Citrus Frugality: Don’t Waste Lemon Zest

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I’m not exactly a frugal person. I sometimes try to be. There are those rare days when I remember to turn a stale loaf of bread into crumbs or pudding *before* it turns green. Or days when I empty the fridge into a soup pot and pat myself on the back for avoiding waste. But most of the time I am too focused on the exciting new thing I’m cooking to remember what’s aging in the fridge.

There is however one ingredient that I hate to see go to waste: lemons. A lemon is such a bright and cheery thing. The thought of all that sunshine going to waste makes me sad.

Lemons have two useful parts when it comes to cooking and baking: the juice and the rind or zest. Very often I only need the juice. It breaks my heart to squeeze out the juice and then see that unused daffodil of peel peeking out of the garbage can. And so I make sure that never happens.

Before cutting a lemon I always harvest its rind (except if the lemon is going into someone’s drink. Can you imaging being served a refreshing beverage with a peel-less wedge of lemon floating in it? Whoever made that drink would beat me in a frugality contest any day!). I either grate it up on a rasp or I use a paring knife to remove long wisps (being careful not to take the white pith along with the zest). Then I can juice the lemon and not worry about the white husk that is thrown away.

Now, if you’re like me and you use A LOT of lemons, then you will quickly find yourself swimming in rind. What to do with it all? I preserve the lemon rind in four different ways:

  1. I put the finely grated zest in a bag in the freezer. This can be used in any recipe that calls for lemon zest. Just let it defrost for a moment or two on the counter before adding it to anything so that it will spread around better and not be a frozen clump. Uses for the frozen zest: Throw a bit into white cake batter (or even chocolate cake batter), muffins, cookies, breads and veggie dips for an extra zing of flavor. I also like to mix it with the tea leaves in my tea ball.
  2. I scoot the larger rind cuttings from one lemon into a cup of sugar in a sealed jar. After a few days the sugar starts to take on some lemony notes which it then passes on to anything it sweetens.
  3. When I have too much time on my hands (note: This has not happened since baby M was born!) I set the oven to 200ºF, line a pan with foil and put the longer wisps of lemon rind on the pan. After awhile, they become totally dry. I then chop them into smaller pieces and put them in a pepper mill along with some sea salt and black peppercorns. Homemade Lemon Pepper!
  4. I warm the long pieces of zest from one lemon over low heat in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Once everything is nice and warm I remove it from the heat and let the oil steep. I usually cover it and leave it steeping overnight. Then I strain the oil into a container with a tight-fitting lid. This oil is lovely drizzled into soups just before serving or as the oil used to lightly pan-fry fish. It’s also pretty spectacular drizzled over roasted asparagus.

Now that you’ve read all my lemon zest ideas I bet your mouth is watering. Well, I have some more inspiration for you. Head over to Live Pretty. Katie (from and I are doing a Google+ Hangout with two of the Living Pretty gals tonight about…you guessed it…lemons! In honor of our chat they’ve been posting some lemon recipes. They all look and sound incredible but the one that I actually tried and actually swooned over is for Lemon Zest Pasta. And yes, the zest from your freezer will work beautifully here!

31 Responses to “Citrus Frugality: Don’t Waste Lemon Zest”

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  2. Einir Mason — June 13, 2017 @ 12:59 pm (#)

    I peel the lemon rind in strips and soak it for 3-4 weeks in white vinegar . I then water this down and put in a spray bottle, fantastic as a all round cleaner.
    I use up every bit of a lemon as I freeze the zest in portions and the juice in ice trays and I also freeze the remainder of the lemons excluding the seeds in bags and use inside whole chicken or under chicken or lamb when roasting ( no need to defrost)

  3. Nurali Lakhani — January 5, 2017 @ 9:49 am (#)

    Very good articles Don’t know if everyday peels can be preserved in salt water without refrigeration and used these collected peels to make pickles

  4. Brenda — October 20, 2016 @ 3:22 pm (#)

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas, I’ll definitely be trying them all 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻😊😊😊

    • Christine Pittman — October 24, 2016 @ 3:21 pm (#)

      You’re welcome!

  5. Deni — February 19, 2016 @ 3:23 pm (#)

    Drop some of that zest or pieces of the peel in a smoothie as well. I do it every morning, along with some frozen fruit, yogurt, half an avocado and coconut milk.  Yummy, nutritious and refreshing!

