1 August 2022

The 11 best substitutes for orange zest for your recipes

By Killian

The orange zest is basically the outer part of orange peel which provides not only the vibrant orange color but the specific aroma of the zest. Whether you want to add some color to your plate or that refreshing citrus flavor, orange zest is the answer.

However, what do you do if you’ve run out of oranges and a trip to the store seems too much of a hassle? We are sure that you have at least one of these orange zest substitutes in your pantry.

The best substitutes for orange zest

Orange zest is the vibrant, aromatic part of the orange peel, and it has many uses in the kitchen. It’s suitable for many different types of desserts, marinades, homemade dressings, and just about any dish that requires a hint of that fresh, tangy citrus aroma.

However, before peeling an orange, it is important to make sure that it has not gone bad. You can do this by inspecting it for any brown discoloration, soft spots, or a moldy odor. Also, you will know that the orange is not good if you squeeze it and it starts to ooze juices.

Now the easiest way to peel an orange would be to use a real peeler. However, if you don’t have one, any type of fine grater, box grater, or even vegetable peeler will do. And if you don’t have any of those, you can also cut the orange peel with a sharp knife, as long as you don’t mind the texture.

When you grate the orange, it is important that you only grate the orange part, avoiding the white part as much as possible. The white part of the orange peel, also known as the pith, is quite bitter and could ruin the fresh, citrusy flavor of your peel.

The tangy, refreshing flavor of orange zest is an amazing substitute for vinegar, as it is so much more subtle and mild. Try adding it to salad dressings, yogurt, fennel cake, baked brie, cocktails, or just about any dish or drink that calls for a hint of citrus flavor.

Whether you don’t particularly like the taste of orange zest, or are simply looking for the best orange zest substitute, check out our list and find the best solution for your recipe.

1. Orange juice

From a texture standpoint, orange juice may not be the most suitable substitute for orange zest. However, in terms of flavor and aroma, it is clear that there is nothing better. Orange juice, especially when freshly squeezed, is a burst of refreshing citrus and tart flavor that you can add to your salad dressing, cocktail, baked goods, marinade, or even frosting.

One teaspoon of orange juice equals one teaspoon of orange zest, so you don’t have to worry as much about measurements and proportions. If you use orange juice for cooking, be sure to add it in the last few minutes, so that it does not evaporate and lose all its aroma.

2. Lemon zest

Lemon zest can easily substitute for orange zest as it is often used in cooking, and it is also a great source of that refreshing citrus flavor. When it comes to peeling a lemon, the same rules apply: you should only focus on the colored part and avoid the white part of the peel, as it can have a rather unpleasant taste.

As with the orange zest substitute above, the ratio is 1:1, making this one of the most convenient options. Lemon zest is the star of many dishes, including refreshing lemon bars, marinades, dressings, glazed baked goods, lemon meringue tarts, etc.

3. Lemon juice

Orange zest can easily be substituted for lemon juice if you’re looking for a strong citrus aroma. Regarding acidity, lemon juice is much stronger than the alternatives we have mentioned, as well as orange zest. However, if dosed properly, it can elevate any dish and make it bright and refreshing.

Due to its low pH level, lemon juice can also be used to add texture to jams and jellies, as well as to help baked goods rise. Lemon juice has a recognizably sour taste, and is often used in Thai cooking, dressings, sauces, steamed vegetable dishes, and especially in fish and seafood specialties.

4. Lemon extract

Lemon extract is basically a concentrate derived from lemon peel, and is therefore much more intense than the juice and peel itself. It is an ideal substitute for orange zest for those who enjoy the enhanced and dominant citric acidity of lemon to its full capacity. However, if you are not tolerant of acidity, you should stay away from this option, or at least be very careful when dosing it.

Lemon extract is the result of soaking lemon peels or zests in neutral-flavored food alcohol. You can easily make lemon extract at home, and all you need are lemon peels and a cup of vodka. Just add the lemon peels to a jar, cover with a cup of vodka, and let the lemon flavor infuse the vodka for at least four weeks.

5. Grapefruit zest

If you’ve been throwing out grapefruit peels, it’s time you started saving them and incorporating them into your dishes. Grapefruit zest is certainly a noteworthy substitute for orange zest, as it is just as tart and tart. Also, like orange zest, it can give color to any dish, and even serve as a garnish.

