Lemon Zest Substitute

Lemon Zest
Lemon Zest. annick vanderschelden photography/Moment Open/Getty Images
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Lemon zest adds a lot of flavor to a recipe, but unless you're lucky enough to have a lemon tree growing in your backyard, fresh lemons probably aren't something you have on hand all the time. If you're preparing a recipe that calls for lemon zest, and you don't have any lemons to zest (or you just don't like the texture of lemon zest), try one of these simple substitutes in its place.


  •  Lemon extract, lemon juice, dried lemon peel or another citrus zest


Replace each teaspoon of lemon zest called for in your recipe with half a teaspoon of lemon extract or two tablespoons of lemon juice. This will give you the closest flavor match possible. 

If you have fresh oranges or limes on hand, another option is to zest those instead. This will make your recipe taste like oranges or limes instead of lemons, but you'll still have the look and texture of zest in your recipe.

Just leave the zest out of your recipe, if it's being used as a garnish. Lemon extract or lemon juice won't serve the same purpose. You can also omit the zest from your recipe, if it only calls for a small amount. Your recipe may not taste quite as lemony, but it'll save you from having to run to the store for lemons, and sometimes that matters more.

Don't try to replace the lemon zest in your recipe, if it call for a large amount. It obviously plays an important role in the finished product. Adding a bunch of lemon extract or lemon juice won't do the same job, and will add a significant amount of liquid to the recipe — enough to wreck it. Set that recipe aside until you have a chance to buy lemons. One exception to this rule: If you have oranges or limes that you can zest, and you're okay with shifting the flavor to a different citrus fruit, go ahead and make your recipe. A large amount of orange or lime zest is just as good.

Substituting Dried Lemon Peel for Lemon Zest

If you have dried lemon peel in your pantry, it can also stand in for fresh lemon zest. Since the flavor of dried lemon peel is more concentrated than fresh zest, use one-third as much. 

How Much Zest Do You Get From One Lemon?

You'll usually get a tablespoon of zest from a medium sized lemon.

That's helpful information, if you''re trying to determine how many lemons to buy for a recipe. It's also helpful information for when you're trying to get your substitution right.

More Ingredient Substitutions

Pin or bookmark my full ingredient substitution list before you go, so you have it handy the next time you find yourself out of an ingredient, or needing to make a swap due to an allergy or dislike for an ingredient.

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