Lemon Pepper: Substitutes, Flavor, And Uses In Cooking

A fiery lemon pepper chicken or a pasta salad with lemon pepper is something that you’ll love to enjoy eating. A blend of peppery heat with a citrusy note is really an amazing taste. That’s what lemon pepper can do to some of your recipes.

This article explores the best lemon pepper substitute you can use in a pinch, and also a little about its flavors and uses.

What is Lemon Pepper?

Lemon pepper is a seasoning blend made of dried granulated lemon zest and crushed black peppercorns. In other words, lemon zest is mashed with crushed pepper which leads to the infusion of citrus oil from lemon zest into the pepper.

Every good grocery store usually has lemon pepper seasoning sold in small jars, although you can easily make it at home as well.

All the commercially available lemon pepper seasoning is not identical. Some of the manufacturers add additional ingredients to make the seasoning more spicy and flavorful. The other ingredients that may be included in lemon pepper seasoning are onion, citric acid, garlic, cayenne pepper, additional lemon flavor, salt, sugar, and other spices.

What does lemon pepper taste like?

The flavor of lemon pepper seasoning varies according to the blend of ingredients used in it. Of course, the two key ingredients in it are lemon zest and black pepper which render the core taste of the lemon pepper blend.

Generally, this seasoning has strong citrus notes of lemon oil with mildly pungent and bitter notes of black pepper.

A professional chef would customize the taste of lemon peppers by adding further ingredients to suit the special flavor profile of the recipe.

What is lemon pepper good for?

Lemon pepper is best used for fish and poultry dishes. However, this is a versatile seasoning that can very well be integrated into a whole lot of meat and vegetable dishes as well.

In short, baked and dried lemon pepper seasoning can be used on meats and pasta, although it was originally used primarily for seafood.

What’s A Good Lemon Pepper Substitute?

Lemon peppers seasoning is a commonly used ingredient easy to make at home or buy from a local grocery store. If you have run out of this mix or don’t have the necessary ingredients to make it, then use an effective lemon pepper substitute that can render the same flavor to your recipe.

Here are a few effective alternatives for lemon pepper to use in a pinch.

1. Homemade Lemon Pepper – DIY

It’s enough that you have some dried and granulated lemon zest and ground black peppercorns to make this seasoning. In fact, it is one of the simplest seasonings that anyone can easily make.

Just by combining the ground black pepper and lemon zest, you have the seasoning instantaneously ready.

Depending on the flavor profile of your recipe, you may add other ingredients like salt, garlic powder, ground celery seeds, dried onion, or others to make a complex mix with vibrant flavors.


  • 1 tablespoon dried lemon zest
  • ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt

If you don’t have dried lemon zest, roast the fresh lemon zest in a frying pan.  Combine the lemon zest and ground black pepper in a bowl and add salt to it in little quantities till you have the right balance to fit your taste.

Use the homemade lemon pepper seasoning in an exact measure like the one that you otherwise buy from the grocery shop.

2. Lemon thyme

Lemon thyme is not a mixture of lemon and thyme but it’s a variant of the thyme herb that has a lemony flavor. It offers a mild herbal thyme flavor, along with a subtle essence of lemon. To be more precise, it’s a little bit sour and a little bit sweet.

In a pinch, lemon thyme is an excellent stand-in ingredient for the lemony flavor in lemon pepper seasoning.  At the same time, the herbal flavor of lemon thyme is also a good stand-in element for a peppery flavor.

You can make lemon thyme a perfect substitute for lemon pepper by combining it with a bit of ground black pepper.

While using lemon thyme as a replacement for lemon pepper, use it in twice the amount of the original seasoning required for your recipe. Use the dried and ground lemon thyme in the same way you would use lemon pepper.

3. Shichimi togarashi

Shichimi tōgarashi, also known as nana-iro tōgarashi or simply shichimi, is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients. This blend is mostly useful in various braised and grilled Japanese dishes.

Shichimi togarashi is a good alternative to lemon pepper because of the two key ingredients in it, namely, orange peel and Szechuan peppercorns. These two ingredients replicate the exact flavor profile of lemon pepper seasoning.

Other non-pepper ingredients in Shichimi like nori (seaweed), sesame seed, poppy seed, and ground ginger are versatile ingredients that can go well with most recipes that call for lemon pepper. In fact, many commercially sold lemon pepper blends contain other ingredients that have similar flavors.

Use shichimi togarashi in a 1:1 ratio to substitute lemon pepper.

4. Lemon Extract

Lemon extract has the exact flavor of lemon zest. A blend of lemon extract and ground black pepper is another suitable alternative to lemon pepper.

Indeed, some of the commercial blends of lemon pepper are infused with additional lemon extracts to enhance their citrusy flavor.

Use a blend of 1 teaspoon of lemon extract and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper to replace two teaspoons of lemon pepper.

The Bottom Line

Lemon pepper is nothing but a mixture of granulated lemon zest and cracked black peppercorns. Some of its commercial blends may include other ingredients that make them even more flavorful. Homemade lemon pepper is the best substitute option for you. Shichimi togarashi and lemon thyme are also good substitutes for lemon pepper.

Related articles: