Skip to Content

HOW TO ZEST A LIME {5 WAYS!}

Lime zest is a great way to add brightness to your soups, salads, dressings, desserts, and drinks.

Check out these easy ways to zest limes with tools already in your kitchen.

labeled lime zesters

If you’d rather skip my essential cooking tips and tricks and get straight to this delicious recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.

WHAT IS LIME ZEST?

Zest is essentially the peel of the lime grated very fine. Not the whole peel, just the outermost part.

All citrus is covered with a peel. There are two parts to this peel.

One, the inner section close to the fruit that is white. This is the pith and acts as a protective coating keeping all the juice and flesh inside.

This pith (white part) is bitter in flavor so you want to avoid this when zesting.

The outer layer which is colored and what you see when you look at the lime is where all the magic happens. It contains all the natural oils and thus all the citrus flavor.

This is the part that you want to get when you zest, and avoid the rest.

The thickness of the peel (and the pith) can differ depending on the citrus. Oranges and grapefruits have thicker peels and piths while limes and lemons have thinner ones.

HOW MUCH ZEST COMES FROM ONE LIME?

One regular sized lime can yield up to 2 teaspoons of lime zest. This can vary depending on how thoroughly you zest the lime.

The amount also varies depending on thickness of the citrus fruit.

One regular lime = 2 teaspoons lime zest

WHAT TO DO WITH LIME ZEST

There are so many uses for lime zest. My favorite uses are:

  • dressings
  • marinades
  • rimming salt/sugar for cocktails
  • flavored butters
  • flavoring tea
  • dessert frostings
  • baked goods like cookies/muffins
  • basically any recipe that calls for lime flavor!
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy here.
lime on a box grater

I like to zest my limes and lemons before I juice them. I like to keep my 9 limes for feng shui in the house (not really) I just tend to buy a bunch because I love them and then I don’t use them all before they go bad.

HOW DO YOU ZEST A LIME?

There are a few different ways to zest a lime. A few of these require a small kitchen gadget but you can get zest without them if you don’t already own one.

Microplane –

This is my favorite way to zest my limes. It’s long and easy to use and gets the zest super fine. This tool is very sharp so use with caution.

Hold the lime in one hand and hold the microplane in the other. In a sweeping motion, drag the lime across the sharp side of the grater, pushing down gently, removing the bright green peel, exposing the pith underneath.

Once you start to see white, rotate or turn the lime and continue zesting until you have all you need.

If the zest sticks to the underside of the grater, just give it a light tap on the counter or cutting board and it will dislodge and fall off.

The zest is full of oils and moisture so it might stick to the grater.

Box grater –

This is just as effective as a microplane and you probably have one of these in your kitchen right now.

For making zest, be sure to use the smallest holes on the grater.

Place the grater over a board or other flat work surface. Hold the box grater firmly with one hand, and with the lime in the other, drag the lime over the holes of the fine grater side, pushing down gently to remove the green part of the peel. Stop when you start to see white.

Slightly rotate the lime as you go and continue to zest until you remove all the green peel.

If the zest sticks to the inside of the grater, just tap the grater on the counter or use a spatula and scrape it out of the inside.

lime being zested

HOW TO ZEST A LIME WITHOUT A GRATER

Zester –

I am not one for a tool that only does one thing (or two) but I admit that I have one of these. It was a wedding present along with the melon baller 🙂

My lime zester also has a channel knife, making it a two job tool, and is great if you like to garnish cocktails.

Start at the top of the lime and press the holes down onto the peel and pull down. This zest will come in long thin strips, not like from the graters. Rotate as you zest to get all that you can.

The other part of the citrus zester is the channel knife. This is used to make long narrow strips of peel that you would use as a lime twist for cocktails or swirls for topping desserts.

Dig the tip of the knife (looks like the end of a peeler) into the middle section of the lime. You can continue to rotate the lime and make one long strip of peel. I’m not that good but I can get them a few inches long.

lime and a channel knife

HOW TO ZEST A LIME WITHOUT A ZESTER

Sometimes you don’t have a fancy zester. Use these instead! I bet you have one or both of these tools in your kitchen drawers somewhere.

