3 Ways to Zest an Orange, Plus Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Updated on June 22, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne has been experimenting in the kitchen for almost 50 years. She loves to share her recipes, cooking tips, and reviews.

Zest is used for flavoring and decorations.
Zest is used for flavoring and decorations. | Source

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.

3 Methods to Make Zest

Grating method to make orange zest.
Grating method to make orange zest. | Source
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Orange zest for decoration
Orange zest for decoration | Source


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.


Store remaining leftovers in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for a month.  Or dry your n the oven and store indefinitely.  Or use it to make orange sugar.
Store remaining leftovers in a Ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for a month. Or dry your n the oven and store indefinitely. Or use it to make orange sugar. | Source

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.

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:

Grate or microplane your oranges.Make

  1. Put the peel on parchment on a baking sheet.
  2. Spread it out so that the pieces don't clump.
  3. 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

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
baked goods
for shining wood
repelling insects
flavoring for marinade
removing water stains from metal
keeping garbage cans smelling better
topping drinks
mixed with vinegar for cleaner
fire starters

Interesting Facts

"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:

  1. The colored part of the rind is less bitter than the white.
  2. Citrus rinds have more oil in them than juice, so they actually add more flavor than juice to recipes.
  3. You need to be careful to add it lightly because too much can make your recipe bitter.
  4. Usually, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon is enough. Start with that and add more if you want more flavor.
  5. Add last to most recipes, especially frostings.

Fun Orange Facts Quiz

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Orange Sugar Recipe


Rate it!

5 stars from 2 ratings of orange zest flavored sugar


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 TB orange zest


  1. Mix 1-2 TB of zest with sugar. Put in covered container and store in a cool place
  2. .Use as a topping for fruits and desserts. Use to flavor teas, coffee or other drinks.

Questions & Answers


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      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 3 months ago from United States

        Yes, everything on HubPages and related sites is free for people to view and it is free for people to join and post their own articles. I encourage you to join us if you are interested!

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        Valerie 3 months ago

        Pls tell me ....is this site to sighn up Free?

      • profile image

        Favour 5 months ago

        So so yummy, l love it in my bakeing

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

        I love using orange zest for baking cakes. Thanks for sharing this very informative hub. Well done.

      • DonnaCaprio profile image

        Donna Caprio Quinlan 4 years ago from Newburyport, MA

        Great information on using orange zest. I will grate some zest from my oranges for a recipe occasionally. I did not realize that it could be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Thanks!

      • VioletteRose profile image

        VioletteRose 4 years ago from Chicago

        This is very useful information, thank you!

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 4 years ago

        Thanks for the different ways on how to zest an orange and the meaning behind zesting an orange. Very useful when it comes to cooking. Voted up.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 4 years ago from United States

        You can buy this in the spice section of the store where dried zest is sometimes available. Or you can make your own using oranges in one of the ways I show in this article.

      • profile image

        Toni booker 4 years ago

        Where can I find orange zest

      • sarahbyers profile image

        sarahbyers 5 years ago from waco tx

        Great to know. The complete explanations made it easy to follow. Ideas and possibilities are boundless.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        Thanks prairieprincess--you know since I've done this Hub I'm using orange zest more too!

      • profile image

        Rachel 5 years ago

        I knew nothing about orange zest but I like to bake, so this could come in handy some day. This is interesting to me because i like learning about food and learning different ways to use it.

      • prairieprincess profile image

        Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

        Virginia, this is wonderful! I did not know any of this about orange zest, and never thought of using it an a recipe. Now my brain is going, thinking of ways I might be able to use it in a recipe. Voted up and everything but useful, and shared.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        Ashley--I always enjoy writing about something specific like orange zest because I learn new things. Before writing this Hub, I didn't know orange zest could substitute for juice or extract.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        SethPipkin--Orange zest is a pretty specialized ingredient, but at least you'll know what it is if you run across it in cooking!

      • ashleybperkins profile image

        ashleybperkins 5 years ago

        I thought this article was eye-catching because I did not know what orange zest was. I had only previous knowledge that the peel was bitter and had always thrown it out. This relates to my own experience because I thought that the peel was inedible so would never eaten it before, but thought that was funny because I have previously eaten orange zest. I find orange zest interesting because of the flavor it can give to some foods.

      • SethPipkin profile image

        Seth Pipkin 5 years ago

        I don't use oranges much for anything but eating but i was fascinated by the ways you can use orange zest and what it is in general.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        Thanks Cyndi--I'm going to try that with lemon for ice tea this weekend.

      • Cyndi10 profile image

        Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

        Great instructions. I like the idea of the orange zest and the sugar mix. Never tried that before. Thanks for the info.

      • toknowinfo profile image

        toknowinfo 5 years ago

        I love cooking with orange zest. I add it to a lot of my recipes. I even added it to my home made bread and it tastes oh so yummy. Great hub. Thanks for the refrigerator tip, I hadn't thought of that.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        Thanks Heather--As the Mom of 5 I'm always trying to cut down on tasks. I've got my zest in the refrigerator and I think I'll use it in some sugar cookies--yum.

      • Heather63 profile image

        Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Hi Virginia - I really learned a lot from this. The step-by-step illustrations always help me understand a process better. And I'd never thought about storing zest to use later - great idea!

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

        Thanks Carol--I had not realized until I researched the Hub how zest can be used in place of extract and juice. The Orange honey butter I made using the zest is absolutely terrific and wouldn't work well with juice.

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

        Well done hub. I never thought about how versatile orange zest can be. Why not use the whole orange. I have done this with lemon..now I will try orange. Enjoyed this hub a lot.