Find out how to zest a lemon with these three easy methods! Lemon zest is a quick and easy way to add zesty citrus flavor to any recipe.
What is Lemon Zest
The zest of a lemon is the thin outermost layer of the lemon peel. It’s the colorful part that sits right onto of the white rind.
The zest stores much of the lemons natural citrus oil, making it almost more flavorful and aromatic than the juice. It’s used in cooking and baking to give foods a tangy lemon flavor. It’s what gives our Starbucks lemon bread it’s delicous flavor!
Contrary to what some home cooks believe, you don’t need any kind of fancy zesting appliances to zest lemons.
- Vegetable Peeler
- Box Grater (cheese grater)
These citrus zesting methods use common kitchen tools. You’re bound to have at least one in your kitchen drawer already. They work beautifully for zesting limes and oranges too!
Use one of these techniques to make our award winning Lemon Curd recipe!
How to Zest a Lemon with a Microplane
A microplane grater makes zesting lemons fast and foolproof. It’s specially designed for fine grating making it easier to remove only the yellow portion of the peel and none of the white pith.
- Hold the microplane in one hand and the lemon in the other.
- Draw the lemon away from you along the grater.
- Rotate the lemon after each stroke until the entire lemon has been zested.
How to Zest a Lemon with a Vegetable Peeler
This technique is just as easy but requires a second step.
- First, run the vegetable peeler vertically over the lemon to draw the yellow part off the peel. You will have long strips of zest.
- Use a knife to finely chop the zest before adding it to a recipe.
When using a vegetable peeler to zest citrus, I recommend using a gentle touch. This makes it easier to control how thick you are peeling the lemon so you get just the thin yellow portion and none of the thick white pith.
How to Zest a Lemon with a Box Grater
The cheese grater (or box grater) is another perfect kitchen tool for zesting lemons.
- Hold the box grater over a bowl with one hand, using the “fine” side (or the side with the tiny grates). Hold the lemon in your other hand.
- Push the lemon away from you along the box grater to remove the zest.
- Rotate the lemon in your hand after each stroke. Repeat until the whole lemon is zested.
As with the other zesting methods we discussed, take care to remove only the yellow part of the peel. The white part (the pith) has a strong bitter taste you don’t want in your recipes.
How to Use Lemon Zest
I recommend using lemon zest right away for strongest lemon flavor. Over time, the aroma and taste can become muted.
Once you’ve mastered lemon zesting you can use it in all of these delicious lemon recipes.
- Lemon Cheesecake Bars
- Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- Citrus Cookies
- Lemon Cheesecake Cake
- Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- Lemon Cupcakes
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- The Best Lemon Bars