Vegetable Peeler –

Use this to peel the lime like you would a potato. Peel long, wide strips of lime peel, being sure not to get any white pith on it.

Once you get the strips, you can cut them into very thin strips with a knife or chop into small pieces like zest.

Knife –

Using a sharp knife like a paring knife, slice off large pieces but thin layers of the outer lime peel, leaving the pith.

Once you have the strips, slice into thin strips and finely chop into small pieces if necessary.

vegetable peeler and lime

LIME ZEST SUBSTITUTE

What if I don’t have fresh limes to zest? What can I use instead?

For each teaspoon of lime zest use the following:

One regular lime = 2 teaspoons lime zest

TAPAS TIPS & TRICKS

  • the lime will harden quickly if you zest it and don’t use it.
  • wash the lime first. You are using the part of the lime that everything touches.
  • be careful that you don’t cut in too deeply; your goal is to get the shallowest slice possible.
  • once zested, don’t waste the lime. Juice it and freeze the juice!

HOW TO STORE LIME ZEST

Lime zest can be stored in the refrigerator in a small jar or plastic bag for up to 2 weeks. If you want to store it longer I recommend freezing it.

To freeze lime zest, spread it out on piece of parchment paper and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer container or zip top bag and store frozen until ready to

Frozen lime zest will last up to 6 months!!

USE LIME ZEST IN THESE GREAT RECIPES!

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

limes and tools with text "how to zest a lime"

MORE EASY RECIPES

lime being zested

How to zest a lime

Yield: 2 teaspoons
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Lime zest is a great way to add brightness to your soups, salads, dressings, desserts, and drinks. Check out these easy ways to zest limes with tools already in your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 lime
  • zester

Instructions


Microplane

  1. Hold the lime in one hand and the microplane in the other. In a sweeping motion, drag the lime across the sharp side of the grater, pushing down gently, removing the bright green peel, exposing the pith underneath.
  2. Once you start to see white, rotate the lime and continue zesting until you have all you need.
  3. If the zest sticks to the underside of the grater, just give it a light tap on the counter or cutting board and it will dislodge and fall off. The zest is full of oils and moisture so it might stick to the grater.

Box Grater

  1. For making zest, be sure to use the smallest holes on the grater.
  2. Place the grater over a board or other flat work surface. Hold the box grater firmly with one hand, and with the lime in the other, drag the lemon over the holes, pushing down gently to remove the green part of the peel.
  3. Stop when you start to see white. Slightly rotate the lime as you go and continue to zest until you remove all the green peel.
  4. If the zest sticks to the inside of the grater, just tap the grater on the counter or use a spatula and scrape it out of the inside. Watch the sharp edges!

Citrus Zester

  1. Start at the top of the lime and press the holes down onto the peel and pull down. This zest will come in long thin strips, not like from the graters. Rotate as you zest to get all that you can.
  2. The other part of the citrus zester is the channel knife. This is used to make long narrow strips of peel that you would use as a lime twist for drinks or swirls for topping desserts.
  3. Dig the tip of the knife (looks like the end of a peeler) into the middle section of the lime. You can continue to rotate the lime and make one long strip of peel. I’m no that good but I can get them a few inches long.

Vegetable Peeler

  1. Use this to peel the lime like you would a potato. Peel long, wide strips of lime peel, being sure not to get any white pith on it.
  2. Once you get the strips, you can cut them into very thin strips with a knife or chop into small pieces like zest.

Knife

  1. Using a sharp knife like a paring knife, slice off thin layers of the outer lime peel, leaving the pith.
  2. Once you have the strips, slice into thin strips and finely chop into small pieces if necessary.

Notes

*If you love this recipe as much as I do, please leave me a comment and rate it 5 stars. Thank you!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 20Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party. I can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

Did you make this recipe?

Follow me on Pinterest for more fun recipes!

@TakeTwoTapas.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

Skip to Recipe