Top 3 Substitutes for Lemon Zest

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

If you ever find yourself in need of a lemon zest substitute, there are plenty of viable options that will give you the citrus flavor you’re looking for.

What is Lemon Zest?

Lemon zest is the name given to the very outer edge of the lemon peel, essentially the layer of yellow skin. This thin layer of the peel is rich in lemon flavor, unlike the white pith beneath it, and it is commonly called for in recipes of desserts, sweet dishes, and in the preparation of cocktails. There is also a zest for other citrus fruits, such as orange, citron, and lime. However, when a recipe calls for lemon zest and you have no lemons on hand, it is important to find a suitable replacement for that sweet, citrus ingredient.

Lemon Zest Substitute

The best lemon zest substitute options include lime zest, lemon oil, lemon peel, and lemon extract, among others.

A bottle of lemon oil with peeled lemon and whole lemons

Lemon oil is commonly used for aromatherapy and relaxation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Lime Zest

If you are simply looking for a citrus bite, you can use lime zest in place of lemons. You can add it to various recipes, desserts, and dishes. You remove lime zest the same way as you remove lemon zest; simply run a vegetable peeler or knife along the edge of the fruit to remove the thin layer of color.

Lemon Extract

Lemon extract is notably stronger than lemon zest but will provide a similar lemony flavor to a dessert or baked good. Be sure to use lemon extract in moderation, as it is very potent and can overpower a dish if too much is used.

Lemon Oil

Similar to lemon extract, lemon oil is another concentrated form of lemon flavor, and can provide the lemon bite in a dish that you’re looking for. A few drops of lemon oil is enough to make up for an entire helping of lemon zest.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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