3 Ways to Zest an Orange, Plus Tips, Tricks, and Recipes
What Is Orange Zest?
Zest is strips of the colored part of orange peel. Made with a special tool called a microplaner, a grater or a small knife.
Three Methods to Make Zest
- Microplane: You can buy a special tool called a microplane which you pull along the orange to scrape off thin strips of the colored peel. This is not an expensive kitchen tool and an advantage is the strips are longer and darker in color. However, it takes longer and is a little bit harder to do. This method looks the best when decorating a cake, drinks, candy or other food.
- Grater: If you need a lot, or are using peel in cooking, this is the fastest and easiest method. All you need is a grater with small holes, which you probably have as part of your cheese grater. Just grate the orange the way you would cheese, moving it around so you mostly get the colored part.
- Paring Knife: In a pinch, you can make zest from any citrus fruit by using a paring knife or potato peeler. Carefully cut off thin slices of the top of the peel. Then cut those slices into strips. This method also works if you want longer, larger or thicker zest or peel cut into different shapes.
Zest vs. Peel
Zest is thin strips of only the colored part of the peel.
Peel is the whole outside part including the more bitter white rind.
When you need orange flavor, your best choice is fresh zest or juice. However, in a pinch you can try one of these substitutes, which are all the same as 1 teaspoon freshly grated zest:
- 2 tablespoons fresh juice
- 2 teaspoons concentrated juice
- 1 teaspoon dried zest
- 1/2 teaspoon extract
- 2 teaspoons grated candied peel
Fresh zest can be stored in a Ziplock bag or other airtight container:
- In the refrigerator for 1 week.
- In the freezer for a month.
Is it all right to use dried peel? Does it taste any good? Sure! Dried may not have quite the flavor punch, but it works just fine in a pinch, especially if you are adding it to baked goods.
Where do you find dried? I usually buy it from Amazon because it is cheaper, but you can sometimes find it in the spice section of a supermarket. Dried doesn't look as nice as a garnish, but it is a lot easier to have some in your cupboard that you just pull out and use.
My Favorite Brand
Make Your Own!
Generally, I store what I make in the freezer because I know I'll use it within a month and buy the dried to have in a pinch or to use in baked goods. However, if you want to save money or have a lot of fruit available, you might just want to make your own dried zest. Here is how to do it:
How to Grate or Microplane Your Oranges
- Put the peel on parchment on a baking sheet.
- Spread it out so that the pieces don't clump.
- Put in an oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until dry (or just turn on the oven, let it heat up and then turn it off and leave overnight).
If you have a dehydrator, that works too. Put some in a small fancy jar with a ribbon on top and you have a very nice gift!
Ways to Use Orange Zest
Lots of products use orange for cleaning or as an insect repellent. Here are some ways you can use it:
In Cooking use Zest for
Household use Peel for
Outside use Peel for
for shining wood
flavoring for marinade
removing water stains from metal
keeping garbage cans smelling better
mixed with vinegar for cleaner
"Zest" is an excellent word for grated orange peelings because it adds a distinctive flavor and smell to foods. Here are some facts to know:
- The colored part of the rind is less bitter than the white.
- Citrus rinds have more oil in them than juice, so they actually add more flavor than juice to recipes.
- You need to be careful to add it lightly because too much can make your recipe bitter.
- Usually, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon is enough. Start with that and add more if you want more flavor.
- Add last to most recipes, especially frostings.
Fun Orange Facts Quizview quiz statistics
Orange Sugar Recipe
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1-2 TB orange zest
- Mix 1-2 TB of zest with sugar. Put in covered container and store in a cool place
- .Use as a topping for fruits and desserts. Use to flavor teas, coffee or other drinks.
Questions & Answers
What about zesting orange, lemon, and lime peels?
You can zest lime and lemon peels in the same way. For full instructions, you can see my article on How to Zest a Lime and How to Zest a lemon.Helpful 4
Can orange essential oil be substituted for orange zest?
Most essential oils are not food-grade and should not be used in baking. If you do have an essential oil that is food grade, you could possibly substitute it for orange zest but it really wouldn't have quite the same taste in most recipes because the zest adds texture as well as flavor and smell.Helpful 2