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Best Lime Juice Substitute (Top 9 Picks)

Discover a suitable lime juice substitute that can bring a similar citrusy flavor and enhance your culinary creations.

Whether you’ve run out of fresh limes or simply prefer an alternative, this article explores various options to provide that zesty tang in your dishes.

Glass filled with lime juice and decorated with lime slices.

Why Use Lime Juice In Cooking

Lime juice serves several purposes in cooking, adding flavor, acidity, and freshness to a wide range of dishes.

Here are some key effects of using lime juice in cooking:

1. Flavor Enhancer

Lime juice adds a distinct citrusy flavor that can brighten up a dish. Its tangy and slightly acidic taste provides a refreshing and zesty element to both savory and sweet recipes.

2. Tenderizer

The acidity in lime juice can help tenderize certain ingredients, particularly proteins like fish and seafood. When used as a marinade, lime juice can break down proteins, resulting in more tender and flavorful dishes.

3. Balancing Ingredient

Lime juice can balance flavors in a recipe by cutting through richness or sweetness.

Its acidity can help offset the heaviness of fatty or rich ingredients, creating a more harmonious taste profile.

Note that limes have a slightly bitter flavor. For this reason, people often use it in combination with a sweet ingredient to compensate.

4. Ceviche and Marinades

Lime juice is commonly used in ceviche, a popular dish where raw fish or seafood is “cooked” in citrus juice.

The acid in the lime juice denatures the proteins in the fish, giving it a cooked texture and flavor.

5. Preservative

The high acidity of lime juice can act as a natural preservative, helping to prevent certain fruits and vegetables from browning or oxidizing.

Sprinkling or brushing lime juice on cut fruits or avocados can help maintain their color and freshness.

Best Lime Juice Substitutes

When you find yourself without lime juice for a recipe, there are several excellent lime juice substitutes that can mimic its tangy and citrusy flavor.

1. Lime Zest

Lime zest can be a great substitute for lime juice in recipes. It is perfect for baked goods and desserts.

This ingredient is especially great if you do not need additional liquids in your recipe.

The zest offers a bright citrus flavor that’s even more pronounced than lime juice.

This alternative has a slightly different flavor profile and lower acidity.

To use lime zest in cooking, finely grate the outer peel of a lime. Make sure to avoid the bitter white pith, though.

Tip: Use ½ teaspoon of lime zest to replace a tablespoon of lime juice. Consider adjusting your other ingredients to compensate for the difference in acidity.

2. Pure Lime Extract

The lime extract has a solid, zesty, and tart flavor profile. Its taste closely resembles freshly squeezed lime juice.

Generally, the lime extract is less acidic than lime juice. But depending on the brand or how you make it at home, the level of acidity varies.

You can use lime extract to replace lime juice in drinks, baked goods, and savory dishes and drinks including margaritas and mojitos.

It can add a bright, citrusy flavor to cakes, cookies, and pies. Similarly, it works well in marinades, dressings, and sauces.

Like any fruit extract, a little goes a long way for lime extract. A few drops might be all you need to replace a tablespoon of lime juice.

Tip: Start with 2-3 drops and do a taste test to be safe. Add more if necessary.

3. Lime Oil

Lime oil is even more concentrated than lime extract. After all, it comes directly from the lime peels, so it packs an intense flavor.

Lime oil is not as acidic as lime juice but can still add a tangy taste to dishes. It offers a citrusy and slightly sweet aroma.

The best thing about lime oil is that it has a very long shelf life. So, if you’ve got a small bottle, you won’t need to worry about not having lime juice for a long time.

Tip: It is important to ensure that you are using a food-grade and pure lime oil if using it for culinary purposes. Following proper usage guidelines and dilution ratios is recommended.

4. Key Lime Juice

Key limes are native to the Florida Keys in the United States and are also grown in other tropical and subtropical regions.

Their juice is known for its intense acidity and slightly sweet undertones.

