Not everyone appreciates the tangy taste of fresh lemon zest in certain recipes, but one thing is for sure, it adds a unique flavor to our favorite baked goods and dishes.
So, if your recipe calls for this ingredient and you want to give it your best shot, but you have none, are there alternatives you can use?
Absolutely. I'll help you choose the best lemon zest substitute through this article.
Lemon Zest vs. Lemon Peel
Many people assume that lemon zest is simply the yellow outer peel or layer of lemon. While they share a few similarities, these two are different things.
"Lemon peel" refers to the entire yellow skin of the lemon, while "lemon zest" is only the outermost layer of the fruit. You might be asking, "Why is that important?"
Well, lemon peel includes the white pith of the fruit, which is very bitter. On the other hand, lemon zest gives a pure and concentrated lemon flavor.
In other words, using lemon peel in a recipe that calls for lemon zest will ruin the flavor profile of your baked goods or food.
Best Lemon-Based & Lemon-Infused Substitutes for Lemon Zest
If you want the authentic taste of fresh lemons in your recipe, there's no better substitute than lemons themselves. Here are some lemon-based or lemon-infused alternatives you can use in your recipe.
1. Fresh Lemon Juice
How much lemon juice does it take to replace 1 teaspoon of lemon zest? Let's talk about whether or not you should use it in the first place.
For recipes that don't include dairy and light to heavy whipped cream, avoid using lemon juice, as it can alter the texture of your recipe.
On the other hand, it works great for recipes that already include liquid, like sweet and savory dishes. But because it's less concentrated, you will need 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for every teaspoon of lemon zest.
Best for sweet and savory recipes.
Try it on this Air Fryer Salmon Steak recipe.
2. Lemon Extract
A lemon extract should also work as a substitute lemon zest for recipes that don't require dry ingredients (like sweet and savory dishes, too).
You can find this in bottles in grocery stores nationwide, but you can also make it at home by soaking lemon peels in vodka or other clear alcoholic drinks for a week or two.
After soaking, you must remove the peels from the liquid, and then you can use the extract to replace the lemon zest in your recipe. Around ½ teaspoon of lemon extract equals 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.
Best for desserts, sweet treats, and marinades.
3. Dried Lemon Peel
If you regularly have lemons at home, I suggest you make dried lemon peels. When stored properly, they last 2 to 3 years, and you can use them for many recipes.
Making it is fairly simple. Just separate the lemon peels from the fruit, lay them on a tray or screen, and let them dry under the sun.
However, dried lemon peel has a sharper flavor than lemon zest, so you want to reduce the ratio when adding it to your recipe.
Use ½ teaspoon of dried lemon peel for every teaspoon of lemon zest called for in the recipe.
Best for baked goods and sweet and savory recipes.
This should work great on this Lemon Cheesecake recipe.
4. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil is the 100% pure essence of lemon fruit. Some people use this for recipes, while others purchase this because of its strong and wonderful aroma.
However, you must be careful when purchasing lemon essential oils since some are inedible. They're mainly for humidifiers and vaporizers.
Carefully read the label on the bottle and ensure it doesn't include artificial additives. Also, since it has a higher concentration than lemon zest, you only need ¼ teaspoon of lemon oil for every teaspoon.
Best for just about anything.
5. Lemon Syrup
Lemon syrup is a great substitute for lemon zest. It's 50% lemon juice and 50% sugar, slightly cooked to achieve a thicker consistency.
However, since it contains a tremendous amount of sugar, you want to use it exclusively as a substitute for recipes that require sweetness.
Also, you need to reduce the portions of sugar and other sweeteners in your recipe. Otherwise, your baked good or dish will end up overwhelmingly sweet.
To get a similar level of tanginess in your recipe, use 1 tablespoon of lemon syrup to replace 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.
Best for baked goods.
Here's a Lemon Blueberry Cake recipe to test it on.
6. Lemon Marmalade
Lemon marmalade is quite similar to lemon syrup in terms of what it does to your recipe. However, the process of making it and the finished product differs.
In lemon syrup, you cook the sugar first before adding the lemon juice. In lemon marmalade, you cook everything simultaneously.
The result is a thick, spreadable, and chunky substance that works excellent as a substitute for lemon zest. Remember, though, that lemon marmalade tends to have a slightly bitter flavor.
Nonetheless, this bitterness disappears once you mix it with other ingredients. You will need 1 tablespoon of lemon marmalade for every teaspoon of lemon zest in the recipe.
Best for sweet baked goods and desserts.
7. Candied Lemon Peel
The candied lemon peel is often used as a substitute for lemon marmalade. Nonetheless, it should also work as a substitute lemon zest.
As you can imagine, candied lemon peel is very sweet. In fact, it's so sweet that you almost can't taste the tangy flavor of lemon zest (or at least not as sharp).
