Most recipes that use lemon zest call for "zest of one lemon" or some such amount. To avoid the bother of organic lemons that invariably go bad before I use them and having to fiddle with zesting I'd like to use dried zest soaked in lemon juice instead.

How should I substitute the amounts? I'm guesstimating that drying would reduce the volume by about half, but how much good fresh zest is there on a lemon in the first place?

  • Zesting is really easy if you have a microplane.
    – user5561
    Nov 22, 2013 at 1:45
  • @user5561 The more pressing problem is I only have a use for the zest once a month or so, organic lemons come in bags of ~5, and they get moldy in a few days.
    – millimoose
    Nov 22, 2013 at 17:38
  • 3
    @millimoose I recommend that you go ahead and buy the bag of lemons. Zest as much as you think you will use in about 3 months, and put it in a little baggie in the freezer. Try to get it into a kind of even, thin layer as it freezes. That way it will be easy to take what you need when you need it and put the rest back in the freezer. Then juice all the lemons. Freeze the juice, refrigerate it for use within a few days, make lemonade, whatever. If you still have unzested peel left, how about Candied Peel?
    – Jolenealaska
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:38
  • @Jolenealaska I just grate the lemons and toss the zest into a little wide mouth jar, then freeze. Prying the amount I want out with a teaspoon is not difficult. Oct 20, 2015 at 13:33

4 Answers 4


Use one teaspoon of dried zest for one tablespoon of fresh zest, which is about what you get from a lemon.

Most foods dry to about a third their original size, so I would use one third of the amount called for. Lemons vary a great deal in size, but the recipe probably means one tablespoon of fresh zest, which is normal for "medium" sized lemons.

Something to watch out for is that most cheap "dried lemon peel" products are actually made from the zest and a bit of the pith, which will both give you a bitter flavor and short you some of the lemon flavor you expect. Look closely at the zest you buy, if you can see that the individual pieces have two distinct layers, or a pale yellow or white color, steer clear of that brand. This is probably a "get what you pay for" situation, so spring for the higher end lemon zest.

I have also had great luck drying my own lemon zest. Unless your kitchen is humid, it will probably dry in a day or two just sitting on a plate on the counter.


Here's what I do. Zest all your lemons, measure out 1 Tbl. at a time and put it into an ice cube tray. Add a little bit of either water or lemon juice and freeze. When frozen you can pop them out and store in a zip lock bag or a freezer safe container. When you need some zest just grab a cube and defrost. Hope this helps.


Lemons and Limes will freeze (i would advise bagged with little air - seems the zest can get freezer burned...), and can be zested frozen (eg with a nutmeg grater, or said microplane).


If no such tool is available: A vegetable peeler can get the zest off in strips, it depends on the exact peeler whether there will be too much pith attached (can be shaved off with a sharp knife - careful!). Then mince with a knife. Will probably not work with frozen, though...


The kind of bagged grated lemon zest some brands sell has little to do with lemon zest. Seen ingredients lists on that stuff that would make the product potentially unsuitable for vegetarians. I know health discussions are OT, but such alterations IMHO make culinary qualities of an ingredient questionable...

  • Good idea, but answering this here might be a missed opportunity. Since it doesn't answer the question as stated, it could be more difficult for someone looking for this information as opposed to just the substitution. May I suggest you write a self-answered question that specifically asks "How do I preserve organic lemons i keep for occasional zesting?"
    – millimoose
    May 11, 2015 at 1:36

Approximately 1 teaspoon is 1 lemon.

  • 3
    The top answer already said this. It was the third paragraph; I moved it to the top so people won't miss it as easily. Might want to read a little more carefully before you write a snarky reply next time :) As for your answer... you'll probably find that your answers are better received if you add something new, and if you explain a bit.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 10, 2016 at 17:24

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