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Here’s how to zest a lemon: 3 different ways! Here’s the best method for adding citrus to all your recipes…without a zester.

How to zest a lemon
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Got a recipe that calls for lemon zest? We’re here to help! Here at A Couple Cooks, we have lots of recipes that call for zest, which adds a fresh zing to everything it touches.

Here’s the thing: the best way to do it is not with a zester at all. Ready to get zesting? This method yields fine zest for using in recipes.

*Want to zest a lemon for a cocktail garnish? Go to How to Make a Lemon Twist.

All about zest

Lemon zest is the yellow outside portion of its peel. It’s often used with or without lemon juice to add tangy flavor to recipes. The zest can taste even stronger than the juice; it’s often used in lemon-flavored baked or cooked recipes like lemon blueberry bread and lemon poppy seed muffins. Zest can also be used as a substitute for lemon juice.

Here’s an important part of zesting a lemon! Make sure grate away the yellow part of the peel only, not the white pith! The pith has a bitter flavor and should be avoided.

Lemon zest

How to zest a lemon

The best way to zest a lemon for using in recipes? Use a microplane grater. A microplane is a handheld grater with sharp holes in it. Grating foods with a microplane is faster and more consistent than a box grater. We use ours all the time for zest, but it’s also perfect for garlic and ginger. If you don’t have a microplane, no worries! You can use a box grater instead.

Here’s how to zest a lemon:

  1. Hold the microplane in one hand, place one end on a flat surface and hold it at an angle.
  2. Hold the lemon in the other hand, and drag it down over the microplane holes (or the holes of the box grater). Make sure to remove the yellow part of the skin only! Avoid the bitter pith.
  3. Gradually turn the lemon until all yellow parts of the peel have been removed.
How to zest a lemon

How to zest a lemon: alternative method

Another way to zest a lemon is with a vegetable peeler. This way is not ideal, but it works in a pinch! The peel is a bit harder to remove with a peeler, but this way works as an alternative. Here’s what to do:

  • Use a vegetable peeler to carefully peel off large pieces of the yellow part of the skin only (avoiding the pith). 
  • Use a chef’s knife to mince the peel into very small pieces.

How much zest is in 1 lemon?

Here’s a tip that’s helpful when cooking with lemons. How much juice and zest is in 1 lemon? One regular lemon yields about 1 tablespoon zest and 3 tablespoons juice. Keep in mind that this quantity varies slightly if you have large or very small lemons.

Lemon

Recipes with lemon zest

Lemon zest adds a fresh zing to any recipe: but there are really no substitutes! You’ve got to use the real thing. Here are a few lemon recipes that call for it:

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How to zest a lemon

How to Zest a Lemon


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 tablespoon zest 1x

Description

Here’s how to zest a lemon: 3 different ways! Here’s the best method for adding citrus to all your recipes…without a zester.

Note: This method yields fine zest for using in recipes (not cocktail garnishes). **Want to zest a lemon for a cocktail garnish? Go to How to Make a Lemon Twist.

 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 coarse microplane, fine grater, or vegetable peeler

Instructions

  1. Wash the lemon and dry it. Then use one of the zesting methods below:
  2. Microplane: Hold the microplane in one hand, place one end on a flat surface and hold it at an angle. Hold the lemon in the other hand, and drag it down over the microplane holes. Remove the colored part of the skin only (not the pith). Gradually turn the lemon until all sides are zested.
  3. Fine grater: Do the same as the microplane, using the finest holes on your box grater.
  4. Peeler: Use a vegetable peeler to carefully peel off large pieces of the colored part of the skin only, dragging from the top to the bottom (not the pith). Then use a knife to mince the peel into very small pieces.
  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Zested
  • Cuisine: Citrus

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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