Brightly colored grapefruit zest makes a great addition to salads, meat marinades, and can even be frozen into colorful summer ice lollies. Also, if you like tea, try adding some grapefruit zest or peel to your cup of tea for a hint of fruity aroma.

6. Grapefruit juice

When opting for juice alternatives, it’s always better to opt for freshly squeezed juice, rather than store-bought. This way you not only preserve all the valuable vitamins and nutrients, but you also avoid any artificial ingredients that outweigh the beneficial ones. Plus, we all agree that there’s nothing better than fresh grapefruit juice.

Apart from cocktails, mocktails and other refreshing drinks, grapefruit can also be used in the kitchen. It can replace vinegar in salad dressings, added to sauces and marinades, and drizzled on grilled meats and vegetables. However, keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of orange zest is substituted for 1 ½ teaspoons of grapefruit juice.

7. Lemon zest

If you like lemon and lemon zest, lime zest might be the best orange zest alternative in your books. There are hardly any significant differences between lemon and lime, except for size and color. However, when it comes to the rind, you’ll notice that the lime has a slightly thinner rind, so a single lime usually doesn’t produce much rind.

Due to its vibrant green color, it is a great garnish option, both in savory and sweet dishes, but also in drinks. Although it can be added to marinades and salad dressings, it can also be one of the finishing touches on your sauces, dips, and even glazes. The lime zest provides just the right amount of citrus freshness you need in more complex meals.

8. Lime juice

You already know that no guacamole is complete without some fresh lime juice. If you’re craving some Mexican food and want to make guacamole from scratch, mash up some avocados, then add chopped cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, and juice of one lime. Season to your liking and refrigerate for 1 hour for best results.

Lime juice adds the perfect amount of freshness to any dish, especially one with a lot of fat like guacamole. Add it to toppings, fillings, dressings, sauces, marinades or use it in your cocktails or sangria. Lime juice is also an amazing complement to fish and seafood dishes, as it adds a dash of acidity to dilute the overly fishy taste.

9. Lemongrass

Lemongrass, also known as Malabar grass, grows in large bushes. You’ll recognize it by its woody stems and pale green bases, similar to green onions. It has a refreshing but rather complex aroma and its flavor can be described as a mix of lemon, ginger and flowers.

This orange peel substitute can be used fresh, finely chopped, grated, or processed. It is a flavorful and exotic addition to any dish, including meat, sauces, and soups. However, you can also find ground lemongrass, which is just as aromatic.

10. Vinegar

When in doubt, add vinegar! There’s almost nothing that can beat vinegar when it comes to adding that tart, tart flavor to your dishes. It is easy to use, widely available, and exists in numerous variants such as apple cider, balsamic, white wine, red wine, rice, malt, etc.

Keep in mind that different types of vinegar can give completely different results. Some are more acidic, while others are softer and more aromatic. As for the orange zest substitution, we would choose apple cider vinegar as it has that fruity aroma that could make up for the lack of citrus flavor in your dish.

11. Clementine zest

Like the lime, this orange zest alternative tends to have a much finer peel than the orange, so be careful when grating it as you want to avoid the bitter white part. However, when it comes to flavor, clementine zest is one of the closest options to orange zest. Being a hybrid of a tangerine and a sweet orange, the clementine is slightly sweeter than the typical orange.

In addition to being used as a citrus flavor enhancer in baked goods, cocktails, vinaigrettes, poached chicken, and other dishes and drinks, clementine peels can also be used whole to make candied peels.

How to choose an orange peel substitute

Choosing the best orange zest substitute largely depends on the recipe you are going to follow. However, each of the mentioned alternatives can provide similar results, and they shouldn’t be hard to find.

If you want a citrus zest and want to avoid liquid alternatives, you can opt for lemon zest, grapefruit zest, lime zest, or clementine zest. Each of these alternatives offers that tartness and tartness, as well as the texture of orange zest.

On the other hand, ideal choices for soft drinks, marinades, and sauces would be orange juice, lemon juice, lemon extract, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. They are all fruity, citrusy, but tart enough that the sweetness is not overbearing.

Lemongrass is a more exotic and aromatic option that you can experiment with. Vinegar, on the other hand, is a safe bet for your salad dressings.