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Lemon Zest Substitute

Here we have the best lemon zest substitute options to use in your recipes. Adding lemon zest as a garnish or including it in dessert recipes is a delicious way to pack a punch of flavor with a single ingredient. It can be a frustrating occurrence if you’re out of lemon zest. Check all the alternatives below you can replace it with.

tabletop with stainless steel lemon zester, lemon shreds, whole lemon, white bowl with lemons

What Is Lemon Zest?

Lemon zest is the outside peel of the lemon that has been grated. It is included in sweet and savory recipes, though it’s more common to see it in desserts. This zest offers a delicious strong lemon taste to dishes and has a different flavor when you cook it versus when you eat it raw. When the lemon zest is heated, it can offer a subtle flowery taste to recipes.

The zest of lemons is not new in the culinary world and has been used since the 1600s, with the word zest coming from the French word “zeste.” Zest of this citrus fruit does not include the white section, only the yellow exterior. Initially, zest was used to add taste to croissants.

Lemon Zest Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Fresh Lemon Juice

Fresh lemon juice is an excellent substitute for lemon zest. It adds a similar brightness to recipes and a lemon flavor. It has a more subtle flavor than lemon zest, so that you will need a more significant amount in each dish.

The acidity is present when substituting lemon juice for lemon zest from fresh lemons, though it naturally has a slightly sweeter flavor. You can use this swap for nearly all recipes that call for lemon zest. However, the other liquids may need to be adjusted to account for this alternative.

Lemons are easy to come by and only take a few minutes to squeeze, especially if an electric juicer is on hand. A similar acidity and lemon flavor will be present using lemon juice instead of lemon zest.

Using fresh lemon juice adds a step to the recipe and changes the consistency in recipes. The flavor will be different due to the sweetness lemon juice provides.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 2:1 ratio when replacing lemon zest with lemon juice.

2. Dried Lemon Peel

The dried lemon peel works as a lemon zest alternative. However, it provides a more concentrated flavor to dishes, so you will need less when working with this substitute. The dried lemon peel offers a lemon flavor, slight sweetness, and mild bitterness.

This swap can be found at stores, though it’s not always readily available. If you can find this alternative, it has many uses, so you can use it in all recipes that call for lemon zest. Try this lemon zest substitution in marinades, spice mixes, sweets, and to boost flavor on vegetables or chicken.

Using dried lemon peel provides a similar lemon flavor to recipes. It’s an affordable option with a long shelf life. This option offers versatility and works in any lemon zest dish.

Dried lemon peel has a more pungent taste which can be overpowering if you use too much in a recipe. The flavor is slightly different than that of lemon zest. However, it will only be noticeable to those with sensitive palates.

Cooking Tip:
Use 2/3 of the amount the recipe calls for and adjust as needed.

3. Lemon Extract

Lemon extract is another good substitute for lemon zest. Like the above options, the lemon extract provides a lemon taste to dishes. Lemon extract is created by adding lemon peels to alcohol and soaking. Because of this process, no bitter flavor or acidity is present in lemon extract, and it offers a bolder lemon flavor.

Use this alternative for sweet recipes like cakes, pies, and even ice cream. As there is no acidity, the lemon flavor will lack the tanginess of lemon zest.

This extract is easily found in grocery stores near other flavoring extracts like vanilla. The lemon extract works well with dessert recipes and provides a lemon flavor like lemon zest.

The taste of lemon extract lacks the acidity that lemon zest provides. Using lemon extract in recipes will provide a different flavor than lemon zest. This alternative is limited to dessert items and does not work well with savory dishes.

Cooking Tip:
Use one teaspoon for every tablespoon of lemon zest.

4. Concentrated Lemon Juice

Concentrated lemon juice is another excellent sub to lemon zest. It has a much stronger flavor than zest, so you will need less in recipes. This replacement is created by heating lemon juice until a large amount of the water has evaporated, leaving behind a strong-tasting lemon juice.

This juice works for most recipes that call for lemon zest. It is also easy to find in grocery stores and has a long shelf life.

Using concentrated lemon juice offers a lemon taste to recipes. It’s readily available in your local stores, and you can use it in any lemon zest recipe.

Concentrated lemon juice has a robust flavor; if you use too much, it will overpower the other flavor notes in the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use ½ the amount requested by the recipe to replace lemon zest.

5. Lemon Oil

The lemon essential oil will work in recipes to replace lemon zest. This oil offers a citrusy lemon flavor and a clean taste. It’s drawn out of lemon peels using a cold-press machine.

While it’s less common to use lemon oil in cooking, it’s a versatile alternative that works with any lemon zest recipe. It is essential to ensure that a food-grade version of lemon oil is purchased as some essential oils are only for external use and not to ingest.

Lemon oil has a bright lemon flavor that you can use in lemon zest dishes. You will only need a few drops of lemon oil to replace lemon zest.

Most grocery stores do not carry lemon essential oil, so you will likely need to order it online. Essential oils can be on the pricier side, though they will last a long time and have multiple uses, including as a cleaning agent.

