What Can I Substitute For Lemon Zest?

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If you are searching for a lemon zest substitute, we can assume you have begun baking and are in need of a quick fix.

Well, lucky for you, we have the information you are looking for, plus a little extra.

Most people believe that lemon juice is the best way to add a tangy zip to any dish.

It offers a fantastic fragrance and a bit of brightness. Crazy enough, the peel is the best way to go.

So, when you run out, what on earth do you do?

Below are five of the best ways to finish your dish without rushing out to the store or scrapping it altogether.

  • Orange or lime zest
  • Lemon pepper
  • Lemon peels
  • Lemon extract

Keep reading to learn more about each item and how to substitute correctly!

What is Zest of Lemon Exactly?

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If you are scouring the web to find an alternative to lemon zest, chances are good you already know what it is. But, for those of you who have no clue what this ingredient is, let us give you a little insight. (*)

Lemon zest is the bits of skin that come off a lemon once you cut or scrape the peel. You can only zest an unwaxed piece of fruit. And it is only the outer, thin, yellow layer of the peel where the tart and flavorful oils come from.

You can use the lemon zest for savory dishes, baked goods, marinades, and so much more.

The 5 Lemon Zest Substitutes for Delicious Dishes, Drinks, and Desserts.

Every baker knows there is a substitute out there for almost any ingredient. In all honesty, lemon zest is one of the harder flavors to replicate, but it can is something you can do.

Take a look at the items listed below to find the perfect alternative for your up-and-coming dish.

Add a Little Lemon Juice.

(Best for savory dishes)

When substituting lemon juice for lemon zest, it is always better to use fresh lemon and squeeze. Fresh lemons have a better taste compared to using store-bought juice in a jug.

But why would you squeeze a lemon if you have it instead of zesting it? Short and sweet, cutting a lemon in half and squeezing a few drops out will take a lot less time than shredding the peel.

True, you can use lemon juice if you want. But, you will notice the recipe tastes sour rather than citrusy, so we recommend sticking to the real deal.

How to substitute: 1 TBSP of lemon juice= ½ TBSP of lemon zest.

Using lemon juice:

  • Go fresh, never bottled.
  • Great for sour flavoring
  • Not ideal for mixing with milk or cream as it will curdle due to high acidity.

Use Orange or Lime Zest Instead.

(Orange zest is best when used in desserts like cheesecake, muffins and cakes. Lime is best for savory meals.)

If you bake often, you might have some other citrus fruit zest lying around the kitchen? If so, we recommend using that instead of forgoing the zest altogether.

You’ll find orange and lime are the best lemon zest alternatives on the market today.

Orange is ideal for desserts, giving it a great texture, look, and taste. But, lime will provide a flavor closer to that of a lemon and work better in savory-type dishes.

How to substitute: 1 TBSP of orange or lime zest= 1 tablespoon lemon zest substitute

Using Orange or Lime Zest

  • They provide the same texture as lemon zest.
  • They offer a versatile flavor.
  • Easy to find and not very expensive

Learn more: Orange Zest Substitute: Top 8 Alternatives for Your Recipes!

Check the Spice Rack for Some Lemon Pepper.

(Only good on savory dishes, dressings, garnishes, or marinades)

Lemon pepper can be a fantastic replacement for lemon zest when you are in a pinch. Yet, it isn’t ideal for all dishes, and you should only use it when creating a savory dish. You know, the ones that ask for salt, pepper, or a little spice.

We recommend making your own lemon pepper from fresh ingredients. Keep it on hand since it can boost the flavor of many menu items.

How to substitute: 1 TSP of lemon pepper = 1 TSP of Lemon zest.

Using Lemon Pepper

  • Mix with pepper or salt in a 1:1 ratio
  • Can be homemade or purchased in the spice section
  • There is no recommended amount; add to taste.

Dry out a Few Lemon Peels.

(It works well on both sweet and savory dishes).

Granted, lemon zest comes from lemon peels. It is not exactly the same as a dried lemon peel, nor do they taste exactly alike.

