What Is Lemon Zest?


What is lemon zest? How do you make lemon zest?


Lemon zest is the colorful outside of the lemon. It is the yellow part of the lemon peel.

Lemon Zest is not the same thing as rind or peel, it is just the outermost colorful part of a citrus fruit. The yellow layer of the lemon, or the zest, is desirable because it contains lots of essential oils, making for a strong yet pleasant flavor.

You do not want the soft white underneath layer called the pith. The pith is very bitter with a generally unpleasant taste and little actual citrus flavor. So, it is important to grate only the zest of a lemon.

Lemon Zest

Lemon Zest

How To Zest A Lemon

Steps to Zest a Lemon:

1) Wash – Thoroughly wash a fresh lemon when your recipe calls for lemon zest. If you need to make lemon zest, this is actually a good time to buy organic, if available. Since you are using the very outer skin of the lemon you want it to be free of any chemicals, wax or other elements.

2) Grate – After washing, use a micro-plane (or a fine grater or a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler) to scrape the outermost layer off the lemon. Remember, you only want to scrape the yellow outer layer. What is Lemon Zest?

All About Lemon Zest

Lemon Zest

Uses for Lemon Zest

Zest can be added to cookies, cakes, cocktails and all kinds of other recipes. One of the easiest ways to infuse a citrus flavor into your baked goods and recipes is by adding zest.

Other citrus fruits like oranges and limes can also provide flavorful zest.

Unlike lemon or orange juice, zest doesn’t throw off the chemistry of a recipe by adding more acidity or by adding more liquid like juice would. Generally, you can add a teaspoon up to a tablespoon of zest to just about any recipe where you want to add a little citrus flavor.

If your recipe already calls for citrus juice, adding some additional zest can further enhance the citrus flavor.

How To Store Lemon Zest

A zested lemon should be wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. A zested lemon can then be left on the counter or kept in the fridge. Zest and a zested lemon are both susceptible to mold formations if not used shortly.

How Long Does Lemon Zest Last?

Counter or Fridge
Fresh Lemon Zest lasts for 1-2 Days

NOTE: Lemon zest is best when freshly grated. It will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two but will soon become soggy and if it is left out on the counter it will quickly become dry.

Substitute for Lemon Zest

If you don’t have a fresh lemon rind and need to find a substitute for lemon zest, then you can can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract OR 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for a teaspoon of lemon zest.

The rule of thumb when substituting for zest: 1) Extracts are stronger than zest, so you use half as much. 2) Juices are less concentrated than zest, so you use twice as much.

You can also use a different citrus, like orange or lime, depending on your recipe. Use another citrus in equal quantities to the lemon that is called for in your recipe. Oranges and Limes can be grated in the same way as lemons to produce orange zest or lime zest.

You could also used dried lemon peel, but it may need to be soaked prior to using (see package directions).

If you don’t have any of the above ingredients, you could also use half as much vinegar or white wine – be careful with this though as it will acid needed in the recipes but could drastically change the resulting flavor!

Lemon Zest Amount Substitute
Fresh Lemon Zest Substitute 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Extract
*OR* 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
*OR* 2 teaspoons Orange Juice
*OR* 2 teaspoons Lime Juice

Lemon Zesters – Tools to Zest Lemons

There is also a special kitchen tool called a zester which looks like a tiny fork with curved ends. It produces nice thin short strips of zest. These strips can then be minced or left alone as called for in your recipe. But, most recipes call for grated lemon zest. You can simply grate the lemon, lime or orange as you would any vegetable – using a hand-held grater.

Alternatively, you can purchase dried zest in your grocers spice section. But, it doesn’t really add that same fresh citrus flavor that you get from using fresh lemon zest.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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