Cooking Tip:
Use 1-3 drops of lemon oil to replace lemon zest in dishes.

6. Candied Lemon Peel

Candied lemon peel is a lemon zest replacement best in dessert recipes due to its sweet flavor. Like other lemon-based alternatives, you will find this option provides a lemon taste to recipes. This swap is made from softened lemon skin, simmered with sugar and water until candied.

You can eat these lemon peels by themselves, use them as a garnish for desserts, or mix them into batters before baking (like muffin batter or cake batter). Most stores carry this option near the other candied fruit in the baking aisle.

Candied lemon peels add a deliciously sweet, citrusy taste to recipes. They are pretty easy to find in local grocery shops and make excellent additives to desserts.

These lemon peels are much sweeter than lemon zest; there will be a taste difference. With the sweetness present, it’s best to avoid candied lemon peels in savory recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use ¼ less candied lemon peels than the recipe requires.

7. Lime Zest

Lime zest is an excellent alternative to lemon zest. As these fruits are from the citrus family, you can expect a similar fruity, citrus taste. Like lemon zest, this zest does not have a bitter flavor because the white section of the skin is not included. Lime zest will provide a slightly sourer taste than lemon zest.

You can use lime zest in any recipe that calls for lemon zest, including savory dishes. This versatility makes lime zest one of the best options.

Limes are readily available in grocery stores, making it easy to use this replacement for cooking. They are also generally cheaper than lemons, making them a budget-friendly option. Lime zest offers a similar taste in recipes with a citrus flavor that mimics the taste of lemon zest.

There will be a slight flavor difference when using lime zest instead of lemon zest because of the sourness lime zest provides. When using lime zest as a garnish, it does present a different color than lemon zest.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio when you substitute lemon zest with lime zest.

8. Orange Zest

Orange zest is another excellent choice for a lemon zest swap. Like lime zest, this citrus fruit offers a citrusy taste that mimics the flavor of lemon zest. This zest provides a bright orange color to dishes and a slightly sweeter taste than lemon zest.

It’s an easy-to-find alternative as most stores carry oranges year-round. You can use any variety of orange to make orange zest, and it works in any recipe that calls for lemon zest. However, as it is sweeter, there will be a slight sweetness in recipes that use this swap.

Orange zest provides a sweet, citrus taste and aroma to recipes. You can use it for any dish which calls for lemon zest.

Using orange zest as an alternative to lemon zest offers a sweeter taste which may not appeal to everyone when you use this as a replacement.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio as a swap for lemon zest.

9. Other Citrus Zest

While lime zest and orange zest will provide the most similar taste lemon zest alternative, you can also use zest from other citrus fruits like pomelo, tangelos, grapefruits, and tangerines. The flavor will vary slightly depending on which option is chosen. However, you’ll find a similar citrus taste in recipes when using this alternative.

You can use the citrus zest for any recipe that calls for lemon zest. Keep in mind; some citrus fruits may offer a sourer taste than others, so you may want to adjust the quantity slightly.

Any form of citrus is easy to find at the grocery store. Most have reasonable prices, making this another budget-friendly option. Using other citrus zest offers a citrusy taste to recipes.

The flavor and color will be slightly different than that of lemon zest.

Cooking Tip:
Use in a 1:1 ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Use if I Don’t Have Lemon Zest?

Multiple lemon zest replacements will still offer a similar lemon flavor to recipes. Lemon juice and lemon oil are excellent swaps for lemon zest in recipes. They still provide a lemon taste, though the quantity required for each is different than when using lemon zest.

Can You Substitute lemon juice for lemon Zest?

Yes, you can replace the lemon zest with fresh lemon juice and bottled lemon juice in small quantities. Substituting lemon juice for lemon zest will add a more subtle flavor to dishes that require lemon zest. A few tablespoons of juice are sufficient to replace the taste of lemon zest.

Does Lemon Zest Make a Difference?

Yes, lemon zest does make a difference in recipes. It adds a strong, acidic flavor to dishes that help brighten up the flavor. While you can omit lemon zest in recipes, it will feel like the dish is missing something.

How Much Is the Zest of One Lemon?

The amount of zest available per lemon will vary depending on the size of the lemon. Generally, a small lemon will yield about ½ tablespoon of zest, while a medium lemon provides about one tablespoon. It’s best to measure the zest out before including it in a recipe to confirm the correct amount is in use.

Is Lemon Zest Stronger Than Lemon Juice?

Yes, lemon zest is more potent than lemon juice. This is why only small amounts of lemon zest are usually included in recipes, while anywhere from a few tablespoons to cups (for baked goods) of lemon juice are used.

How much juice is in one lemon?

The medium size lemon will produce approximately three tablespoons of juice. The exact amount of juice will depend on the size and how juicy the lemon is.


Next time you hunt for a lemon zest alternative, you can turn to this list for ideas. With many available options, your recipes will be left bright and citrusy. Opt for lime zest, lemon juice, or lemon essential oil as the top choices. However, any of the above options will work for most recipes.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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