Whether you need citrus flavor in a pinch or your recipe calls for the zest of limes, knowing how to make fresh zest is a must. Thankfully, I’ve got the simplest ways for you to make fresh lime zest fast to give your dishes that extra flavor and zing they need. It helps to have the right tools, though. With a few hacks, you’ll be able to zest lime like a pro!

This post contains affiliate links.

What Is Lime Zest?

Lime zest is what you get from that brightly colored green portion of the outside of this citrus fruit. (The most outer peel of a lime.) It adds a tangy flavor to recipes. It’s even stronger than lime juice (or lemon juice). If you have a recipe that calls for lime juice, adding lime zest from fresh limes can make it even more spectacular.

How Much Lime Zest Comes From One Lime?

It will, of course, depend on the size of your limes, though as a rule of thumb, one regularly sized lime will give you approximately 2 teaspoons of lime zest. Now you can plan on how many of them to buy for your intended recipe.

Ingredients + Notes

Wooden cutting boards and citrus zesters with a woman's hand picking up a veggie peeler.
  • Lime: Make sure you start with good limes. Your limes should have that lime aroma; when you squeeze them, they should have a little give yet be firm.

    Don’t forget to wash your limes before zesting to remove any dirt or germs. Additionally, limes harden quickly if you use them for zesting only, so make good use of the rest of that lime fast, or juice it and freeze it for later use. 

    You could use the lime juice to make this homemade limeade!
Wooden cutting boards with remains of a lime that has been zested.

Kitchen Utensils

  • Citrus Microplane: Using a citrus microplane is my favorite way to zest a lime. This traditional zester has small sharp holes that create very fine zest when dragging a lime over it.
  • Ribbon Zester: A ribbon zester has a handful of small holes in a row. Dragging the peel of lime over it creates small ribbons.
  • Box Grater: This may be the simplest way to zest a lime because many households have a box grater or another type of grater on hand.

Step-by-step Instructions: How To Zest A Lime Five Ways

Here are the best methods to create fresh citrus zest. (Make sure to avoid the white part of the peel (the bitter pith).

1. Citrus Microplane

Zesting a lime with a citrus microplane.

1. Hold the microplane grater in your dominant hand and place the bottom on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. 

2. Hold the lime in your other hand. 

3. Slide the lime down the microplane while applying consistent pressure, removing the fine lime zest. 

4. Turn the lime as you go to zest the entire lime. (Or until you have enough green lime zest for your recipe.)

2. Ribbon Zester

A whole lime next to a ribbon zester and wooden cutting boards.

1. Hold the ribbon zester in your hand and a regular lime in your other hand. 

2. Move the lime down the ribbon zester with consistent pressure. (Alternatively, you can move the ribbon zester sideways or diagonally along the lime while providing consistent pressure.) Do whichever method works best for you.) If you turn the lime as you go, you can create longer pieces of ribbon zest.)

3. Repeat this motion until you have enough lime zest for your needs. 

3. Box Grater

Woman holding a lime and zesting it using a circular metal box grater.

1. Hold your box grater in one hand with the fine side up. 

2. Place the bottom edge on a flat surface like your countertop or a cutting board. 

3. Hold the lime in your other hand and press the lime against the grater. 

4. Pressing against the cheese grater, slide the lime down and then back up. (Just like you might cheese or carrots.)

5. Continue this process until you have enough lime zest for your recipe.

4. Vegetable Peeler

Wooden vegetable peeler and a paring knife with a lime next to them.

1. Hold the peeler in one hand and the lime in the other. 

2. Carefully peel off small pieces of lime skin. 

3. Continue doing this several times until you have a number of small lime peel pieces. 

4. Using a sharp knife, finely mince them.

5. Continue to chop until you have enough zest for your recipe. 

5. Paring Knife

Paring knife with wooden handle finely chopping up lime skin to make zest.

1. Hold a sharp paring knife in one hand and lime in the other. 

2. Cut off large thin pieces of lime skin. (You want to make sure they are thin pieces, leaving the white pith on the lime itself.)

3. Once you have many thin strips of lime peel, chop them up finely. 

What Do You Use Lime Zest For?

You can use lime zest in any recipe that calls for lime flavor, though it will add a tart brightness to anything you make. It’s perfect for salad dressings, marinades, desserts (think key lime pie!), and mocktails. 

Can You Make Lime Zest Ahead Of Time?

You absolutely can prep your lime zest ahead of time. This means you’ll have it ready whenever you need it. Incidentally, you can do this with other types of citrus fruit, too, to bring that tangy taste to anything you make. 

Metal box grater on top of a wooden cutting board with lime zest scattered across it.

