Best Lemon Zest Substitutes – 6 Lemony Options

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 dish’s flavor profile.

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

What is lemon zest?

Zest is a food ingredient prepared by scraping or cutting 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.

There are plenty of ways to zest a lemon. The crucial part of the process is removing the thin yellow zest and avoiding the bitter white pith.

It gives a lemon flavor to dishes.

You can use lemon zest in many cooking ways, such as adding flavor to baked goods like cakes, cookies, and muffins. It also suits savory dishes like pasta, salads, and sauces. It can also be used as a garnish for drinks or desserts.

What is a good substitute for lemon zest?

Dishes with a lemony flavor are genuinely delicious and relishing. You may be preparing a recipe that calls for lemon zest, but you don’t have it. You may consider one of the options from our list of lemon zest substitutes. Any citrus zest, including candied lemon zest, is an excellent option.

1. Lemon essential oil

Lemon essential 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. This lemon extract is a great 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 is more intense than the zest. Use about 2 drops of lemon oil instead of the 1 teaspoon of lemon zest your recipe calls for.

2. Lemon peel

Lemon zest is the crated outer peel of fresh lemon fruit. Fresh lemon zest from raw lemon peel is both spicy 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 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 more enormous, oval-shaped, and bright yellow. They are both acidic and sour in flavor, but lemons tend to be sweeter.

Lemon zest has a distinctive aroma and tastes fruitier. Lime zest has an intense 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 it a concentrated, tangy citrus flavor.

Use equal lime zest for your recipe instead 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 don’t have lemon zest.

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 for substitutes, 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 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 an 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 stems in cooking. It is an excellent alternative to lemon zest in recipes that call for a lemony flavor.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use fresh lemon juice to replace lemon zest? 

You can use fresh lemon juice or lime juice to replace lemon zest in some recipes. However, lemon zest contains essential oils that give it its characteristic flavor and aroma. Lemon juice, on the other hand, does not contain these essential oils. For this reason, using lemon juice to replace lemon zest will result in a less flavorful and aromatic dish. Use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for every teaspoon of lemon zest.

Can I substitute grapefruit for lemon zest?

Substituting grapefruit for lemon zest will change the flavor profile of your dish. Grapefruit has a distinctively different taste than lemon. However, grapefruit zest can still provide a bright and citrusy flavor like lemon. Remember that grapefruit zest may be slightly more bitter than lemon zest.

Can I substitute lemon zest and pepper for lemon pepper? 

It’s okay to substitute lemon zest and pepper for lemon pepper. Lemon pepper is a seasoning blend that combines lemon zest with black pepper and sometimes additional spices. Note that the flavor intensity of lemon pepper may vary depending on the amount and freshness of the ingredients used.

Final Thought 

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

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

We recommend dry lemon peel and oils as the best substitutes for lemon zest. If your recipe calls for a large amount of lemon zest, don’t try to substitute it.

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