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The 5 Best Substitutes for Kaffir Lime Leaves

When it comes to Thai cuisine, Kaffir Lime Leaves are a staple.

People use these leaves to add a sour flavor and aroma to dishes such as Tom Yum.

The sourness can be attributed to the citric acid in Kaffir Lime Leaves.

It is common knowledge that Kaffir Lime Leaves are essential when cooking up many Thai dishes, which makes it an integral part of any grocery list.

However, for all its importance, there are certain situations where substituting these leaves would be preferable.

Some people, for example, cannot get their hands on Kaffir Lime Leaves due to where they live or dietary restrictions.

Others may simply not like the taste of the leaves.

In this article, we will discuss five alternatives for Kaffir Lime Leaves, which you can use to replace them in most recipes.

What are Kaffir Lime Leaves?

what are kaffir lime leaves

Kaffir limes are a type of citrus fruit that is native to Southeast Asia.

Their leaves have an aromatic smell similar to the fruit, but it is much stronger and more intense.

Kaffir lime leaves have been used for centuries in Thai cooking due to their distinctive flavor – they’re commonly used in curry dishes.

They can also be used in various other ways to add a bright, zesty flavor.

The leaves are large, dark green, and have no white or yellow coloration.

They can be eaten raw or cooked – dried Kaffir lime leaves have a strong spicy taste that is much stronger than fresh leaves.

When purchasing Kaffir lime leaves, look for fresh, green leaves with no bruises or yellowing.

Avoid buying anything that looks wilted or stale.

You can store Kaffir limes in the refrigerator for up to three days – it is best to place them in a perforated plastic bag to avoid getting wet and rotting.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Kaffir Lime Leaves

If you can’t find Kaffir lime leaves or have anything to cut up the fresh leaves with, here are some good substitutes.

1 – Lime Zest

lime zest

When you bake with Kaffir lime leaves, grating the leaves is important.

Lime zest is a great substitute for people who don’t have any graters on hand.

Mix one tablespoon of lime zest into your dish, and it will provide a delicate, citrus taste that enhances most dishes.

Thus, you can make this substitution if you don’t have access to Kaffir lime leaves.

You will get the same flavor without having to do anything extra.

It is important, however, that you don’t use too much.

If you’re adding it to replace actual lime juice, you should only add one teaspoon of zest for every two tablespoons of juice.

2 – Lemongrass


Lemongrass is a great substitute for Kaffir lime leaves because it has a spicy, citrus-like flavor that works well with most Thai dishes.

This perennial plant originates from the Philippines and India.

However, it’s now found worldwide because of its prized culinary value.

Lemongrass might be difficult to find in stores, so you should look for it at markets or specialty stores.

You can also try growing your lemongrass to have an ample supply of this herb on hand whenever you need it.

You can chop up lemongrass to add to a variety of dishes – it’s especially good when added to stir fry.

In addition, you can add it to soups and broths.

3 – Lemon Thyme

lemon thyme

Lemon thyme is another herb with a very powerful flavor, much like Kaffir lime leaves.

This perennial plant originates in Southwestern Europe and Western Asia.

All parts of this multi-use herb contain thymol, which helps with indigestion and respiratory problems.

Thyme has many other benefits, but it’s most often used in cooking.

It typically works very well with shellfish and game meat.

People like to use it in the summer for grilling.

It’s important to note that lemon thyme is not lemon – it just tastes somewhat lemony.

If you have dried thyme on hand, it should be substituted for the fresh variety.

You can find lemon thyme in high-end grocery stores or specialty shops.

4 – Curry Leaves

curry leaves

Curry leaves are another great alternative to Kaffir lime leaves.

Like lemongrass, they have citrus undertones that work well with curry dishes.

They also provide a fragrant aroma that many people love in their curries.

The curry tree comes from the same family as the citrus tree.

It is native to West Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Today, this tree grows well in tropical climates similar to its native lands.

Although curry leaves may be difficult to find, you can typically purchase them at an Asian market or specialty food store.

They’re key in adding flavor to dishes like tandoori chicken and seafood curries.

5 – Dill and Bay Leaves

dill and bay leaves

Dill and bay leaves are two leafy greens that you can use to add intensity when cooking with Kaffir lime leaves.

Dill has a strong flavor that works well in fish, game meat, or vegetable dishes.

It’s also useful for making pickles.

Bay leaves are often used in hearty soups like gumbo and beef stew.

They also provide a nice flavor to braised meats and poultry.

The important thing to remember about bay leaves is to remove them before serving your dish.

You don’t want someone to bite into a bay leaf and become injured while eating.

If the only option on hand is dried dill or bay leaves, use one teaspoon of dried herb for every tablespoon of fresh herb called for in your recipe.

This substitution will result in a weaker flavor, but it will still provide some tang.


Kaffir lime leaves can be difficult to find, and they’re incredibly expensive.

If you want the same flavor without doing anything special, you should try any of these best substitutes for Kaffir lime leaves: lemongrass, lemon thyme, curry leaves, dill, or bay leaves.

Depending on the dish you’re cooking, any substitutes can be adequate or preferable.

For example, lemon thyme is a good substitute for Kaffir lime leaves in a soup, but not as good as curry leaves in a stir fry.

Try out different herb combinations to see what tastes best for you.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Kaffir Lime Leaves

The 5 Best Substitutes for Kaffir Lime Leaves
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Lime Zest
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Curry Leaves
  • Dill and Bay Leaves


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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