Lemon Zest Substitute – 6 Lemony Options Worth Using

Finding a good lemon zest substitute for your recipes isn’t difficult. While using a food substitute, you should be sure of its compatibility and impact on the flavor profile of the dish.

Most chefs agree that lemon oil is the most suitable replacement option for lemon zest you can think of. There are also other non-lemon options you may try instead of lemon zest.

What is lemon zest anyway?

Zest is a food ingredient that is prepared by scraping or cutting from the rind of citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, citron, and lime.

Lemon zest is made by scarping the outer part of the lemon peel.

It gives a lemon flavor to dishes. Chefs make use of this ingredient mostly in desserts, meat dishes, or sauces.

What is a good substitute for Lemon Zest?

Dishes with lemony flavor are truly appetizing and relishing. You may be preparing a recipe that calls for lemon zest, but you don’t have it in stock. You may consider one of the options from our list of lemon zest substitutes.

1. Lemon oil

Lemon oil is extracted from the peel of fresh lemons. Usually, the extraction is done through a “cold-pressing” process that pricks and rotates the peel as oil is released.

This oil provides a flavor similar to lemon zest, but a hint stronger. Lemon oil or lemon extract is a wonderful substitute for lemon zest. It adds lemon flavor to the dishes just like the zest.

Please be careful with its use. This oil is a concentrate and more pungent than the zest. Use about 2 drops of lemon oil in place of 1 teaspoon of zest that your recipe calls for.

2. Dry lemon peel

Lemon zest is the crated outer peel of the fresh lemon fruit. Fresh lemon zest from raw lemon peel is both pungent and bitter. The bitterness comes from the white pith of the lemon peel.

However, the dry lemon peel does not have bitterness but maintains a lemony flavor. For this reason, many chefs prefer using dry lemon peel instead of zest.

Even the lemon peel leftover after extracting the oil still retains a strong lemony flavor.

In place of zest, you can conveniently use the dry lemon peel in fish dishes and roasted vegetables that call for lemon flavor. If a recipe requires 1 tablespoon of lemon zest then use 1/3 tablespoon of dried lemon peel instead.

3. Lime zest

Limes are small, round, and green, while lemons are usually larger, oval-shaped, and bright yellow. They both are acidic and sour in flavor, but lemons tend to be sweeter.

Lemon zest has a distinctive aroma and tastes fruitier. Lime zest has a pungent citrus note with a hint of bitterness.

Lime zest is the colored outside portion of a lime peel. Adding a teaspoon of lime zest to your recipe can give a concentrated tangy citrus flavor to it.

Use an equal amount of lime zest for your recipe in place of lemon zest.

4. Orange juice and peels

You can comfortably use other citrus juices or peels for a one-to-one swap when you haven’t got lemon zest at your disposal.

Orange zest or peels make an excellent alternative to lemon peels in baked goods.

Orange juice is less acidic, sweeter, and less tart than lemon zest. It also has an appealing flavor profile like lemon extract.

When you have no better options of substitutes available to you, orange juice is a fine choice in place of lemon zest. It works well in a pinch.

5. Lemonade concentrate

You may be fond of giving a lemony flavor to your dessert recipes. Instead of the lemon zest, you can also try lemonade concentrate in the dessert recipes. It works amazingly well.

Lemonade concentrate adds both zest and juice to the recipe. Therefore, you need to reduce the use of other liquid ingredients in your recipe.

6. Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a herb with a lemony scent.

Both lemongrass and lemon get their lemony scent from the limonene substance present in them.

You can use fresh, dry, or ground lemongrass stem in cooking. It is a good alternative to lemon zest in recipes that calls for a lemony flavor.

Lemongrass is used in stew, soup, and dishes with meat seafood, poultry, and vegetables. Adding a small stalk of lemongrass to your tea or beverages can give them a lemony taste.

The Bottom Line

What substitute to choose in place of lemon zest depends on your recipe. Also, decide how much you need and what you have easily available.

While cooking, making a last-minute ingredient swap is something that happens to everyone. Use the best options available to you.

We recommend dry lemon peel and lemon oils as the best substitutes for lemon zest.