Storage Tips

When you make your own lime zest, you’ll need to store any unused portions in your fridge. With time though, the flavor will deplete, but if you put it in an airtight container or resealable bag, it will help keep it up to par for about a week or so. Don’t wait too long, as losing the flavor makes it a waste.

How to freeze lime zest.

If you’re not sure you’ll use up all that lime zest, you can freeze it. It’s great to put it in a single layer on top of wax or parchment paper and freeze it. When it’s fully frozen, you can then move it to a zippered freezer bag. Don’t forget to date the bag so you’ll be sure to use it within 6 months. 

Interested in making orange zest or lemon zest instead? Maybe your recipe calls for lime zest, but you only have fresh lemons on hand. Check out this blog post on How To Zest A Lemon and this one, How to Zest An Orange.

More Plant-Based Cooking How-To’s

Fresh lime zest on a wooden cutting board with a citrus microplane on top.

Recipe

Print
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Wooden cuttings boards with five different zesting tools, limes and their zest scattered about.

How To Zest A Lime


  • Author: Rae Aflatooni
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 teaspoons 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Whether you need citrus flavor in a pinch or your recipe calls for the zest of limes, knowing how to make fresh zest is a must. Thankfully, I’ve got the simplest ways for you to make fresh lime zest fast to give your dishes that extra flavor and zing they need. It helps to have the right tools, though. With a few hacks, you’ll be able to zest lime like a pro!

 


Ingredients

Scale

1 lime, washed


Instructions

 

Citrus Microplane

1. Hold the microplane grater in your dominant hand and place the bottom on a flat surface, such as a cutting board.
2. Hold the lime in your other hand.
3. Slide the lime down the microplane while applying consistent pressure, removing the fine lime zest.
4. Turn the lime as you go to zest the entire lime. (Or until you have enough green lime zest for your recipe.)

Ribbon Zester

1. Hold the ribbon zester in your hand and a regular lime in your other hand.
2. Move the lime down the ribbon zester with consistent pressure. (Alternatively, you can move the ribbon zester sideways or diagonally along the lime while providing consistent pressure.) Do whichever method works best for you.) If you turn the lime as you go, you can create longer pieces of ribbon zest.)
3. Repeat this motion until you have enough lime zest for your needs.

Box Grater

1. Hold your box grater in one hand with the fine side up.
2. Place the bottom edge on a flat surface like your countertop or a cutting board.
3. Hold the lime in your other hand and press the lime against the grater.
4. Pressing against the cheese grater, slide the lime down and then back up. (Just like you might cheese or carrots.)
5. Continue this process until you have enough lime zest for your recipe.

Vegetable Peeler

1. Hold the peeler in one hand and the lime in the other.
2. Carefully peel off small pieces of lime skin.
3. Continue doing this several times until you have a number of small lime peel pieces.
4. Mince them using a sharp knife.
5. Continue to chop until you have enough zest for your recipe.

Paring Knife

1. Hold a sharp paring knife in one hand and lime in the other.
2. Cut off large thin pieces of lime skin. (You want to make sure they are thin pieces, leaving the white pith on the lime itself.)
3. Chop them up finely once you have many thin strips of lime peel.

 

Notes

Storage Tips

When you make your own lime zest, you’ll need to store any unused portions in your fridge. With time though, the flavor will deplete, but if you put it in an airtight container or resealable bag, it will help keep it up to par for about a week or so. Don’t wait too long, as losing the flavor makes it a waste.

How To Freeze Lime Zest

If you’re not sure you’ll use up all that lime zest, you can freeze it. It’s great to put it in a single layer on top of wax or parchment paper and freeze it. When it’s fully frozen, you can then move it to a zippered freezer bag. Don’t forget to date the bag so you’ll be sure to use it within 6 months.

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Category: Kitchen Tips
  • Method: Zest

Keywords: how to zest citrus, citrus zest

FAQ

How can I zest a lime without a zester?

If you don’t have a zester, you can still zest a lime. You can use your box grater, a vegetable peeler, or even a paring knife to get the job done. 

Is lime zest just the peel?

Lime zest is all about that pretty green peel on the outside. It contains so much flavor and is a surefire way to energize any recipe.

What does zest of one lime mean?

When you’re following a recipe that calls for the zest of one lime, that means you’ll need to take one lime, wash it off, pat it dry, and then choose one of the above methods to zest off the colored outside peel portion of the fruit. 

Can you zest a lime with a cheese grater?

Of course, you can! Just follow my instructions for how to use that box grater, and you can make your own lime zest in no time!

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through those links at no extra cost to you. Please read our full disclosure for more information. Thank you for supporting Raepublic. 

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2 Comments

  1. I love how accessible this tutorial/recipe is. Giving five different options on how to zest a lime really makes it so anyone can do it.