Lemon Zest Substitute

Cyd Converse

You're in the middle of a recipe, everything's going great... then you realize you don't have any lemons to make zest! Panic over - here are a few lemon zest substitutes you can use to save the day.

There's nothing worse than thinking you have all the ingredients for a recipe like Lemon Coconut Cake or Lemon Bars, only to find you're missing one ingredient - in this case, lemon zest. Or, perhaps, you have some lemons available but want a shortcut that doesn't involve actually having to zest them!

Lemon Cookies Photo

Either way, there are a few lemon zest substitutes you can use that will still give you great results and save you a trip to the grocery store!

Note: Lemon zest adds a significant pop of flavor to the dishes it's used in, so whichever replacement you use needs to do more or less the same.

If your recipe calls for a LOT of lemon zest, these substitutes might not work as well, because they'll either change the flavor too much, or they will add a lot of unnecessary liquid to the dish and totally change the texture. 

1 medium lemon generally yields around 1 tablespoon zest. So if a recipe calls for the zest of half a lemon, you are looking at replacing 1.5 teaspoons of zest.

Puff Pastry Lemon Knots Picture

Lemon extract

It's probably a good idea to keep a bottle of this on hand at all times, as it comes in very handy if you're looking for a replacement for lemon zest.

Use 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract to replace 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Puff Pastry Lemon Knots Image

Lemon juice

Obviously fresh lemon juice is the best type to use instead of zest, but that requires fresh lemons. And if you're reading this article, that probably means you don't have any!

But a bottle of shop-bought juice will do the job just as well.

Use 2 tablespoons lemon juice to replace 1 teaspoon lemon zest

The zest of another fruit

You can use the zest of limes or even oranges to add a lovely fruity flavor to your dish - but, of course, that flavor won't be lemon!

In some recipes, a lime or orange flavor might work really well, but perhaps not in others. If you plan to use this substitute, think hard about whether all the flavors will complement each other.

Puff Pastry Lemon Knots Pic

Dried lemon peel

Did you know it's very easy to dry out lemon peel at home, so you'll always have some available if a lemon zest emergency pops up in the future?

To make your own dried lemon peel

  1. Take one or more organic lemons. It's important that you use organic fruit, because the skin of non-organic fruit may well contain pesticides.
  2. Cut away the colored part of the lemon skin with a very sharp knife. Take care not to include any of the white pith layer that lies underneath. It has an unpleasant, bitter taste and it also makes it take a lot longer to dry out the peel!
  3. Spread the strips out on a plate with the cut side facing up.
  4. Leave for a few days until they no longer feel moist and they look shrivelled and dry.
  5. You can also dry lemon peel in the oven - just spread it out on a  baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 200 degree F oven for around half an hour.

Once the peel is totally dry, just use a blender to crush it into a fine powder and store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.

Use 1/3 teaspoon dried lemon peel to replace 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Lemon Meringue Donuts Picture

More tasty lemon recipes

Lemon Meringue Donuts

Lemon Meringue Fudge

Lemon Cream Cheese Pie

Cyd is a native of Upstate New York, born to a family of women who love to cook and host parties. She shares her love of all things food, home and entertaining on her blog, The Sweetest Occasion and on Instagram.

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