Dried lemon peels go through a dehydration process. This process makes them more potent with an intensified flavor.

You can dry lemon peels on your own if you have a food dehydrator, or you can buy them from any local grocery store.

How to substitute: 1/3 TBSP of dried lemon peel = 1 TBSP of lemon zest.

Using Lemon Peels

  • Use them dried out or peeled fresh.
  • It has a strong flavor.
  • Make it in your dehydrator at home.

Try a Touch of Lemon Extract.

(Best for baking and marinades).

We all know lemon extract is best suited for baked goods. This is because it provides your desserts with a lemony flavor without the tart tang.

It’s best to use small amounts of lemon extract since it is an impactful, concentrated product. Thus, making it more flavorful than the other options listed.

How to substitute: ½ Tbsp lemon extract = 1 TBSP of lemon zest.

Using Lemon Extract

  • Perfect for baking desserts
  • It offers a strong lemony flavor minus the tartness.
  • The flavor is more intense than lemon zest.

Learn more: The Top 6 Substitutes for Lemon Extract You MIGHT NOW KNOW!

How Do You Zest a Lemon?

We provided you with lots of great alternatives to lemon zest. We did this in hopes of keeping you from forgoing this popular and palatable flavor.

Now let’s take a few minutes to talk about how you can zest your own lemon if you run out of the stuff from the store.

  • Use a Zester– The most obvious way to zest a lemon is by using the tool designed for this specific reason.
  • Use a kitchen grater– Most families have a grater somewhere in their kitchens. These are often used to shred cheese or fruits and veggies. Use this to shred the sides of your lemon peel.
  • Use a vegetable peeler– A vegetable peeler is a great way to zest a lemon, ensuring you only get the top layer of the skin.
  • Use a Microplane– Microplanes are perfect for zesting lemons and other citrus fruit. This tool will shred ultra-fine lemon zest.
  • Use a Sharpe Knife– Usine a knife isn’t ideal, but it works the same. Always make sure you graze the side of your lemon with a gentle motion, and you don’t cut too deep into the fruit.

If you aren’t comfortable jumping in, we found a great YouTube video that will take you zesting one step at a time.

When Not to Substitute Lemon Zest

Sometimes, you can’t replicate the benefits lemon zest adds to a meal, and a trip to the grocery store is imperative.

A good time to reconsider substituting lemon zest is when the recipe relies on a heavy amount.

Because most of the alternative options are liquid, adding too much can ruin the entire dish. In this case, we would recommend holding off until you have all the correct ingredients.

Can You Leave it Out Altogether?

Some recipes call for lemon zest for its color or texture only. In these scenarios, you might want to leave the ingredient out altogether.

Certain recipes will taste better without lemon zest as opposed to an alternative.

Lemon Zest FAQs

Do you still have questions about lemon zest? Well, we have the answers.

How Much Zest Can You Get from One Lemon?

One average-sized lemon will provide you with about one tablespoon of lemon zest. Never let your peels go to waste, and zest them even if you don’t plan on using them right away.

Can You Buy Lemon Zest? Is it Expensive?

Yes, you can grab a package of lemon zest from the cooler section at the grocery store. Yet, it will be more expensive than zesting fresh lemons yourself, plus the latter tastes a lot better.

How Long Does Lemon Zest Last?

You can keep lemon zest in a tight zip lock baggie in the refrigerator for about a week. Or you can keep it in the freezer for up to six months.

What is the Closest Substitute for Lemon Zest?

Lemon extract is the closest alternative to lemon zest flavor. This option will provide you with a strong, profound flavor mimicking that of the fruit.

Final Thoughts

Lemon zest provides a unique, bold, citrusy flavor to any recipe imaginable.

You can use this ingredient to give your cookies an extra kick or your chicken breast a fruity burst. With that said, there is nothing more frustrating than reaching for the zest only to realize it isn’t there.

Thanks to a little hard work, we came up with five great alternatives to help you master your meal, even in a pinch.

Happy cooking!

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