If you want to add lemon flavor, why not just add lemon juice?

For what type of dishes would you recommend using each one?

  • Having read the comments and answer's here, I just had to share the famous "Penn and Teller's Swedish Lemon Angels" recipe. This is a case where zest would not produce the mess that the juice would. Either way is is a wonderful joke; and one would be tempted to add it to an April Fool Days joke at baking school.
    – Adrian Hum
    Nov 4, 2015 at 3:16

2 Answers 2


Lemon juice and lemon zest have a different taste. Lemon juice has obviously more water, is tart (adds fruitiness and freshness to the dish) and the aroma is not as intense as in the zest. If you bake a cake or cookies it's often more desirable to use lemon zest because it doesn't mess up the water-solids-ratio and what you often want is a rather sweet cake/cookie than a tart one. In contrast often the cookie glaze should be somewhat tart - you can use both zest and juice. I have the impression that the zest has a bitter component.

So you have to decide if you want to have a tart component in your dish and whether the dish tolerates additional liquid. Acid is not only important in taste but also in the further "food chemistry". As Jay pointed out, acid can make milk curdle. Also, cooking with acid in aluminium isn't good taste-wise (and probably health-wise, too, but that's another topic).

Someone else asked a question in the opposite direction: Are there any reasons not to include the zest when citrus juice is an ingredient?

  • 1
    It's also worth pointing out that lemon zest has a much more "lemony" flavor due to the lemon oil in the skin. If you look at the outside of a lemon rind up close while squeezing it, you can actually see the lemon oil squirting out of the tiny pores.
    – alexw
    Oct 1, 2015 at 15:38

Lemon juice adds both lemon flavor and sourness whereas the zest only adds the lemon flavor.

There are instances in which you only want the freshness of the lemon flavor but not the sourness. One example would be when you are working with dairy. The acidity can curdle milk. You would use zest in this case.

  • 5
    The flavor in the juice isn't really exactly the same lemon flavor as the zest, either.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 30, 2015 at 20:38

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