Crystallized ginger is used to make candies, add zest to fruit salads and infuse foods with a rich, sweetened ginger flavor. Although you can make crystallized ginger at home, the time commitment may not be convenient when you are in the middle of a recipe. The amount of crystallized ginger substitute will necessarily vary with the quantity of ginger called for. For example, less fresh grated ginger is needed than powered ginger to achieve the same quantity of substitute crystallized ginger. This is because fresh ginger will deliver a more intense flavor than dried, powdered ginger.
Use Fresh Ginger Root and Sugar
Mix 2 tbs. of freshly grated ginger root with 2 tbs. of granulated sugar. Substitute for every 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger called for in your recipe. Freshly grated ginger root most closely approximates crystallized ginger, both in texture and the size of the ginger pieces or chunks, depending on how finely you chop or grate them.
When making candies, ice cream or other sweets that call for crystallized ginger, this substitution should be added at the same time as you would add the crystallized ginger. Remember, with any recipe that calls for heating a spice, the longer the spice is allowed to steep in the food, the richer the flavor is going to be.
Powdered Ginger Works, Too
Grab the powdered ginger off the spice rack and mix 4 tsp. with 4 tsp. of confectioner's sugar. Use this mixture as a substitute for every 1/2 cup of crystallized ginger you require. Add 2 tsp. of cold water to the mix, stir and allow to set for a few minutes to bring out the ginger flavor from the powdered spice.
Avoid the temptation to substitute ginger candy for crystallized ginger. Candy contains additives such as pectins and gelatins that can alter the texture and taste of your recipe. Depending on the cooking times, the sugar in ginger candy could also heat to the point that it caramelizes, and you may produce a recipe you did not intend to create. This may or may not be a happy occurrence, depending on the results.
Chopped Nuts as a Last Resort
If neither ginger root nor powdered ginger is available, combine 1 tsp. of chopped walnuts with 1 tsp. of chopped pecans. To this mixture add 1 tsp. of lemon juice or zest and 1 tsp. of sugar. This will provide the texture of crystallized ginger and some of the tanginess to go with the similar-sized bites of crushed nuts, but not the distinctive ginger flavor. For that, you could add ginger tea that has been mulled (cooked over medium heat in a saucepan to thicken the liquid and bring out the flavor). That way you have a bit of crystallized ginger texture from the chopped nuts, with at least a hint of ginger flavor from the tea.
As a final strategy, try ginger extract. Mix 1 tsp. of the extract with 1 tsp. of granulated sugar, and add the chopped nuts to achieve a chunky, crystallized ginger substitute.