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Learn How to Zest a Lemon even if you don’t have a zester. Use these methods with kitchen utensils that you already have. Easy steps so you can add zest to your favorite recipes.

Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest.
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Zesting a Lemon for Recipes

We love adding zest to baking recipes, seafood recipes, dressings and marinades. It is the quickest and easiest way to add so much flavor.

If you have a zester, then you are already prepared to add zest to your recipes. But if you don’t have one, then these other methods will help you get that lemon flavor in your recipes.

What is Lemon Zest?

Zest is often called for in adding citrus flavor to desserts, dressings, or marinades. The outer skin of a lemon is grated or cut with a knife for an easy to get citrus zest.

These tiny pieces off of the lemon adds brightness and flavor to many recipes that you definitely do not want to miss out on.

You want to only zest the outer layer of the lemon. Avoid the white pith part of the lemon as it can be bitter. The outer layer produces natural oils.

What to do with Zest?

There are many recipes that call for zest. These are our favorites ways to use lemon zest:

  • Baked Goods – Cakes, Cookies and Muffins
  • Dressing
  • Marinades
  • Cocktails – Zest the rim of your glass
  • Tea Flavoring
  • Frosting for Dessert

Lemon zest can also be substituted with orange zest or lime zest.

Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest on the side.

How to Zest a Lemon with a Zester

Using a zester is the common tool that is used to zest a lemon. When used on lemons it produces longer strands of zest. A zester will zest any citrus fruit.

Here are the steps to use a Zester:

  • With the lemon in your hand, place the zester holes towards the lemon.
  • Press the zester against the lemon and in a pulling motion zest the lemon.
  • Repeat process until the entire lemon is zest focusing on the yellow part of the lemon.
Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest.

How to Zest a Lemon without a Zester

If you don’t have a citrus zester than the following methods will help you obtain the zest from the lemon. These kitchen tools can be used with many different recipes.

  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Cheese Grater
  • Sharp knife
Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a vegetable peeler. Also a zest.

Zest with a Vegetable Peeler:

Using a vegetable peeler to get zest from a lemon will work, but it will take some extra steps.

  • Take the vegetable peeler and begin peeling large pieces from the lemon peel.
  • Then use a paring knife and a cutting board to slice the large pieces into smaller pieces. This comes close to the small piece zest that you are trying to achieve.
  • You can use a peeler or a sharp chef’s knife to get the large pieces off the lemon to grate it.
Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest.

Zest with a Cheese Grater

A cheese box grater is a kitchen tools that most homes have. The cheese grater has multiple size with multiple holes. Make sure when you are zesting a lemon, that you use the smallest holes.

  • Hold the lemon on the side of the grater with the smaller holes.
  • Begin moving the lemon up and down to produce the grated zest. Rotating lemon to get all sides.
  • Focusing on getting just the lemon part and not getting any of the white part.
Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest.

Using a Knife

If you don’t have a cheese grater or a vegetable peeler, than a knife will do. Here is is how you would get your zest when using a knife.

  • Place your lemon on a cutting board and cut off the ends so you lemon is flat on the cutting board.
  • Cut at angle to remove strips of the lemon peel from the lemon. Making sure you are not getting any of the white pith.
  • If you desire smaller pieces, simply to your knife and chop smaller pieces of lemon to add to your recipes.
Close up image of lemons in a bowl with a cutting board and a zester. Also a zest.

Tips & Tricks

  • Use or store in the freezer quickly so that it doesn’t harden.
  • Make sure to wash lemon before zesting. It has been handled by a lot of different people and it is just a good habit of cleaning your fruit before eating.
  • Only zest the top layer so you don’t get the white part.
  • Use the zested lemon in many different drinks or food recipes.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Zest and Juice from a Lemon

When you are trying to figure out how much zest you can get from one lemon, it depends on the size of the lemon. If you have a regular size lemon you can get 1 tablespoon of zest and 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice.

Can you freeze zest?

It is best to store fresh zest in the freezer. Zest will last about 6 months in the freezer if stored in an airtight container. It is not recommended to refrigerate zest as it will lose it flavor and become bitter.

How long will zest last?

Once you remove the zest from the lemon it is best to use it immediately. If you do not use it right away it could lose its flavoring.

Recipes with Lemon

1. Lemon Garlic Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Scampi Recipe
You are going to love this Lemon Garlic Shrimp Scampi Recipe. It is a simple and quick recipe. The perfect healthy meal idea ready in 10 min.
Lemon Garlic Shrimp Scampi Recipe

2. Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Lemon chicken orzo soup
Lemon chicken orzo soup recipe takes only 30 minutes! Serve a delicious dinner from the stove to the table in less time than take out! 
Lemon chicken orzo soup

3. Crock Pot Lemon Chicken

Crock pot Lemon Chicken
Crockpot lemon chicken is so light and refreshing for a great meal. The creamy lemon sauce is delicious over the chicken and pasta for an easy dinner idea.
Crock pot Lemon Chicken

4. Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken Recipe

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
Jazz up plain chicken with this tasty Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken Recipe. The chicken is so tender and the marinade is light and delicious.
Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

More Kitchen Tips

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

How to Zest a Lemon

Learn How to Zest a Lemon even if you don't have a lemon zester. Use these methods with kitchen utensils that you already have.
Prep Time2 minutes
Total Time2 minutes
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1

Ingredients

  • Lemons

Instructions

  • With the lemon in your hand, place the zester holes towards the lemon.
  • Press the zester against the lemon and in a pulling motion zest the lemon.
  • Repeat process until the entire lemon is zest.

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Carrie. Welcome to Eating on a Dime!

I’m on a mission to help you cook delicious meals without busting your budget. Together we are going to cook real food… for real families!

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