Lemon Zest Substitute

lemon zest

We’ve all found ourselves in the tricky situation of trying to make a recipe and realizing last minute that we are missing a crucial ingredient. Often times, however, crafty cooks are able to substitute an alternative ingredient to make up for the missing component – often to great success. In the case of lemon zest, you can rest easy knowing that there are several common ingredients that can save the day in a pinch.

Continue reading to understand why dried lemon peels, lemon extract, lemon juice and orange or lime zest are all great lemon zest substitutes.

What is Lemon Zest?

Lemon zest is made from the yellow outer layer of a lemon’s peel.  The peel is grated to fine pieces and mixed into a variety of dishes. Lemon zest is a common ingredient in many recipes. It packs a bright and tangy lemon flavor into any meal with even the smallest amount added. In fact, lemon zest tends to have a stronger flavor than even the juice of the lemon.  Lemon zest contains many of the natural oils that give lemons their concentrated flavor.

5 Great Lemon Zest Substitutes

If you find yourself trying to make a recipe but don’t have the lemon zest you need, consider replacing it with one of the following substitutions:

  • Dried Lemon Peel: For some home cooks, dried lemon peel is a pantry staple. This ingredient is exactly what it sounds like – dried pieces of the lemon rind.  Therefore, if you happen to have dried lemon peel on hand, you can use it as a substitution for the lemon zest. Dried lemon peel tends to be strong in flavor.  Just 1/3 of what your recipe calls to avoid adding too strong of a lemon taste.
  • Lemon extract: Another easy substitution for lemon zest is lemon extract, a flavoring commonly used in desserts and other baked goods. Another strong taste, substitute a teaspoon of lemon zest for just 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract is all it takes to add the flavor of lemon to whatever dish you choose to make.
  • Lemon juice: If you don’t have fresh lemon zest, but do happen to have bottled lemon juice in your refrigerator, you can use the juice as a substitution. For every teaspoon of lemon zest the recipe calls for, substitute two tablespoons of lemon juice. Beware of recipes with high liquid content.  Lemon juice will increase the overall moisture of your dish and possibly alter flavor.
  • Orange or Lime Zest: In a pinch, the zest of an orange or a lime can replace lemon zest in most recipes. It will give your food the subtle flavor of whichever fruit you choose, so bear this in mind as you make your selection. However, in most cases the zest of any common citrus fruit will act as a suitable stand in for lemon zest.


If running out of lemon zest leaves a sour taste in your mouth, don’t panic. Simply check to see if you have one of these common lemon zest substitutes in your pantry or refrigerator. After that, just sit back and enjoy your tasty creation!


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