Lemon Peel: Substitutes, Flavor, And Uses In Cooking

From ancient times, lemon peel has been popularly used for its medicinal merits and home remedies for cleaning. They are also a wonderful flavoring agent very well utilized in several cuisines across the world.

Lemon is widely cultivated and easily available in most parts of the world. Still, what to do if you don’t have a lemon peel? What to use in place of lemon peel? This article examines the best lemon peel substitute to use in a pinch, and also a little about its flavor profile and uses in cooking.

What is a lemon peel?

Lemon peel is the rind that consists of a colorful outer portion of lemon skin and a pith that forms the inner portion of the skin. The pith is a spongy white fibrous substance that is between the fruit and skin.

In short, lemon peel includes both skin and pith of lemon fruit, whereas lemon zest is the grated outer portion of the skin without pith.

Lemon peel has numerous household and medicinal uses, plus a popular ingredient in several dishes across the world for its citrus zing.

Most often, we discard the lemon rind after extracting the pulp and juice of the lemon. However, few recent studies have determined that lemon peel contains several bioactive compounds extremely beneficial for health.

What does lemon peel taste like?

The flavor of a lemon peel is citrusy and bitter. The mild bitterness of the peel comes from the pith whereas the colorful outer layer of the rind has a citrusy flavor with tangy notes and lemony fragrance. A boiled lemon peel is slightly bitter than a raw rind but a ripe lemon is more citrusy and less bitter than a tender lemon fruit.

The rind of a medium-sized lemon renders a citrusy flavor equivalent to one tablespoon of lemon zest.

How do you take the bitterness out of lemon peel?

Many don’t enjoy the lingering bitterness of lemon peel, especially some varieties of lemon that have a sharp bitter taste. Some of the lemon dishes may turn out to be more bitter than you wanted.

If your dish with lemon rinds tastes bitter after cooking, then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of syrup, honey, sugar, marmalade, or vinaigrette to your dish. Make sure to choose the right ingredient that fits well into the flavor profile of your dish.

If a dessert with lemon peel tastes bitter then add sweetened whipped cream or ice cream to the dessert.

How to use lemon peels in cooking?

Lemon peel, raw or cooked, is safe to eat. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and enzymes beneficial for health.

In cooking, lemon peel is used for flavoring for it can add a pleasant citrus flavor and mild bitterness to your dish.

Lemon peel can be eaten and used in your dishes in several ways. Grated lemon rind, fresh or dry, can be added to salads, baked goods, or yogurt. Similarly, a minced peel of frozen lemons is sprinkled over drinks, soups, dressings, and marinades. Most lemon-flavored herbal teas contain tiny strips of dehydrated lemon rinds.

To mention a few, some of the most popular lemon peel recipes are lemon peel candy, lemon tea, lemony meat dishes, seasoned vegetable dishes, lemon-flavored grains, and grilled lemonade.

What is a good lemon peel substitute?

The lemon flavor is a wonderful addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Lemon peel is an easy and simple ingredient to add citrusy flavor and lemony fragrance to your dish. If you have run short on the lemon peel, what can you do instead? I’ve listed below a few easily available ingredients that work great as lemon peel substitutes. Choose an ingredient that best suits the flavor profile of your dish;

1. Peel of other citrusy fruits

Just like lemon peel, other citrusy fruits’ peels can also bring in a citrusy flavor to your dish. Tangerine peel or lime peel is an effective alternative to lemon peel. In an emergency, even orange peel can live up to your expectation to give a citrusy taste to a dish if the sweet orange flavor doesn’t matter to your dish. Overall, the peel of ripe lime is the closest replacement for the lemon rind.

All citrusy fruits have similar types of peels though they vary in color and all of them can be used either fresh or dry. So, use them in the same quantity and same way as the peel of a lemon is required in your recipe.

2. Lemon oil

Lemon oil or extract is obtained from the rind of a lemon. The scent and flavor of the lemon extract are the same as the lemon peel. In addition, lemon oil isn’t bitter like the lemon peel

Of course, lemon oil cannot render the texture of lemon peel, especially in dishes where the grated peel is used for garnishing. On a positive note, by using lemon extract you can avoid the bulk of lemon peel that is actually unwanted in most dishes.

Lemon oil is highly concentrated and has a stronger flavor than lemon peel, thus a few drops of this oil would be enough for the dish.

3. Citrus juices

Like citrusy peels, any citrusy juice is a good stand-in ingredient for lemon peel when used for the sake of citrusy flavor.

In the list of citrusy juice, the first and best option is none other than the humble lemon juice. Both the peel and juice of the lemon have a similar taste and aroma. Another good option for substitution is lime juice, a close cousin of lemon juice.

Other citrusy juices like orange, grapefruits, tangerines, or sweet lemon is also a possible replacement for the lemon rind, but their sweetness and distinctive flavor won’t work for all dishes.

Lastly, lemon juice or lime juice is the most preferred substitution option to consider. For one tablespoon of grated fresh lemon peel, use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

4. Lemon zest

If you have lemon zest at your disposal, then you have a perfect swap for lemon peel. As you already know, lemon zest is made from the colorful outer portion of the lemon peel minus the pith.

Lemon zest has a stronger lemony flavor and is not bitter like the lemon rind. Undoubtedly, zest is a great stand-in ingredient for lemon peel, especially in salad dressing and soups.

Use a ¾ teaspoon of lemon zest for 1 teaspoon of lemon peel.

5. Citron

The citron (Citrus medica) is a large fragrant citrus fruit with a thick rind. Plant scientists suggest that it’s one of the three original citrus fruits from which all other citrus types developed. Citron is mostly used in cooking for making preserves.

Citron has a very thick peel, thus they need to be grated before using it in your dish. However, due to its bulky texture and weak flavor, it won’t work well in most dishes that call for lemon peel.

Candied citron peel is an excellent alternative to candied lemon peel.

6. Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are popularly used in North African kitchens to add brightness and citrusy flavor to tajine, stews, dressings, sauces, and many more.

Lemon peels are the core ingredient in preserved lemon that has a strong lemon flavor. Without a doubt, preserved lemon is a good substitute for lemon peel, usable in most dishes.

Final thoughts

To substitute lemon peel, consider using other citrus peels like lime or tangerine, which offer a similar citrusy flavor. Lemon oil or extract can replace the scent and flavor, though it lacks texture and is more concentrated. Citrus juices, especially lemon or lime juice, are good alternatives for their similar taste and aroma.

Lemon zest, a more flavorful part of the peel, is another option. Citron, with a thick rind and mild flavor, and preserved lemons, known for their strong lemon flavor, are also viable substitutes.

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