Key lime juice is an excellent substitute for lime juice as they share similar citrus notes. These fruits are less acidic and not as tart. They also come with a floral aroma.

But the thing is, fresh key limes are not as easy to find in stores as people do not grow them commercially.

They are also highly perishable as they have thinner skin. For this reason, you may be better off using bottled versions of the juice instead.

You can use key lime juice in marinades, sauces, salad dressings, and desserts like key lime pie.

Tip: Use 2-3 tablespoons of key lime juice for every tablespoon of lime juice your recipe calls for.

5. Lemon Juice

Glass with lemon juice and fresh lemons next to it.

Lemon juice shares a similar flavor profile and has almost the same acidity level as lime juice. For this reason, it is among the best substitutes for fresh lime juice.

You can use lemon juice in all recipes that call for lime juice, except, of course, key lime pie.

Use this as a go-to replacement for drinks and dishes; expect they will taste almost the same.

Note that commercial lemon juice often sold with higher sugar content.

Tip: As these swaps are nearly identical, you may use a 1:1 ratio when substituting lime juice with lemon juice.

6. Vinegar

Table top with dish with apple cider vinegar.

Vinegar is a good substitute for lime juice, especially in recipes that need acidity.

You can use it in ceviche, salsa, and guacamole recipes instead of lime.

Do note that not all kinds of vinegar will work. Apple cider and white wine vinegar are the best, as they come near the acidity level of lime juice.

Also, remember that vinegar’s flavor profile is too different, so it will not work in all recipes.

For instance, you are better off with other swaps if you intend to bake.

Tip: Since vinegar is more potent, a 1:1 ratio for substitution might be too much for most recipes. To avoid overpowering your dish, cut the amount in half.

7. Orange Juice

Orange juice is another citrus juice you can use to replace fresh squeezed lime juice.

It has the citrusy notes you expect from lime juice. But unlike lime juice, orange juice is sweet and much less acidic.

This difference in flavor profile and acidity will make your dish taste different.

It works well if you want to introduce a twist to your classic recipes. As always, with juices, it is always best to make your own by squeezing fresh oranges.

Tip: Use the same amount of freshly squeezed orange juice as the lime juice called for in recipes.

8. Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice has a sour, tangy taste with a hint of sweetness. It can be an excellent alternative even when it is not as acidic as lime juice.

After all, it can offer a tart, citrusy, and acidic flavor profile that works well in many recipes.

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice particularly works well in marinades. Aside from adding flavor, it also helps make the meat more tender.

It also tastes great in cocktails and salad dressings.

Tip: When replacing lime juice with grapefruit juice, use a 1:1 ratio. Using it will significantly alter the taste of your food or drink.

9. Citrus Zest

Citrus zest does not have the same level of acidity as citrus juice. After all, most of the acidity in citrus fruits comes with the liquid.

Still, the zest of oranges, lemons, or grapefruits can offer recipes a bright, citrusy flavor.

That said, citrus zest can be a great lime juice alternative in dishes that need flavor and tang. It will have a more intense flavor.

You can opt to use any citrus zest in baked goods or cooking. But you have to get your acidity from another ingredient.

Tip: Use a 1:2 ratio of zest to lime juice. You may also need to alter your recipe to compensate for its solid instead of liquid nature.

Here are some common ways to use lime juice:

Salad Dressing and Sauces

Lime juice is a key ingredient in many dressings and sauces, especially in dishes with a tropical or Mexican influence.

Whisk lime juice with olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper to create a flavorful dressing for salads, or drizzle it over grilled meats, vegetables, or seafood.


Lime juice can be used as a base for marinades, particularly for fish, shrimp, chicken, or tofu.

Combine lime juice with other seasonings like garlic, herbs, and spices to infuse your protein with a tangy and zesty flavor.

Salsas and Guacamole

Lime juice is essential in salsas and guacamole, providing acidity and brightness.

Add lime juice to chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and other ingredients to make a zesty salsa.

Squeeze lime juice over mashed avocados to make guacamole with a refreshing twist.


