Skip to Content

The 5 Best Substitutes for Lemon Zest

Lemon zest is a thin layer of yellow skin from the lemon fruit.

While it has been used as a flavoring agent for many years, dietitians have recently recommended that those with diabetes abstain from eating lemon zest due to its high fructose content.

The flavor of lemon zest is extremely strong and can easily overpower subtle flavors in a dish.

For this reason, it should only be used sparingly.

If the recipe calls for lemon zest and you want to cut back on its flavor, there are a few simple substitutes that you can use instead.

Keep on reading to find out the substitutes for lemon zest.

What is Lemon Zest?

what is lemon zest

As mentioned above, lemon zest is the outermost layer of the lemon peel.

It is usually removed by using a fine grater or fruit-peeler, and it contains essential oils that provide flavor to the food.

Lemon zest can be used in many foods such as pasta dishes, beverages, desserts, and salads.

When grated, the essential oils in lemon zest provide their flavor and a little bit of acidity.

For example, a certain dish that uses lemon zest as an ingredient could have a tangy flavor to it.

In terms of flavor alone, lemon zest is very strong and should be used carefully.

Many people use it as a garnish or decoration for food items because of its bright yellow color.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Lemon Zest

Although lemon zest is very strong, many other flavors can replace it in dishes.

Here are the five best substitutes for lemon zest:

1 – Lime Zest

lime zest

Another substitute for lemon zest is lime zest, which has a strong flavor like its counterpart.

The main difference is that lime zest will often contain more acidic content than lemon zest.

Although this adds an extra kick to your meals, it does mean that lime has less depth of flavor than lemon.

Lime is less acidic than lemon. Lime juice can be used to replace vinegar in a recipe.

Lemon zest and lime zest are the substitutes that require the least amount of effort since they both contain lemony flavors and can be found often in your grocery store’s produce section.

2 – Orange Zest

orange zest

If you have a problem getting your hands on either lemon or lime zest, orange is another flavor that will work.

It is similar to lemon and lime in flavor but not quite as strong.

This means you can use it more liberally than either lemon or lime zest.

Orange zest has the same tanginess as lemon or lime zest.

Orange zest may be found in your local grocery store’s produce section like its counterparts.

However, it is important to note that there are different oranges, and not all flavors will work well as a substitute for lemon or lime zest.

For instance, the flavor of an Orange Valencia would not taste quite right when used as a substitute for lemon or lime zest.

3 – Lemon Extract

lemon extract

For some people, lemon zest is too strong to use in cooking.

Try using lemon extract instead if you are looking for a substitute that doesn’t carry the same flavor intensity.

Lemon extract can be used to replace lemon zest in many dishes.

The lemon extract works well in dessert recipes.

It is important to note that using lemon extract may not result in the same flavor intensity for your cooking as lemon zest, which would likely carry more essential oils than an equivalent amount of lemon extract.

This substitute may be found in your local grocery store’s produce section like lemon zest.

4 – Lemon Juice

lemon juice

The last substitute for lemon zest is, in fact, lemon juice.

This alternative is the simplest of them to use and carries little difficulty when using it in your cooking.

The only caveat with using lemon juice as a replacement for lemon zest is that you will have a less lemony flavor than if you were to use lemon zest.

Lemon juice can be used to replace lemon zest in flavors and recipes.

Lemon juice works well in many dishes, such as salad dressings and sauces.

It is important to note that using lemon juice may make your dish too sour compared to using lemon zest or any other lemon substitutes.

5 – Lime Juice

lime juice

Last but not least, lime juice can be used in place of lemon zest with similar results to using lemon juice.

The one drawback is that it may make your dish too sour.

Depending on personal preference, using lime juice instead of lemon zest may be the best option.

Lime juice can be used in many different recipes and dishes.

It is important to note that using lime juice sparingly is the best way to balance out the acidic flavor that this substitute carries.


Lemon zest is an essential ingredient in many recipes, but it isn’t always easy to get your hands on.

With one of these five substitutes, you can create the same flavor profile for your cooking without having to worry about running out to the grocery store every time you need a small amount of lemon zest for a dish.

Remember that not all flavors are created equal, and sometimes a recipe might call for lemon zest because it is the perfect flavor to go with the other ingredients.

In those cases, you can use any of these substitutes or even omit lemon altogether to make your dish stand out from others that require lemon zest.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Lemon Zest

The 5 Best Substitutes for Lemon Zest
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Lime Zest
  • Orange Zest
  • Lemon Extract
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime Juice


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