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4 Ways to Zest a Lime (Plus 8 Great Ways to Use Lime Zest)

Lime zest has many great uses. Read on to learn more.

Lime zest has many great uses. Read on to learn more.

This article explores four different ways to zest a lime and gives photo instructions. Here I include recipes, ways to use lime zest, substitutions, tips, and storage techniques.

What Is Lime Zest?

Lime zest is small strips of the outside peel of a lime. It is used in baking, marinades, garnishes for drinks, and in key lime pie. It is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese dishes. In Indian dishes is called: nimbu ka chika or nimbu chaal.

It can be purchased from the store as dried peel and stored in your cupboard, but it can also be made fresh in your kitchen with a microplane zester, a fine grater, a peeler, or a knife. If you're not using it immediately, it Is easy to dry or store in your freezer.

1. Microplane Zester

This type of zest is the most decorative. It makes long, fine. curling strips.

  • Hold lime in one hand and zester in the other.
  • Put the sharp edge of the zester at the top of the lime and pull down while pressing slightly.
  • You should see long, thin strips of peel curling off the end of the zester. If not, press harder.
  • Continue to pull the zester down the lime until you have all you need.
Lime zest garnish

Lime zest garnish

Grater zest

Grater zest

2. Grater

Quickest method and the one which makes the smallest pieces of zest. Grated lime zest is best for baked goods.

  • Use a fine grater, with small holes.
  • Hold grater at an angle, and press the lime across it until the colored part of the lime has come off. Don't get too much of the white portion of the peel because it is bitter.
  • Continue turning and grating the lime until you have enough.

3. Peeler

Best for when you want to make candied peel or for larger pieces of lime zest.

  • Hold peeler in one hand and lime in the other. Pull the peeler across the lime skin until the top part of the peel comes off in a slice.
  • You can use a knife to cut the peel into strips.

4. Knife

Don't have a special tool? A knife takes a bit longer but works just fine. In this method, the peel will generally remain flat and not curl, which can be useful for some decorative purposes. You can use a knife or peeler for Candied Lime Peel

  • Hold the lime down on a counter.
  • Take the knife and cut off the thinnest layer of peel you can remove (try not to get too much of the bitter white part).
  • Put the peel slice on a cutting mat and cut it into strips. You can cut it again in the other direction to dice it if you want to use fine pieces for baking.

8 Great Ways to Use Lime Zest

Outside of recipes calling for lime zest, you can use it as a garnish or flavoring to pump up the flavor of many recipes. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Drinks: Use a pinch on top of whipped cream, ice cream or lime drinks.
  2. Make a fish or chicken marinade: Use 1-2 teaspoons lime zest, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/4 cup white wine, 1/4 cup sugar or honey, and 2 TB sesame or other oil. Marinate at least 20 minutes and either grill or broil.
  3. Cookies: Put 1 teaspoon zest in sugar cookie recipe or add to store bought roll. Frost with white icing and zest on top.
  4. Flavored tea: Add 1/2 teaspoon lime zest when you brew hot tea or add a little lime zest to your sweet iced tea.
  5. Baked goods: Use as a garnish on a cream pie, cakes or cookies.
  6. Muffins: Add 1-2 teaspoons lime zest to any muffin recipe for added flavor.
  7. Cake: Add 2 teaspoons to white cake mix recipe, and substitute 1/4 cup lime juice for some of the other liquid in the recipe. Add 1 Tb. lime juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest to canned or homemade white frosting. Frost cake and sprinkle lime zest or candied lime zest (see recipe) on top.
  8. Fruit salad: Keep salads fresh and add to taste with 1/2 teaspoon zest, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1/4 cup honey mixed and stirred in with salad (especially helpful if you have apples or bananas in your salad).

Substitutes for Lime Zest

Don't have a fresh lime? Fresh lime zest has the most flavor, but here are five lime zest equivalents. You can substitute any one of these for the others.

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated candied peel

How to Use Dried Peel

Is dried lime zest all right to use?

Sure! Dried lime peel won't look as good in garnish and may not have quite as fresh a flavor, but dried peel will definitely give good flavor in baked goods and cooked dishes.

Where can I get dried lime peel?

Sometimes dried orange peel is available in the spice section of a grocery store, but I've not seen dried lime peel there. You might find it at a specialty Indian market, or you can find it on Amazon.

How do I use dried lime peel?

Use the same amount of dried lime peel as fresh in recipes. A bonus is that, if you look at the lime flavor substitutes chart, you can see that you can use dried lime zest in recipes instead of another lime flavoring. That is helpful if you don't have fresh limes or juice on hand. It wouldn't work for a key lime pie, but it can be useful when lime is just one of many other ingredients.

Storage Tips

Often, you will have lime zest left over. Here is how you can store it:

  • Refrigerator: Store it in a Zip-lock bag (press out air) in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  • Freezer: Put it in the freezer for a month in bag or plastic container. Frozen zest loses some color and flavor but is fine for baking.
  • Dried: Lime zest can also be dried in a dehydrator, or in your oven at 250 degrees. Then you can store it with your spices indefinitely.

Candied Lime Peel Recipe

Have some leftover lime peels? Try making your own candied lime peel using this easy recipe. You can use candied lime peel as a:

  • Snack (as is or dipped in chocolate)
  • Garnish
  • Substitute for lime zest

Rate it!

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

30 min

40 min

1 cup candied lime peel


  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup lime peel


  1. Use a peeler to take strips of peel off lime and cut into thin strips with a knife. Put in saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Drain water from the peel. Repeat 1-2 more times for less bitter peel.
  2. In a saucepan, put in 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Add peel and bring to a boil. boil until all syrup is absorbed and peel is transparent.
  3. Take peel from syrup and roll in white sugar or powdered sugar.
  4. Candied lime peel can be stored in a cupboard. You can use it as a substitute for lime zest. Use 2 teaspoons of candied peel (cut up fine) for 1 teaspoon zest.