We’ve all heard the phrase ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ but what do you do when life gives you lemon peel? Perhaps you just made that batch of fresh lemonade, or a few jars of lemon curd, and now you’re left with a heap of empty lemon rinds, wondering what to do with them all.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to put that lemon peel to work. Lemons are a useful and often surprising fruit, and their peels are particularly versatile, with multiple uses both in the kitchen and around the home.
Lemon peels in your kitchen
Lemon rind is not only edible, it is packed with citrus flavour and high in vitamin C. It is a popular ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes, with small quantities making a big difference to the overall taste and aroma of the food. Read on to find out how to use lemon rind in your cooking, and how to preserve it if you’re not ready to use it right away.
1. Lemon zest
- Lemon zest is a great way to add some bright citrus flavour to your cooking. Equally at home in baked goods and desserts, aromatic curries, or in stuffings for meat and poultry, this versatile seasoning all comes from simple grated lemon peel.
- A little lemon zest goes a long way, both in terms of flavour and nutrition. Lemon zest is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants, with just one tablespoon providing 9% of your daily value for vitamin C.
- There are several ways to zest a lemon. You don’t need specialist equipment, but it can make life a bit easier. Remember to take only the brightly-coloured yellow peel and not the bitter pith underneath.
2. Freeze lemon peels for recipes
- Because most recipes only call for a small amount of lemon zest, you may find yourself with a lot of leftover peels. Try freezing these to use later.
- This works for entire lemons, peels, or if you don’t have much freezer space, try zesting your lemons before using them, then freezing the zest.
- Store in a ziplock bag to make it easier to break off a piece of frozen zest, and if you’re still having problems, give the bag a sharp tap with a rolling pin.
3. Dry lemon peels for recipes
- Another way to store lemon peels for later is to dry them.
- You can do this by cutting them into strips, placing them inside-up on parchment paper and either leaving them on a sunny window ledge for 2-3 days or cooking in a 200°F oven (100°C) for 25-30 mins.
- Store in labelled glass jars, and they should last for up to three years.
- Dried peel can be used to flavour many different dishes, but they work particularly well in fruit cakes and tea.
4. Infuse vodka for a new twist on cocktails
- You can also use lemon peel to make a delicious, citrus-infused vodka, with barely any effort at all.
- Simply place equal parts vodka and peel in a glass container and leave for 3 to 5 days, shaking gently every day to help the lemon flavour spread throughout the liquid.
- For a different flavour, try adding different combinations of other citrus peels.
5. Make marmalade
- Marmalade recipes use peel as well as fruit for extra flavour and texture.
- You can swap the traditional orange recipe for a sharp lemon marmalade, or use a combination of the two, often called ‘St Clements’ marmalade, after the English nursery rhyme.
- These tangy, sweet fruit preserves taste great spread on your morning toast, and the chunks of peel become soft and chewy during cooking, so they feel almost like jellied candies.
6. Make lemon sugar
- Lemon sugar is a great way to add zesty citrus flavour to cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. It’s super easy to make, and if you make a big batch beforehand, all those yummy lemon oils will have more time to infuse the sugar.
- To make your own lemon sugar at home, simply measure out some sugar into a sealable container and zest your lemons right into it.
- Use one lemon for every 2 to 3 cups of sugar, and stir well until everything is thoroughly mixed.
- Leave the lid off the container for an hour or so to allow the oils to dry, then seal it and store ready for when you need it.
7. Make lemon extract
- If you need lemon flavour without the sugar, you can also use lemon peels to make a homemade lemon extract. This works well in savoury dishes like marinades for poultry or fish, baked goods like poppyseed muffins, and can even be used to make your own limoncello. It does use a lot of lemon peel though, so you might need to store the zest in the freezer until you have enough.
- Select a jar that will be ¾ filled by your lemon peels when packed, and place your peels inside. Fill the jar the rest of the way with either 80 to 100% proof vodka or food-grade glycerin, then seal the lid and shake well.
- Put your jar in a dark cabinet for 4 to 6 weeks to allow the flavours to develop, shaking every few days. This may take longer if you’re using glycerin.
- When the liquid has reached the level of zestiness you prefer, strain out the lemon peel and decant the liquid into a clean bottle.
