stir. Or, you can use a food processor and grind equal parts of the two together. If you use a food processor, you’ll probably need a little water, too. Keeps well for about a week.

    If I’m going to clean the microplane for one thing, I might as well use it for two things! I love grating garlic with it. It’s so much easier than mincing and imparts great flavor. Just make sure to catch all those great juices!

  4. Mindy says:

    I read the article about you in the Montreal Gazette and was very intrigued – love the concept and what I’ve read on your blog so far.

    I never knew one can freeze ginger!!! I always buy it for one recipe that calls for it, stay with leftovers, store it in fridge but don’t like the way it looks after a couple days. Freezing will revolutionize my use of ginger!!! Thanks

  5. Delaney89 says:

    I am so glad I found your blog today. I recently bought “fresh” ginger + obviously didn’t have a clue on what I was doing. When I got home + began to slice the ginger, it was a VERY dark yellow ( bordering on brown), but I was pressed for time + continued on w/ the new recipe.
    Long story short, appears that ginger was way past prime + it ruined the entire dish. I had THOUGHT ( wrongly)) that maybe I just was not a fan of fresh ginger.
    Next time I will follow your instructions.
    LOVE your site!! Thanks!

  6. I love ginger too. It’s one of the cheapest “spices” to add to your repertoire and adds so much flavor. When I have a cold, I make a simple tea of a few ginger coins with some lemon juice and honey. To avoid strings in my grater, I just shave off small slices with my sharpest knife and chop/mince those just like garlic. That creates tiny pieces, prevents the grating of fingers or squirting ginger juice up into your eyes as can happen with too-zealous grating.

  7. Ashly says:

    I really like this post. I hope you do more of this kind of thing in the future! Of course, I love the recipes also.

  8. I know that this is not the most budget-friendly option, but I buy the pre-minced fresh ginger in jars. It’s like the pre-minced garlic in jars. I like this option because it keeps for a VERY long time so I can always have fresh ginger on hand.

  9. Christine M says:

    I too love fresh ginger! I’ve never frozen it- I go through it so fast it never seems to get old. The simplest ginger recipe ever– I learned at a Thai cooking class.

    Ginger Tea: Put several unpeeled thin slices of ginger in a pot of water and simmer. The longer it simmers the stronger the tea. Adjust amounts of ginger/water/time to suit your taste.

  10. Love your blog. Great info, great recipes, great food. Thanks so much:)

  11. I like to chop a large nub in chunks and add it to a batch of chicken or veggie broth I’m making. Then use that stock to make a Coconut Chicken Soup. It adds an amazing depth of flavor.

  12. kimberly says:

    what works for me – scraping with spoon leaves the most amount of ginger on the knob. i then freeze it. whenever i need some, i use my microplane zester. love, love, love it. there is NO fibers, it shreds like snow, and virtually melts into the food. you do have to increase the amount of ginger you use, because it’s so fine a texture

  13. Madeleine says:

    I never thought I liked ginger until recently when I found a copycat recipe for my favorite hibachi sauce to put over chicken, veggies and rice. Now I can’t get enough of it! This sauce is amazing, and definitely appeals to both the ginger and “acidic” lover in me.
    http://www.food.com/recipe/benihanas-ginger-sauce-108265

  14. susanne says:

    not an expert, but i’ve found stringy ginger is usually older, larger bulbs. ginger we eat is the plant’s root, and those little nubs are new rootlets bursting out of the parent root, ready to spread the ginger plant into a new area. so the stringy pieces have probably done their duty, feeding the green stalk and flower, and now they’re anchoring new plants before they die back. still gingery, but not yummy.

    so like beth said, buy the young, fresh, plump ginger!

    i like to grate ginger on the large holes of the grater–more stuff comes through, and it’s less mushy. and it’s fun to cut lengthwise matchstick pieces for stir fries, dipping sauces, and infusions. usually easy to cut that direction.

    another delicious way to use ginger is for tea. excellent after dinner, and a nice warming drink for chilly days, or when you have a cold. just chop an inch-long nub of ginger very coarsly, drop it in a teapot, and add boiling water. steep for a few minutes, add a bit of honey, and that’s it!

    thanks for this post, and a reminder to buy some ginger! :)

  15. Laurie says:

    Instead of freezing I put my chunk of ginger in a pot to let it grow so I always have fresh ginger when I need it. I usually have a pot of several bits in different stages of growth. Use and repot!!

  16. Monique says:

    I also freeze my ginger before grating. The peel grates up nice and fine when it’s frozen so it’s not such a big deal to peel it. I have bought ginger already minced in a jar before, but it’s ridiculously expensive, compared to the fresh root.