Therefore, you want to use this exclusively for sweet recipes or as a flavoring agent to sweeten and garnish your food. You will need 2 tablespoons of candied lemon peel for every teaspoon of lemon zest in the recipe.
Best for sweet baked goods and dessert recipes.
Try it on this Lemon Bars recipe.
Best Non-Lemon Substitutes for Lemon Zest
If you don't have lemons or any other lemon-based substitutes at home, don't worry. Other lemon zest substitutes should give you a similar flavor.
1. Citrus Fruit Zest
Lemon is a citrus fruit. Therefore, the zest of other citrus fruits should provide a flavor resembling lemon zest.
Orange zest, for instance, will give you a tangy flavor, albeit slightly sweeter than lemon zest. On the other hand, you can also use lime zest, but it's sharper and more potent than lemon zest.
Other citrus zests include clementine and yuzu. While they're also tangy, they're best used as substitutes for orange zest because of the sweetness they add to your recipe.
Whichever citrus zest you choose, use it as a substitute for lemon zest in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for just about anything.
2. Citrus Peel
If you can use dried lemon peel as a substitute for lemon zest, the peel of other citrus fruits should also work. In terms of tanginess, I find lime and orange peels the best substitutes.
Nonetheless, if you have clementine, tangerine, or yuzu, their peels may also work, but they might send your recipe in a different direction.
Remember, though, peels from any type of fruit will have a slightly bitter taste, so you want to be mindful when using them as substitutes.
This bitter flavor may not blend well with desserts and baked goods. It's best to use these alternatives exclusively for savory recipes where bitterness is welcome.
Best for savory recipes.
Try it on this Air Fryer Broccoli recipe.
Choosing a Substitute for Lemon Zest
We may have gathered the best substitutes for lemon zest in one place, but it doesn't mean our work here is done. We still need to determine which alternative will work best for your recipe.
Here's a quick guide to choosing the best substitute for lemon zest.
The sharp and tangy flavor of lemon zest is its most important aspect. Ergo, you want to choose a substitute that will deliver the same punch.
The sharpest substitutes are perhaps lime zest, lemon extract, and lemon oil. But remember, the appropriate ratio is key to balance the acid in your recipe.
Just because lime zest, lemon extract, and lemon oil have the sharpest tangy flavor doesn't mean they're the best substitutes.
You still need to consider the purpose of lemon zest in your recipe. Is it to add freshness, enhance the flavor, lighten the dish, or garnish your food?
For instance, fresh lemon juice works excellently as a zest substitute for sweet and savory marinades, but it wouldn't work as a garnish.
Lastly, consider the extra flavors a substitute brings to your recipe. Non-lemon substitutes and alternatives like candied lemon peel, lemon marmalade, and lemon syrup will bring complex flavors to your dish.
Depending on how you use them, they can be sweet, bitter, and herby. You want to ensure that these extra flavors blend well with your recipe before you use a substitute.
Substitute Lemon Zest FAQs
It depends on the recipe. While vinegar also has a sour flavor, it wouldn't work in dessert recipes since its sourness generally doesn't blend well with other ingredients. You can replace lemon zest with vinegar for recipes that only need tartness, like salad dressings.
You can measure lemon zest using a teaspoon. Lightly place the lemon zest without pressing it firmly. On the other hand, you can also just scoop the lemon zest from the container using your measuring tool (e.g., teaspoon, tablespoon, or cup).
Since you won't be using the entire yellow skin of the fruit, one lemon should produce roughly one tablespoon of lemon zest, as long as you do it properly.
For the Zesty Finish!
There you have it; some of the best substitutes for lemon zest you will find at home or elsewhere. Remember that each substitute has its strengths and weaknesses.
You just have to choose one based on your recipe. If there are other ingredients you wish to replace, visit Also The Crumbs, Please.
I have numerous articles that will help you elevate your skills in the kitchen.
You Might Also Like:
- Vegetable peeler
Option 1 (Fresh Lemon Juice)
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
Option 2 (Lemon Extract)
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
Option 3 (Citrus Zest)
- 1 citrus fruit (orange, lime, tangerine, yuzu, clementine, etc.)
Option 1 (Fresh Lemon Juice)
- Use 2 tablespoons of fresh or bottled lemon juice to replace 1 teaspoon of lemon zest in the recipe.
Option 2 (Lemon Extract)
- Use ½ teaspoon of lemon extract to replace 1 teaspoon of lemon zest in the recipe.
Option 3 (Citrus Zest)
- Wash and scrub the citrus fruit to remove the wax coating.
- Use a clean towel to dry the citrus fruit.
- Use a vegetable peeler (or a microplane) to slowly and gently shave the fruit's outer skin while turning it around.
- Stop as soon as it starts to get paler. Otherwise, you'll shave some of the bitter white pith.
- Use the citrus zest as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.
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