I know that the bitter taste in lemons is due to the rind (the white part), but I don't understand why there are recipes where it's ok and others where the taste is just terrible.

I recently experimented by mixing curry with limes and lemons. I cut the lemons and placed the slices over chicken thighs that I cooked in the oven. At one point I tasted it and the flavour was good but the meat was slightly uncooked. I left it for another 30 min and when I took it out it was really bitter, so much that there was just a hint of curry.

So, is it time dependant then? Does the cooking method (direct heat, wet heat) have any influence? Can it be avoided by taking out the lemons at a determined point? I love the "citrusy" flavour, specially with chicken and fish, but never seem to get it right. Thanks for any help.

  • 1
    Some dishes do expect you to cook with lemons, then remove them, leaving the flavor in the rest of the dish - in that case it doesn't matter if the lemons are bitter.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 14:13

2 Answers 2


You can try a few things.

  1. Use just the zest from the peel, and then slice and remove the pith and use just the inside.
  2. Pre-boil the lemon peels, then add them to your main dish.
  3. Remove the lemons before the bitterness gets too strong (i.e. when you tasted the dish the first time) but while there's still a strong taste.

This works because the citrus oils (which are a major primary flavor contributor) are just in the top layer of the peels, while the acid is in the inside. The pith is just plain bitter.

  • How does pre-boiling the lemon peels work? I tried a recipe that called for this and it ended up tasting terribly bitter.
    – ashes999
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 13:09
  • @ashes999 I need to double check some references, but I believe the bitter compounds are water soluble (the citrus oil isn't). Did you discard the water before using the peels?
    – Eli Lansey
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:11
  • Yes, I discarded the water.
    – ashes999
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 22:15

Or try using preserved lemons. Here you use the peel but it is not bitter.

My theory is that peels are bitter due to alkaloids. In preserving, these react with the acidic juice and both are neutralized. The salt acts to preserve it.

Why it turned bitter later - most likely it took the extra cooking for the bitterness to transfer from the peels to the meat.

  • 1
    Unsolicited advertisement isn't welcome here. If you have a website you can link to it in your profile.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:35

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