  17. Jennifer says:

    A friend of mine keeps her ginger planted in a pot outside. She digs it up and breaks off a piece whenever she needs some ginger, then replants it. It grows back, replenishing itself (it’s a rhizome and will often grow a nice stem and leaves, a nice tropical plant!). Lasts a long time, no need to buy it at the store every time you want ginger!

  18. ginger + scallion is also a great combo!

  19. Sarah L says:

    I always buy a big hunk of ginger, peel it, then throw the whole thing in my food processor/blender until chopped fine. Then I freeze it in an ice cube tray, so I can pop out individual portions for cooking. Works great!

    • I love that idea! I never thought about the food processor and freezing pre-chopped makes so much more sense.

  20. Megan Lewis says:

    Ginger English scones!!! They are fantastic if you are cursed with the super sick, can’t keep anything down type of pregnancies… which I am.

    Oh and Heidi Swanson from 101 Cookbooks has this amazing minty/lemony/gingery tea: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/detoxifying-mint-tea-recipe.html

  21. Love ginger. Grew up cooking with it and I never saw my mom peel it and I’ve never peeled it.

  22. Laura says:

    One of my (many) favorite things to do with ginger is something I found on a blog somewhere: simultaneously making candied ginger and ginger syrup. You basically simmer thin slices of ginger in simple syrup forever, toss the pieces in more sugar, and let them dry. Save the syrup for adding to tea or seltzer water. Use the candied ginger to make the best ginger cookies ever.

    I am also a freeze-and-grater for my other gingery recipes.

    • Now I definitely want to make some ginger syrup!

    • Another ginger syrup fan here…I had a wicked addition to Vernor’s Ginger ale which I have replaced with my own Ginger Soda. I don’t always make candied ginger when I make the syrup – only when I need candied ginger. Unfortunately, the syrup degrades at 5-6 days so I make a 4-5 day supply every 4-5 days.

      I freeze a few knobs for other uses as Laura notes.

      I LOVE Ginger!

      • My ginger soda syrup recipe:

        about 2 cups sliced thin ginger – muddled
        6 cups water
        2 cinnamon sticks
        4 cloves
        1 star anise
        2/3 cups raw sugar
        2/3 cups dark brown sugar
        1 heaping large spoon, i.e a good glug of raw honey

        Bring to boil, stirring until sugar and honey dissolve

        Boil for 10 minutes or so.

        Cool a bit.

        Refrigerate overnight.

        Strain.

        About 1/8 syrup to 7/8 fizzy water for spicy ginger soda.

  23. Another huge endorsement for grating while frozen! And I also never peel it. I used to, and I hated it, and then I was talking to a friend about cooking Indian food (he learned from his parents who were born in India) and he was adamant about never peeling it… I’m lazy so that was pretty much all I needed to hear. When I kept it in the fridge and peeled it every time, I really dreaded using ginger in recipes. Now that I keep it in the freezer and don’t peel it, my perception has completely changed. It’s almost more like a spice than a vegetable in terms of effort now.

  24. Ginger was always one of those things that I stayed away from, thinking that it’s too strong for my taste.

    I still have memories of a ginger toothpaste that I tried once and hated and was stuck with it for a month :)

    I will give ginger another try though. It’s my New Year’s resolution to try a few new fruits and veggies (and spices).

  25. Julie says:

    I second the freezing before grating idea. It seems to grate much easier (no problem with stringiness), which also helps with clean up… doesn’t seem to get stuck in the grater as much.

    To avoid grating my fingers, I find it helps to buy a large(ish) piece from the grocery store and just peel (and grate) the inch or two that I need. Then back into the freezer it goes until I need more. By the time I get to a smallish nub, it’s usually time for a new piece anyways. It’s a little wasteful, but so cheap I don’t mind tossing half an inch or so to be able to grate easily and quickly.

    • Caroline Z says:

      I agree about using a large piece than called for when grating. It give you something to hold onto and it’s so much easier!

      I use a microplane grater, and I don’t tend to have too many issues with it being stringy. When I do have a stringy issue, though, I rotate the piece of ginger, and that seems to help a lot. I think it’s when you grate with the grain it becomes most stringy. This makes sense, because if you go against the grain, you’ll be cutting the little fibers whereas if you go with the grain, you’ll just be separating the fibers.

  26. Lindsay says:

    I love ginger! Asian dishes are my favorite, and they all call for ginger in one form or another. It also makes a fantastic addition to anything with a bland, sweet flavor profile: banana bread, sugar cookies, pancakes, etc.

