Simple Lemon Zest Substitutes

A zested lemon

Lemon zest can add a lot of flavor to a recipe. 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 (or you just don't like the texture of the zest), try one of these simple substitutes.


There are a few options that are viable replacements for lemon zest.

Among those are lemon extract, lemon juice, and dried lemon peel. You might even be able to get away with the zest of another citrus fruit. Which you choose will depend on your recipe, how much you need, and what you have in the kitchen.


You can replace each teaspoon of lemon zest called for in your recipe with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. This will give you the closest flavor match possible, though there are other options.

If you have dried lemon peel in your pantry, it can also stand in for fresh lemon zest. Since the flavor is more concentrated than fresh zest, use 1/3 of what the recipe calls for. 

If you have fresh oranges or limes on hand, you can use the zest of those fruits 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.

Another option is to simply leave the zest out if it's only being used as a garnish.

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 will save you from having to run to the store.

When to Avoid Substitution

If your recipe calls for a large amount of lemon zest, don't try to replace it. It obviously plays an important role in the finished product.

Adding a bunch of lemon extract or lemon juice won't have the same effect. They will, however, add a significant amount of liquid and it may be enough to ruin your food.

It's a better idea to set that recipe aside until you have a chance to buy lemons. One exception to this rule is if you're okay with shifting the flavor to orange or lime zest. It won't work for every recipe, but it can for some and you might be delightfully surprised with the result.

Lemon Zest Yield

You can typically expect to get 1 tablespoon of zest from a medium-sized lemon. This is helpful information if you''re trying to determine how many lemons to buy. It is also useful when you need to get your substitution right and the recipe says something vague like, "the zest of half a lemon."