Burdock root is a root vegetable used mostly in dishes from Japan and Taiwan. It is essential if you are trying to make an authentic version of the Japanese dish kinpira gobo. If you cannot find it, you may be able to replace it with one of the burdock root substitutes below.
Your best bet: Chicory root
Chicory root is the root of the chicory vegetable. The best-known application of chicory root is as a coffee substitute similar to burdock root, which is also sometimes used as an alternative to coffee. You might know chicory root from its association with Louisianan coffee. It can work as a complete substitute for ground coffee beans, or you can add it to regular coffee grounds to reduce your caffeine consumption. Less known is the fact that chicory root is a root vegetable that you prepare much like how you would prepare burdock root. Feel free to use it in most of the same applications.
Chicory root is known for its inulin content, which is also one of the important health benefits from burdock root. The inulin from chicory is commonly extracted and added to other foods to increase their fiber content. The inulin in both chicory root and burdock root can also help to reduce the severity of blood sugar spikes thus helping to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Aside from the inulin they contain, both roots have very similar nutritional profiles. Chicory root does have some bitterness, which means that it may work better as a replacement for the earthiness of burdock root in some applications than in others.
A decent second choice: Lotus root
Unlike the roots that usually get used as burdock root substitutes, lotus root is the rhizome of an aquatic plant. It works well as a substitute in most of burdock root’s vegetable applications. Like burdock root, lotus root has a very mild flavor. Lotus root is even more mild-tasting than burdock root, so it might not be an ideal substitute if you want an earthy flavor profile. Its texture makes it suitable for being stir-fried in a similar way to burdock root even though its appearance when whole or sliced crosswise is dramatically different. Unlike burdock root and most burdock root substitutes, lotus root cannot replace coffee.
In a pinch: Dandelion root
Dandelion root is another root that you can eat as a vegetable and that you can roast and grind to make a coffee substitute. The process for preparing dandelion root for use as a coffee alternative is the same as the process for preparing burdock root. Dandelion roots do have a couple of drawbacks if you want to use them to replace burdock root — they are somewhat more bitter and are also finer than burdock roots, which are shaped more like carrots. Similarly, both dandelion roots and burdock root can be dried and used as a tea without roasting them. Dandelion root is typically foraged rather than cultivated, which means that it may be easier to find when compared to burdock root as well as to the other substitutes on this list.
Salsify looks a lot like burdock root, so much so that they are often confused for each other. Like lotus root, its flavor is milder than that of burdock root but you can use it in most of the same applications.
Parsnips may be used similarly to burdock root despite having a less earthy flavor profile. While you cannot use parsnips as a coffee alternative, they do have a similar appearance and texture if you want to use them as an alternative in stir-fried dishes.