Lemon zest is one of those ingredients that many don’t consider important, but in reality, it adds a ton of flavor and aroma. If you find yourself missing this food item, then you may be in trouble when it comes to preparing your dish.
Don’t worry too much, though, as there are plenty of options out there to achieve very similar results.
What Is Lemon Zest?
Don’t confuse zest with peel, as these two are very different ingredients. The zest is just the outermost layer of the fruit, not the entire peel. Lemon zest is all aroma and flavor with no bitterness.
To zest a lemon, you can use a box grater, a pairing knife, a vegetable peeler, or a zester. To zest the lemon, first, wash it, grate superficially, and rotate the fruit. You will need to make sure to do this lightly, otherwise, you may pinch the lemon and ruin the skin.
What Can I Replace Lemon Zest With?
If you can’t find any or don’t have the time to go to the grocery store, try any of these lemon zest substitutes that work wonders:
For Baking, Cakes, and Muffins
#1. Lemon Juice
If what you need is to add flavor and aroma, using lemon juice makes a lot of sense. You can use a bit of lemon juice when you are preparing your batter to bake things like cakes, muffins, cookies, or cheesecake. Use about ½ teaspoon of lemon juice for every teaspoon of lemon zest.
Finding lemons shouldn’t be too hard, and your grocery store or farmer’s market probably has plenty. Keep in mind that lemon juice is both sweet and sour, and it adds liquid to the recipe. You may need to add more sugar if the flavor turns out too acidic.
See More: Lemon Juice Substitutes
#2. Lemon Extract
Another good way to mimic the zest flavor and aroma is by using a bit of lemon extract. This choice is a much more concentrated flavor than lemon juice, so you should only add a little bit. For every one teaspoon of lemon zest, use ⅓ teaspoon of lemon extract.
This choice is common in baking, so use it when you want to make things like cakes, cookies, muffins, or frosting. Keep in mind that lemon extract is more bitter, so you may need to add extra sugar. Find lemon extract by the baking section of your grocery store or in an organic market.
#3. Orange Zest
Using another citrus fruit zest is a quick and easy solution. If you have oranges at home, simply zest them in the same way that you would lemons. You can add the same amount of orange zest, but keep in mind that this choice may alter the flavor.
Try using orange zest when baking muffins, cakes, cookies, and in syrups or frosting. If you don’t have oranges already, go to the local grocery store or farmer’s market and you will surely find some. Consider adding a bit more zest if you feel like it lacks flavor, as oranges are a bit less citrus than lemons.
For Cheesecake, Cookies, and Martinis or Cocktails
#4. Dried Lemon Peel
Since the zest is technically part of the peel, using a dry lemon peel makes sense. You can use this choice when you are cooking things like cheesecake filling, or as a topping for any cocktail. We suggest you stick to dry peels because they are no longer bitter, so adding them will give your dish aroma without ruining the flavor.
You can use old lemons and dry the zest yourself, though you may be able to find it in some stores. You can use a peel for every piece of zest that the recipe indicates, but remember that this choice is a bit milder, so add more if you need to.
#5. Lime Zest
Since limes are cousins with lemons, using this fruit can provide your recipe with similar flavor and aroma. Zest your limes the same way you do lemons and simply add it as is to the dish. Use the same amount of lime zest, but remember that this choice is more tart and a bit more bitter, so you may need more sugar.
You can buy lemons everywhere these days but try your local grocery or convenience store. Use lime zest when cooking, baking things like cookies or cheesecake, and even in cocktails. If the zest is too strong, you can cut it in half.
#6. Lime Juice
This is a last-minute choice, but it still works well. All you need to do is add lime juice to your dough, sauce, drink, or whatever you are making. To substitute for one teaspoon lime zest, add ½ teaspoon of lime juice at most, as this one is very acidic and not sweet.
You can use lime juice in making cocktails, baking desserts, and preparing sauces. Finding limes is very easy as you can find them at the produce section of any grocery store. You may need to add a little more sugar to counterbalance some of the acidity and bitterness.
As you may know by now, lemon peel and lemon zest are not the same. The zest is the outermost portion of the peel, the one that doesn’t have any of the white fleshy portions. The peel includes everything outside the fruit.
You can buy bottled lemon zest in some places, but it is not worth the money. Your best bet is buying fresh lemons and carefully zesting them yourself. It won’t take long and all you need is a grater or knife.
One regular-sized lemon will give you around one tablespoon of zest. However, the amount depends on how well you rotate the lemon and how careful you are.
Adding lemon zest to dishes and drinks does change flavors and aromas, making things much tastier. Yet, if you find yourself without any lemons, or have one but looks bruised and old, use any of these 6 substitutes instead. Remember that they all add their little kick to your dish, but isn’t a bad thing.
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