Due to my affinity for baked goods, I decided to try creating key lime pie filling from scratch. I've done so twice now using two recipes. The first of which calls for key lime zest as a primary ingredient. The second of which does not, though a recommended modification of the recipe, which I followed, does call for it.

Timing the process, it took me about 20-25 minutes to grate 3 tsp. of zest from my key limes using a planar grater/zester and a small ceramic bowl. I would like to significantly speed up this process if I can, but the size and texture of key limes makes them difficult to zest for more than a pinch at a time.

Is there a faster way? I was thinking of doing something crazy with my food processor or investing in a proper zester, though I'm not sure how much this would speed things along. There also seem to be rather expensive products like the Spin Zester out there, but they seem of dubious applicability to this problem.

3 Answers 3


It seems to me, that a quality planar grater is the best solution. The Spin Zester is way too expensive for a home kitchen. I can recommend this fine micro plane grater for zesting:

Microplane Fine Zester

  • 2
    I'll second the microplane. I use the long skinny one instead of the model above, but I can zest 6 key limes in about 4 minutes. Maybe the asker just needs more practice ... or safety gloves.
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:33
  • 1
    Or the Microplane. We have this big, bulky cheese grater with a fine grater/zester attached to it. The thing is dull and slips around, making a complete mess of the process and taking additional time to secure. This will do nicely.
    – MrGomez
    Nov 14, 2011 at 18:15
  • And one can be purchased for $13.16 through Amazon: amazon.com/Microplane-38004-Professional-Spice-Grater/dp/… . Very nice. I'll see how it works for me.
    – MrGomez
    Nov 14, 2011 at 18:20
  • @soegaard Worked like a charm. The 38004 took the zesting time down from 25 minutes to around 2.5. That'll do. Thanks!
    – MrGomez
    Nov 20, 2011 at 23:04
  • @MrGomez Great!
    – soegaard
    Nov 21, 2011 at 9:44

When I need larger amounts of zest, I peel the fruit with a knife as best I can, scrape off the white part, and then use a food processor or finely chop it. This is slower for small amounts, but much faster for large amounts.

  • I think this is actually slower than using a zester. I can zest a lemon in about 15 seconds with one... it'll take longer just to peel, let alone scrape the peel down.
    – BobMcGee
    Nov 13, 2011 at 20:49
  • 1
    I guess it depends on what you are good at.
    – michael
    Nov 14, 2011 at 2:10
  • With a very heavy and sharp knife (think atsu-deba), there is a good chance to get peel off citrus fruit in ca. 1x3cm pieces without any pith.... Sep 24, 2018 at 10:04

I just began zesting key limes and I found a professional zester at Wal-Mart for $ 13.85! It took me about 5 key limes to begin to get the hang of it, but now I can do 80 key limes in about 45 minutes.

The best thing is to practice using no gloves. Be sure to keep the limes cool especially after zesting. This leaves the original lime without a peeling surface but still full of juice and ready to squeeze!

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