    • Christine Pittman — February 22, 2016 @ 2:13 pm (#)

      Deni, That is a brilliant idea!

  6. Wendy — November 10, 2015 @ 9:18 pm (#)

    When I have a lot of lemons I freeze the juice in plastic ice trays and then bag up the 1 oz. cubes for when I need lemon juice and then I make candy from the lemon peels.

    • Christine Pittman — November 16, 2015 @ 12:54 pm (#)

      Wendy, what great ideas! I’m going to try making candied peel next time. Love it!

  7. Andi Nodal — January 24, 2015 @ 9:58 pm (#)

    Thanks for your wonderful ideas to help me find more uses for lemon rind. I enjoyed this article. 

  8. Kristine Bagasin — January 15, 2015 @ 7:12 am (#)

    Hi I have lots of rind left from making lemon square and not enough juice from it thanks for this useful advice.
    I use the peeled lemon skin after zesting and squeezing for lemon water.
    And use the skin as fertilizer after, and have someone plant the seed.
    Lemons in our place is kind of rare and a bit pricey.
    No need to waste there.

    Thanks a bunch!


    • Christine Pittman — January 18, 2015 @ 9:12 am (#)

      Kristine, You’re welcome. I love the fertilizer tip! Thank you!!

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  12. Felice — December 22, 2013 @ 7:09 pm (#)

    Thanks for the tip! Got to save every bit of my slightly-more-pricey organic lemon :)

  13. Ros — November 7, 2013 @ 8:16 pm (#)

    Hi will be trying your recipes, but I am looking for a specific one for preserving lemon rind in jars. Are you able to help me please

    • Christine Pittman — November 9, 2013 @ 4:40 am (#)

      Hi Ros,
      I actually don’t have a recipe like that. You could try just using lemon rind in this to see what happens. When preserving lemons using this method the rind does end up being the primary thing that you eat. Worth a try.

  14. marilyn — August 25, 2013 @ 3:59 pm (#)

    Thanks for the great lemon ideas. My tree is my pride & joy and although I give away buckets full, I will be glad to save some in the freezer and in the pepper mill. Great Blog!

    • Christine Pittman — August 27, 2013 @ 10:01 am (#)

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. I am very jealous of your lemon tree. We had one at the first house we lived in in Florida but its lemons were not particularly tasty. It is a delight to live here though so that in the winter I can find fresh local lemons (that taste good!) at the farmer’s market. I hope you stop by the blog again soon or consider subscribing to my newsletter or following on Facebook. All the links are below. Happy Zesting!

  15. Flora — July 12, 2013 @ 10:40 am (#)

    I’ve been surfing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for
    me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net
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  16. Amanda @ Amanda's Apron — September 26, 2012 @ 6:42 pm (#)

    WHAT?! I never knew there were so many things that you could do with lemon peels!!! I LOVIT!!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Christine Pittman — September 28, 2012 @ 9:43 am (#)

      Amanda, I know! Lemon peel is amazing. I just love it. Such a great ingredient with its ability to transform any dish. Thanks for visiting!

  17. katie — August 22, 2012 @ 6:57 am (#)

    Christine I love all of these ideas! I never thought to freeze my zest. I also love the idea of making my own lemon pepper and lemon sugar! So many possibilities!

    • Christine Pittman — August 23, 2012 @ 9:30 am (#)

      Katie, Do you have a dehydrator? That works best for drying out the zest and then making lemon pepper. You can also just add bits of the dried zest to salt and put it in a pepper mill for seasoning fish and veggies.

  18. phyllis — August 21, 2012 @ 7:02 pm (#)

    Great ideas. I freeze my zest too, but I just keep a zip lock in the freezer and keep adding to it. I get to a point that I feel guilty if I don’t zest the lemon before I juice it. I also zest the oranges before we use them.

    • Christine Pittman — August 23, 2012 @ 9:28 am (#)

      Maybe I learned my citrus-frugality from you, mom!

  19. Julia @ Live Pretty — August 21, 2012 @ 6:32 pm (#)

    Love these ideas! The lemon olive oil would be so beautiful on seafood, and the lemon sugar on cookies. So going to try :-)

    • Christine Pittman — August 23, 2012 @ 9:28 am (#)

      Thanks Julia! Let me know how they turn out. And thanks again for chatting with us on Tuesday. It was a great show!


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