How to Zest a Lemon 3 Easy Ways

Getting the best zest is crucial for sweet lemon bars and tart lemon curds. Our Test Kitchen shows you how to zest a lemon three super simple ways.

A sprinkle of lemon zest can go a long way toward making a dish pop. In many savory dishes, lemon adds brightness and just the right touch of acidity. In baking, lemon zest it what makes our favorite desserts—like lemon bars and lemon meringue pie—so irresistible, lending these dishes their essential pucker. My mouth is actually watering as I think about our best lemon-accented dishes…especially these lemon roasted veggies.

Lemon zest packs so much punch because it’s filled with the fruit’s potent natural oils. Pound for pound, the outer part of the peel has more flavor than lemon juice (though juice also plays an important role in most citrus-based dishes). But how do you harness the power of lemon zest? Our Test Kitchen has the tips for getting the best zest from lemons, limes and other citrus fruits.

Method 1: Use a Zester

Person using a tool to scrape the zest from several lemonsPhoto: Taste of Home

Use the tool made specifically for the job. A citrus zester is designed to create narrow strips of the outer peel. Be careful to zest only the colorful outermost portion and none of the white pith, which can be bitter. Once zested, you can chop the strips into fine pieces to stir into a recipe. On the other hand, if you plan to use them as a garnish, feel free to leave as is—strips of zest make great accents for our favorite mocktails.

Method 2: Break Out the Box Grater

Person holding a lemon up against a graterPhoto: Taste of Home

If you don’t have a citrus zester on hand, a box grater works well, too. Use the fine holes or the sharp grater teeth to gently shave the zest from the lemon. Be sure to turn the fruit as you go to avoid getting any of the fibrous white pith. Unlike the zester, this method provides small, fine pieces of zest, so there’s no need to chop afterward.

Method 3: Try a Microplane

Person using a microplane to zest a lemonPhoto: Taste of Home

This is our Test Kitchen’s preferred method for getting superfine lemon zest. To use, simply rub a washed and dried lemon over the plane, using light pressure and turning as you work. This tool produces the finest zest possible—perfect for stirring into lemon curd, custard or any batter or dough (lemon spritz, anyone?).

The average lemon yields about one tablespoon of zest. If you wind up with extra, it can be stored in the freezer inside an airtight container. And if you don’t have enough, we’ve got tips on easy substitutes, too.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Sue Stetzel
Sue has been working with Taste of Home since 2011. When she isn’t writing, she’s answering your burning cooking questions and working with our team of Community Cooks. She spends her free time cooking, crafting, and volunteering for various organizations in her home town.