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

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

Learn all of the amazing things you can make using orange zest.

Learn all of the amazing things you can make using orange zest.

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.

Zest is used for flavoring and decorations.

Zest is used for flavoring and decorations.

Three Methods to Make Zest

  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.
Grating method to make orange zest.

Grating method to make orange zest.

Orange zest for decoration

Orange zest for decoration

Substitutes

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

Storage

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.

Drying

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

  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 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 forHousehold use Peel forOutside 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

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Oranges were bred from which two fruits?
    • lemon and mandarin
    • pomelo and mandarin
    • grapefruit and mandarin
  2. Which two states in the U.S. grow the most oranges?
    • Florida and California
    • Florida and Texas
    • Florida and South Carolina
  3. Oranges grow in the wild.
    • only in California
    • only outside the United States
    • false, they are a domesticated crop.
  4. Which of the following is made from orange rinds?
    • Marmalade
    • Orange Zest
    • Candied Orange peel
    • All of the above
  5. How many varieties of oranges are there worldwide?
    • 150
    • 349
    • 467
    • over 600
  6. How many segments are inside most oranges?
    • five
    • six
    • eight
    • ten
    • twelve
  7. Why did sailors plant orange trees along trade routes?
    • They liked the taste of oranges.
    • They knew oranges prevented scurvy on voyages.
    • The orange seeds were easy to plant.
  8. Brazil grows over 30% of the world's oranges
    • true
    • false
  9. What is true about the orange blossoms?
    • They are white.
    • It is the Florida State flower.
    • The blossom is very fragrant.
    • All of the above.
    • None of the above.

Answer Key

  1. pomelo and mandarin
  2. Florida and California
  3. false, they are a domesticated crop.
  4. All of the above
  5. over 600
  6. ten
  7. They knew oranges prevented scurvy on voyages.
  8. true
  9. All of the above.

Orange Sugar Recipe

Orange Sugar

Orange Sugar

Rate it!

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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

Question: What about zesting orange, lemon, and lime peels?

Answer: 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.

Question: Can orange essential oil be substituted for orange zest?

Answer: 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.

Comments

Liza from USA on December 22, 2019:

Such amazing ideas! Thank you for sharing.

L.A.Sharp on April 03, 2018:

I've decided to add orange zest with my sauteed Talapia....yum!!

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 25, 2017:

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!

Valerie on November 25, 2017:

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

Favour on October 19, 2017:

So so yummy, l love it in my bakeing

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on August 27, 2014:

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

Donna Caprio Quinlan from Newburyport, MA on February 16, 2014:

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 from Atlanta on February 03, 2014:

This is very useful information, thank you!

torrilynn on November 28, 2013:

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.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 25, 2013:

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.

Toni booker on November 25, 2013:

Where can I find orange zest

sarahbyers from waco tx on September 10, 2012:

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

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 21, 2012:

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

Rachel on August 21, 2012:

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.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on August 21, 2012:

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.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 21, 2012:

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.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 21, 2012:

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 on August 20, 2012:

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.

Seth Pipkin on August 20, 2012:

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.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 17, 2012:

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

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on August 17, 2012:

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

toknowinfo on August 06, 2012:

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.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 05, 2012:

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.

Heather Adams from Connecticut, USA on August 05, 2012:

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!

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 02, 2012:

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.

carol stanley from Arizona on August 02, 2012:

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.