  27. What does it mean if the ginger is stringy? I started using ginger when I found your blog (thank you!) but I’ve noticed sometimes its difficult to do anything more than slice. Maybe my knife isn’t sharp enough? I also have trouble grating it sometimes – the stringy bits get stuck in the grater holes and it’s a huge mess.

    Any advice??

    • Nicole says:

      I have the same problem! I was thinking that when I saw the picture with the cheese grater…when I do that it’s super stringy. I’ve pretty much given up on it. A few months ago I started buying the refrigerated tube of pre-minced ginger. It’s made my life infinitely easier but it’s a little more expensive.

      • This happens to me, as well! I really love all your recipes with ginger, but I always have problems with the strings! I started thinking it was because my cheese grater isn’t fine enough…? And it seems to take me FOREVER to grate just a tiny bit. I usually give up early, and end up using only half the amount of ginger that the recipe calls for… which makes me sad since I love it so much!! :( I may try mincing it like garlic, and see if that helps.

    • Ginger is just naturally stringy like that. Some say that it gets stringier as it gets older (as in, while it grows older in the ground, not once it’s on the shelf). A smaller holed cheese grater will get clogged with stringiness faster, so you can try using a large hole grater, or (as many have commented) freeze it before grating. That seems to stiffen up the strings so that they grate along with the rest of the ginger instead of clogging up the grater.

  28. Bekah says:

    I adore ginger! I have 2 go-to lentil recipes, both with a heaping tbsp of ginger. A while ago I started using the really lazy route and buying tubes of ginger paste in the refrigerated produce section. It is about $5 but lasts a long time and tastes very fresh. I buy the garlic that way, too, and it saves me some time. I will still buy fresh garlic and ginger, though, for infusing things etc.

  29. zaria pollucksingh says:

    i keep mines in the freezer! and i grate it….when its frozen its actually easier to grate in my opinion….and i am too lazy to peel it also…lol….thought i was the only weirdo to do that and was kinda ashamed….lololol….

    i use it when i am seasoning chicken….i dont cook much so thats the only thing i use it for really….

  30. Because I can’t trust myself to keep track of ginger in the fridge, I always pop it straight into a dedicated container in the freezer. That means it’s always on hand and never mushy or moldy. I use my wickedly sharp Microplane to grate it, still frozen, directly into dishes. Works like a dream.

  31. But a strong bluish tinge isn’t necessarily a sign of unfreshness – it can also just mean that it’s blue-ringed / Chinese white ginger (which is often more expensive and prized). At some grocery stores it’s all that’s available.

  32. Beth E says:

    “Gingerbread” pancakes with a warm spiced applesauce topping is divine.

    My tip is to make the candied ginger yourself, way way way cheaper!

  33. I love ginger!
    Most often I will combine some soy sauce, ginger, and garlic and marinate pork chops (cut from a huge boneless pork loin) for several hours in a ziplock bag. Not too much marinade, just enough to moisten the chops. Grilled or cooked in a skillet and they are soooo savory, juicy, and tender!

  34. I suck at grating ginger. I always grate my fingers instead. I find mincing the way to go! I haven’t made anything with ginger in a while. I must remedy that!

    • I always make such a mess grating ginger, so I buy the tubed ginger instead that usually is above the organics in the fresh vegetable section. It’s more expensive that way, but saves my fingers and kitchen.

  35. Angela says:

    I find that ginger is very fibrous, and when I try to ‘mince’ it or grate it, those fibres are the most annoying thing ever.. have you noticed this too? It’s especially noticable when I grate it, you’re left with a stringy mess on one side of the grater. Any tips for getting around this?

    • Making sure your knife is sharp will help with the mincing, and many people have commented that it grates like a dream when frozen. So, give that a shot and see if it makes grating any easier. :)

  36. I absolutely adore your Thai Turkey meatloaf and that was my first (and admittedly only, so far) experience cooking with fresh ginger. It is such an amazing recipe and the fresh ginger really adds a little something — and it’s got that magical ginger + garlic combo. :-D I have used the ground ginger in a pinch for that meatloaf and it just isn’t the same… I look forward to trying some of your other recipes that call for fresh ginger!

  37. Maura Cooper says:

    I store shredded ginger in a small plastic container with a secure seal (think Tupperware!) in dry sherry. There are so many dishes where a little sherry will enhance the flavor and the sherry preserves the ginger. I keep it the refrigerator.

    • Excellent idea!

      • Danielle says:

        You can also throw grated ginger into an ice cube tray, let it freeze up and then pop the ginger cubes into an airtight container. They’ll last in the freezer for months! (and they defrost quickly whenever you do end up needing them)

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