8. Make lemon pepper
- Lemon and pepper is the classic seasoning for poultry and fish. An aromatic blend of zesty, peppery goodness, this winning combination is the perfect way to bring out the delicate flavours of white meat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make at home.
- Zest five large lemons over a parchment-lined baking sheet, and add ⅓ cup of crushed black peppercorns.
- Spread evenly across the parchment and bake on the lowest setting until the zest is completely dried.
- Next, tip the mixture into a spice grinder and blitz until it reaches the correct consistency, and mix with ¼ cup of kosher salt.
- Store in an airtight container.
Lemon peels for your home
Lemons are also a great natural cleaning agent. They are high in citric acid, which can help kill bacteria and mould, and dissolve soap scum and mineral deposits. And of course, they make everything smell fresh and lovely, too.
1. Make your coffee pot look like new
- Lemon peels are great for removing stains and water marks in your coffee pot.
- All you need to do is put some lemon peels inside the pot with a handful of ice and salt.
- Swirl everything around for a few minutes, pour it out and rinse well to avoid salty tasting coffee next time you make a pot.
- Your coffee pot should now look good as new, and smell lemon fresh into the bargain.
- You can also use lemon peel to remove mineral deposits from your tea kettle. Simply boil the kettle with a few strips of lemon peel inside, leave for an hour, then drain and rinse.
2. Make an all-purpose cleaner
- Lemon is a great natural cleaner. It cuts through grease, disinfects surfaces and makes everything smell amazing.
- To make an all-purpose cleaner from leftover lemon peel, try mixing it with nature’s other cleaning hero, white vinegar.
- Fill a mason jar with lemon peels and vinegar, then leave for two weeks to develop.
- Drain out the peel and half fill a spray bottle with the lemon vinegar.
- Top up the rest with water, shake well to mix, and you have your very own unstoppable cleaning product, made from 100% natural ingredients.
3. Freshen up your home
- Lemon has a wonderful, clean, aromatic fragrance, and if you want your house to smell citrus fresh, you can use leftover lemon peels as a natural room scent.
- Simply place pieces of lemon peel in little pots around the house and your home will soon be smelling like a sunny Sicilian lemon grove.
4. Clean sinks and bathtubs
- Baking soda with lemon peel is another great natural cleaning solution.
- For a sparkling clean bathroom, sprinkle some baking soda into a wet sink or bathtub, and scrub using the cut side of a lemon.
- These two ingredients create a chemical reaction that dissolves stains and water marks and will make all your bathroom surfaces shine.
5. Refresh and sanitise cutting boards
- The citric acid found in lemon peel has antibacterial properties, which means that lemon peel can help to clean and sanitise surfaces.
- To keep your cutting boards extra clean and free from germs, first clean them thoroughly, then wipe them down with lemon peel, cut-side down.
- Leave for a few minutes, then rinse.
6. Remove odours from hands
- If you do a lot of cooking with garlic or onions, you’ll know how hard it is to get the smell out of your hands. No matter how well you wash them, soap and water just don’t seem to do the trick. Here again, lemon peel can come to your rescue.
- All you need to do is rub your hands with lemon rinds, paying particular attention to your fingers and nails, and your hands will be left smelling lemon fresh.
7. Clean your microwave and stovetop
- Microwaves can be particularly annoying to clean. Food spills become baked-on in minutes, and it’s such a small space that it’s difficult to scrub and watch what you’re doing at the same time. This no-scrub microwave cleaning trick is a simple way to dispense with the headache of cleaning the microwave for good.
- Place two halves of lemon rind - maybe from a lemon you used for juicing, with some of the pulp left inside - into a microwave safe bowl, half-filled with water.
- Cook on high for five minutes, so the water boils and the steam condenses on the walls and roof of the microwave.
- Any stains should now wipe away easily with a cloth, and your microwave will smell fresh and clean.
- You can even use the lemon halves to scrub your stovetop with afterwards - just remember to wait until they’ve cooled down a bit first, though.
Delicious and a natural cleaner, it turns out that lemon peel is a pretty handy thing to have around the house. From flavouring your favourite cocktail to making your bathtub shine, there seems no end to the talents of the simple lemon. And with plenty of ingenious ways to store your peels for later, you can always have some at hand for those last-minute lemon cookies or to glow up your old coffee pot.