All About Ginger: Understanding the Differences Between Fresh, Ground, and Crystallized Ginger

Add warmth and spice to your food with this healthy, flavorful ingredient.

ginger root and wooden spoon with powdered ginger
Photo: Science Photo Library / Getty Images

From classic holiday gingerbread cookies to Asian-inspired recipes such as this Easy Moo Shu Pork Stir-Fry, ginger adds subtle spice, warmth, and heat to both sweet and savory dishes. Both fresh gingerroot and ground ginger powder have plenty of health benefits; ginger is a popular digestive and a cup of freshly brewed ginger tea can help cure nausea and stomachaches. Since recipes usually call for one or the other, it's important to understand the the difference between fresh and ground ginger, as well as whether or not they're interchangeable. We'll also explain where crystallized ginger comes into play.

Fresh Versus Ground Ginger

Fresh ginger comes in small pieces with a tan peel and has a pale yellow flesh. It is found in the produce section of the grocery store near other root vegetables. To prepare fresh ginger, remove the peel by using the edge of a sturdy spoon. Once it's peeled, you can thinly slice, dice, or mince it; another option is to grate your fresh ginger on a fine Microplane. In addition to using it as an ingredient in a recipe, you can boil fresh ginger in water to make strong, fresh brewed ginger tea that has plenty of anti-inflammatory properties. You can also juice fresh ginger on its own or with lemon for a quick wellness shot.

Ground ginger is sold as a fine powder that's pale yellow-tan color. It can be found in the spice aisle. If the ginger on your spice rack no longer smells warm and peppery, that's a sign that it's lost its flavor and should be replaced. The flavor of ground ginger is much more potent than fresh ginger. According to McCormick, ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger is the equivalent of one teaspoon of peeled and grated fresh ginger. However, the flavor in the finished dish will not taste exactly the same so don't make the swap unless you're in a pinch.

Crystallized Ginger

Candied or crystallized ginger is made by boiling peeled, sliced ginger with water until the ginger is tender. It's then cooked with sugar until the ginger becomes translucent and crystallized. You can snack on crystallized ginger, use it as a garnish on cookies or ice cream sundaes, or toss it with rice and roasted vegetables. It should not be used as a substitute for fresh or ground ginger.

Cooking and Baking with Ginger

Ground ginger mixes easily into food, whereas fresh ginger leaves a bit of texture. Grated fresh ginger is typically used in savory recipes, such as these tropical Hawaiian Turkey Burgers, Gingery Tofu Ramen Bowls, or our Shanghai Noodle Soup. Many classic baking recipes call for ground ginger, such as carrot cake, apple cider donuts, and our Perfect Pumpkin Pie. For a spectacular example of how to utilize all three varieties of ginger, try Martha's Molasses-Ginger Crisps. These cookies are made with all three kinds of ginger, ground, crystallized, and finely grated fresh ginger, for intense peppery flavor and warmth in every bite.

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