Lemons have always been a popular ingredient all over the world. Lemons have a way of giving dishes they are added to a flavor that is out of this world no matter the form. I have come across very many recipes that have to contain lemon in the list of ingredients, which shows just how popular they are.
What is lemon extract? It is an extract that is made from essential oils found in fresh lemons and an alcohol base. A lot of people like using it because of its intense lemon flavor. Compared to other lemon products, lemon extract has a very long shelf life.
Like every other ingredient, you may run out of lemon extract just when you need it most. This is why you need to know the suitable substitutes for lemon extracts. Luckily, there are several ingredients that you can use instead of lemon extract.
They include; lemon zest, lime zest/juice, lemon juice, lemon essence, and orange juice/zest. Alternatively, you can make your own lemon extract at home if you are feeling up to it. The process is not as complicated as everyone thinks.
Before we discuss these lemon extract substitute, let us learn about lemon extract a little bit. You know what I always say, the key to choosing suitable substitutes is having enough information on the ingredient you want to substitute.
How is lemon extract made?
The process of making lemon extract is actually quite interesting. Like I mentioned earlier, lemon extract has an alcohol or oil base.
Manufacturers make it by soaking the peels of fresh lemon in vodka or any other neutral-flavored clear spirit.
The vodka releases the essential oils from the peels of the lemons and the oils infuse in the alcohol. After this process, the alcohol is distilled. The pale yellow liquid that remains is what is packaged as lemon extract.
Lemon extract has a distinct lemon flavor that is not acidic. The flavor profile is simply amazing.
Lemon extract uses
Lemon extract is used in both savory and sweet dishes. It is a common ingredient in baked goods including the lemon pound cake, lemon twist loves, lemon cookies, lemon cupcakes, lemon bars among others.
Lemon extract is also commonly used in pickles, marinades, and salad dressings.
When substituting lemon extract with other ingredients, there are a few things you need to consider. You aren’t just looking for the lemon flavor. You need to consider other factors like how the substitute will affect the consistency of your final product, how your final product will taste like, and also the texture of your final product.
You also need to be extra careful when working with acidic ingredients. Most tend to curdle dairy. We all know that when dairy curdles you will definitely end up with a failed recipe.
Some substitutes have a weaker taste compared to lemon extract. Therefore, you will need to use more than what the recipe requires. Additionally, you may have to change the cooking times, setting times, and even freezing times when you use substitutes instead of lemon extract.
Don’t let this scare you though, I’m here to show you exactly what you need to do for your dish to turn out exactly the way it should if not better.
Here are some suitable substitutes for lemon extract.
- Lemon zest
I’m sure we all know what lemon zest is. It is basically finely grated lemon peel. You can get lemon zest by grating your lemon peel with the finest side of a box grater or using a zester.
While grating the lemon peel, ensure that you do not grate the white part of the lemon that is usually under the lemon peel. This part is very bitter and it will give you undesirable results. The bitter taste will remain constant during the cooking process and in the end, your dish won’t be as yummy as you want it to be.
Lemon zest is arguably the best substitute for lemon extract. It is not acidic which makes it an even better option. It will not make your dairy products curdle. Additionally, its concentrated flavor is very similar to that of lemon extract.
Another reason why you should use lemon zest as a substitute for lemon extract is that it will not change the texture of your dish in any way, even when you add it directly to the dish.
Substitute lemon extract with lemon zest in equal amounts. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon extract, use one tablespoon of lemon zest.
- Lime zest/juice
Lime zest and lime juice also make for good lemon extract substitutes. However, you should know that lemons and limes do not have the same flavor profile. Limes are naturally bitter whereas lemons are sour.
Lime and lemons have a similar acid pH level. Therefore, you can easily substitute one for the other.
Substitute lemon extract with lime juice in the ratio 1:2. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon extract, use two tablespoons of lime juice.
Since lime juice contains acid, it may not be ideal to use it in dishes that have dairy products. The acid may cause dairy products to curdle and give you undesirable results. If you do not have any other substitute on hand, counter the acidity by reducing the liquid of another ingredient in your dish.
I suggest using lime juice in marinades, salad dressings, and savory dishes. The dish will turn out perfectly.
Lime zest is a better substitute compared to lime juice. It5 is not too acidic and can therefore work well in most dishes that require you to use lemon extract.
Substitute lemon extract with lime zest in equal amounts. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon extract, use one tablespoon of lime zest.
- Lemon juice
Lemon juice has always been my go-to lemon extract substitute. Do not use the store-bought lemon juice in this case. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice. It has an authentic lemon flavor that is simply amazing.
Compared to lemon extract, lemon juice is less concentrated. Therefore, you may have to use more than what your recipe requires for the best results.
For every tablespoon of lemon extract that your recipe requires, use two tablespoons of lemon juice.
You can use lemon juice as a lemon extract substitute in marinades, salad dressings, or even pickles.
To use it in baked goods, you need to be a bit more careful. For starters, using lemon juice like a lemon extract substitute means you will add more liquid to your ingredients since it is less concentrated. To counter this, you have to reduce the amount of one other liquid ingredient.
Another thing you need to note is that lemon juice may not perfectly replicate the flavor of lemon extract. However, if you do not mind a slight difference this substitute will work just fine.
Lemon juice is also more acidic compared to lemon extract. Therefore, it tends to curdle dairy products that are normally used in baked goods. I recommend not using it as an ingredient in baked goods.
- Lemon essence
Lemon essence is one of my favorite lemon extract substitutes. A lot of people usually think the two are the same thing but they aren’t. They are actually very different.
Lemon essence is manufactured using flavorings and artificial colorings among other chemical components. On the other hand, a lemon extract is extracted from the peels of lemon fruits.
There are several advantages of using the lemon essence. First, it has a very long shelf life. You can store it for several months and it won’t go bad. Secondly, lemon extract is readily available. I have never come across any store that does not have lemon essence in stock. Third, it is very cheap. You do not need to worry about extra expenses. Lemon essence will fit right into your budget.
Because of its artificial coloring, lemon essence enhances the appearance of any dish it is added to. Desserts always look better when you add some lemon essence to the ingredients.
The flavor of lemon essence varies depending on the brand you choose. Some brands make lemon essence that taste like real lemons while others have a mild and somewhat diluted flavor. You can try a few and settle on the one you like most.
Substitute lemon extract with lemon essence in equal amounts. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon extract, use one tablespoon of lemon essence.
- Orange juice/zest.
If you do not have any lemons in the house but you have oranges, there is no need to panic. Orange juice and orange zest are also good substitutes for lemon extract.
Orange juice is much sweeter compared to lemon extract. Therefore, the only component missing in this substitute is that sourness. You will still have all the other citrus components.
Substitute lemon extract with orange juice or orange zest in equal amounts. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon extract, use one tablespoon of orange juice or orange zest.