Lime juice is commonly used in desserts like key lime pie, lime bars, or lime-flavored cakes and cookies.

It adds a tart and tangy flavor that balances the sweetness in these treats.

Seafood and Ceviche

Lime juice is a key ingredient in ceviche, a dish where raw fish or seafood is “cooked” in citrus juice.

The acid in the lime juice denatures the proteins, resulting in a flavorful and cooked texture.

Squeeze lime juice over grilled or steamed fish and seafood to enhance their taste.

Mexican Cuisine

In Mexican cuisine, lime juice is also a popular condiment for tacos and other dishes.

For these recipes, you can replace the lime juice with the same amount of lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

Grapefruit juice also works. But remember that the flavor may differ slightly, but the acidity will be there.

For instance, grapefruit juice will make your dish sweeter. White wine vinegar, on the other hand, will lend more acidity.

Thai Cuisine

Thai recipes that call for lime juice include curries, stir-fries, and noodle dishes. If you’re out of lime juice, use lemon juice, tamarind paste, or apple cider vinegar.

These ingredients can give your recipes the tart flavor and the required acidity. It is best to start with a small substitute amount in these dishes and adjust as necessary.

Cocktails and beverages

Lime juice is a popular ingredient in many beverages. Add it to water for a refreshing citrus-infused drink.

Lime juice is a staple ingredient in margaritas and mojitos, adding a tangy and citrusy note.

If you don’t have lime juice, use lemon or grapefruit juice instead.

Use the same amount of substitute as you would for lime juice. But remember that the flavor may be slightly different.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Lime Juice?

You can use many other ingredients if you don’t have lime juice. Among the best ones are lemon juice, lime zest, and vinegar.
Remember that these swaps do not necessarily share the same acidity as lime juice. You may need to adjust your recipe to get to your desired flavor.

What Can I Use Instead Of Lime Juice In Fajitas?

For fajitas, the best lime juice substitute is lemon juice. Lemon juice will provide the same tangy and acidic flavor to your recipe.
Since there is a flavor difference between lemons and limes, there will also be a slight flavor shift. Still, fajitas with lemon juice will be delicious and flavorful.

Can I Use Lemon Juice Instead Of Lime Juice In Guacamole?

Yes, you can substitute lime juice with lemon juice in guacamole. Lemon juice has a similar acidity level to lime juice and can provide a tangy flavor. This fruit juice also complements the creamy texture of the avocado. Just like lime juice, the acidity of lemon juice will also help prevent the dish from browning.


Lime juice is a versatile ingredient that can add a burst of flavor and acidity to a variety of dishes. But if you find yourself without this tart juice, there’s no need to fret. There are many lime juice substitute options you can go for. Lime zest, key lime juice, lemon juice, and vinegar can provide a similar taste to your dishes.

Each option has slightly different properties. That said, it’s important to consider the acidity level and flavor profile before use. With these substitutes in mind, you can make delicious meals and drinks even when you’re out of lime juice.

Glass filled with lime juice and decorated with lime slices.

Lime Juice Substitute.

Natalia-Flavorful Home
Here's a simple recipe for a homemade lime juice substitute.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course condiment
Cuisine American


  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar


  • In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and orange juice. These citrus juices will provide the tangy and citrusy flavor similar to lime juice.
  • Add the white vinegar to the bowl. The vinegar will contribute a slight tang and acidity, enhancing the lime-like flavor.
  • Stir the mixture well to ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Taste the mixture and adjust the quantities if needed. You can add a bit more lemon juice or vinegar to achieve the desired level of tartness and acidity.


This homemade substitute can work well in various recipes that call for lime juice, such as dressings, marinades, sauces, and beverages.
Use the homemade lime juice substitute in your recipe as you would use fresh lime juice.
Remember to consider the recipe’s requirements and adjust the quantities accordingly.


Calories: 15kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.02gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 65mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 36IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 4mgIron: 0.1mg
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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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