The orange zest gives a unique, zesty flavor to many baked desserts, baked dishes, as well as salads, and cocktails. If you by any chance don’t have orange zest at home, here are some alternatives to it that will work perfectly fine.
Orange Zest Substitutes
1. Orange Juice
If you have orange juice(especially made from fresh oranges) in your fridge, you can totally substitute the orange zest with it, especially in baked dishes or salad dressings. The orange flavor will be a little more dominant but it is nothing to worry about.
Try to look for a fresh juice without any sugars and coloring in it. Replace a teaspoon of orange zest with a teaspoon of orange juice.
2. Lemon Zest
If you run out of orange juice as well, try another citrus fruit like lemon. Lemon zest works just fine if you want something refreshing and sourer. The zest of a lemon( the lemon rind) is more bitter than the one of orange but I find that it works amazingly either way.
To substitute orange zest with lemon zest, simply just use a 1:1 ratio. One teaspoon of orange zest is substituted for one teaspoon of lemon zest.
3. Lemon Juice
You can also use lemon juice in the place of orange zest. Just a quick reminder that lemon juice has a sour and bitter taste when it’s freshly squeezed and no sweeteners are added in. You can add in a little bit of sugar or honey if you feel like the lemon juice is too sour.
You can even go that far and buy lemon juice from the store but I think that buying fresh lemons is always the better solution.
When swapping these two ingredients, use 1:1 proportion. For example, if your recipe asks for 2 tablespoons of orange zest simply just use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
4. Lime Zest
Lime is quite basically the same thing as lemon with a smaller, rounder form and a green color. Both are sour with a citrusy aroma.
Lime zest is a great way to go when baking sweet dishes like lemon cakes, cheesecakes, etc… You can even grate some fresh zest on top of your favorite cocktails to give them a tangy flavor.
The lime zest is strong and bitter like the lemon. For a teaspoon of orange zest, use half a teaspoon of lime zest so the bitter taste won’t be dominant.
You can use lime juice and water mixture as an alternative as well. The water mixture literally waters down the very sour taste that the lime has.
5. Extracts(Orange Or Lemon)
Now, this is never my favorite option along with food coloring but sometimes it’s a necessity. You can totally reach for an orange extract if you already have it at home, especially when it comes to baking sweets.
Try and stick to the pure extracts that are much healthier and have little to no artificial coloring. Usually, they’re made from the natural oils of the orange peel, alcohol, and often food coloring.
A little goes a long way when it comes to extracts because they are concentrates and therefore they tend to be pretty strong. After you put your baked goods in the oven, your house will smell magically in no time.
Orange zest can be substituted with an orange extract or lemon extract.
6. Grapefruit Juice
If you want the perfect combination of sweet orange and sour lemon flavor you can use grapefruit juice. The darker the color of the grapefruit the better. You can simply juice it and add it to your recipes.
Grapefruit juice goes great when put on desserts but also for salad dressings and some gravies.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
I’m sure that most of you have vinegar in your kitchen. Apple cider vinegar has a strong odor and a sour taste. Let me tell you, it’s just unimaginable to ever make a salad without adding at least a dash of apple cider vinegar(or any other vinegar) to it.
Apple cider vinegar has various duties in the kitchen world with its acidic properties, typically for savory recipes, salads, burger sauces, and even soups.
Of course, apple cider vinegar is not suited for sweet-flavored dishes or desserts. If a recipe calls for a teaspoon of orange zest, simply swap it with a teaspoon of vinegar.
8. Fruit Concentrate
Fruit concentrate is most definitely not the same thing as fruit juice. ”Concentrate” is the term used for factory-produced, preserved, and contained juice.
The main ingredients of concentrates are fruit juice, sugar, and food coloring. The water of the fruit juices is extracted to get a thick consistency.
The fruit concentrate works well on many levels. You can use it when making your favorite desserts, cocktails, salads, sweet and savory dishes, etc.
Since this is a highly concentrated product, along comes the condensed flavor to it. So, I would recommend you to be very careful with the amount you put into your recipes. For 1 teaspoon of orange zest, just take ¾ teaspoon of concentrate.
9. Alcoholic Vinegar
If you don’t happen to have apple cider vinegar, regular vinegar will do the job just fine. Since the vinegar has a strong sour taste, just use half of the amount for orange zest instead.
You can make a mixture(almost like a dressing) by using some sugar/honey, and a little bit of water to tone down the strong aroma and taste of the vinegar.
10. Grapefruit Zest
There isn’t much to say about grapefruit zest and how to use it. It basically does the same job as orange or lemon zest. It helps your dishes get that citrusy flavor and aroma.
To use grapefruit as a substitute, simply just use the same amount that your recipe calls for orange zest. The citrus flavor of the grapefruit is impeccable in salads and baked desserts.
11. Fruit Juices
This option is much better for when you’re making stir-fry and pan-fried vegetables or chicken, but it works fine in baking as well. Make sure that you pick a fruit juice with citrus undertones to mimic the sourness and zestiness.
12. Take It Out
If you really cannot find any of the substitutes mentioned above, you can just omit orange zest from your baking recipe. Of course, without orange zest, your finished baked goods may have less brightness and lift.
Do be prepared that the overall taste of your baked goods will be affected and just won’t taste quite as good. Alternatively, you can also try to make your own orange zest at home.
Orange zest is not hard to find because it literally comes from an orange peel, a fruit that is most definitely available in every market or store. But, there are times when you must improvise and put something else in your baked goods, I find this to be an excellent learning technique, I mean, how will you learn what you like if you never try anything new?
In those times when fresh oranges are nowhere to be found, feel free to use some of the varieties that I named above. Fresh lemon, lemon zest, grapefruit juice, and grapefruit zest work the best for substituting orange zest because of their very similar citrusy taste and aroma.