Best Lime Juice Substitutes

Ran out of limes? Bought limes that produce one single drop of juice each? I hate when that happens, but fear not! I’ve got 5 great solutions for when you don’t have lime juice readily available.

Limes have a unique flavor and acidity, and there are numerous alternatives that can work well in their place.

As a professional cook of over 15 years and a dad who misses the occasional grocery list item, here are my favorite lime juice substitutes.

The 5 Best Lime Juice Substitutes

Lemon Juice

jug and glasses with lemon juice

Lemon juice is the ideal substitute for lime juice and can be used in a 1:1 ratio for lime juice in recipes.

The flavor of lemon is unique and won’t replicate the flavor of lime perfectly. But it’s about as close to the real thing as you’re gonna get. So if you’re ok with the slightly different lemon flavor, this is likely the best option to reach for.

For recipes that rely heavily on the flavor of lime, such as key lime pie, the flavor and aroma of lemon juice are too different to be a suitable substitute.

It can really shine in dressings that need a light, citrusy tartness. In those cases, you can usually rely on some type of vinegar to provide the necessary acid.

Pro-tip: For recipes that call for both lemon and lime juice, it’s generally fine to double up on the lemon if you don’t have any limes on hand.

Orange Juice

A Glass of Orange Juice and Orange Fruit

Orange juice is a great substitute for recipes that just need that citrus flavor and aroma. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio for lime juice in most cases.

This option isn’t as acidic as lime juice, and its orange flavor may not be appropriate for some dishes.

Where it can really shine is in dressings that need a light, citrusy tartness. In those cases, you can usually rely on some type of vinegar to provide the necessary acid.

Or, try mixing orange juice with a bit of sherry vinegar to introduce acidity without altering the flavor profile too much.     

Calamansi Juice

Calamansi lime juice

Calamansi is a Filipino citrus fruit that looks like a small lime but has yellow to orange flesh instead of green.

They’re sweeter than limes and provide a very unique flavor. I highly recommend trying it in any of your favorite drinks instead of lime juice! If you can get your hands on any, that is, as they’re not especially common here in the states.

Since they are smaller than limes, freshly squeezed calamansi won’t yield as much juice per fruit. Keep this in mind if a recipe calls for the juice of a certain number of limes. You may end up needing twice as many of these little guys.

Flavorwise, I find it to be between lime and orange. But, the advantage of calamansi juice over orange juice as a substitute is that it still has a very acidic kick. 

You can use calamansi juice as a 1:1 ratio stand-in for lime juice as you would with lemon juice or orange juice. 

Pro-tip: Calamansi is also one of the best alternatives for recipes that call for yuzu. 

Sherry Vinegar

sherry bottle with glass

Use sherry vinegar for recipes where a lime’s citrus flavor isn’t a priority but, its acidity is. Some examples could be sauces or marinades where you need a bit of a bite or tang.

Or, try adding a few drops to soups, stews, or sauteed greens, as if you were squeezing on fresh lime juice to finish a dish.

Sherry vinegar may seem like an odd alternative for lime juice. But, it has lower acidity and more sweetness than red and white vinegar, making this an interesting and balanced substitute.

Pro-tip: If you need acidity, citrus flavors ,and aromas, consider mixing sherry vinegar with a bit of orange juice or zest!

Citrus Zest

Cutting board with orange zest

Suppose you’re using lime juice for its citrus flavor and aroma, but not acidity. In that case, zest from a lime, lemon, or orange is an excellent substitute.

Zest has the citrus flavors and tones of its respective fruit without any of its acidity. For some recipes, this can be a good thing!

For desserts, sweet recipes, or drinks, lime zest will impart the unique lime flavor but none of its acidity.

Because of its concentrated flavor, 2-3 teaspoons of zest can stand in for up to 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice. I recommend frequently tasting your dish as you add zest of any kind to ensure you don’t overdo it. A little can go a long way.

To bolster zest with some acidity, consider adding it along with sherry vinegar to help replicate lime juice’s citrus flavor and acidity.

Using citrus zest and juice together can also be a great technique. It amps up the citrus flavor and adds more depth and nuance to a dish.

I wouldn’t recommend using zest alone for recipes relying on lime juice’s acidity, like salad dressings.

Freshly Squeezed vs. Bottled Lime Juice

Consider kicking the habit if you’re accustomed to using lime juice in a bottle.

Freshly squeezed limes may not be as convenient as bottled lime juice, but their flavor and freshness make them a superior choice in every other way.

Fresh-squeezed lime juice has brighter acidity and way more flavor. And because of its potency, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice for every 2-3 tablespoons of bottled lime juice. 

One lime will yield about 2 tablespoons of lime juice.   

Pro-tip: Hold a lime with the skin side down when you squeeze it into a cup or container. This makes it less likely that any seeds will drop into the juice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use if I don’t have lime juice or lemon juice?

Sherry vinegar can be a great substitute for lemon or lime juice in dressings and sauces requiring acidity. It’s slightly sweet and just a touch more acidic than lime juice. 

Can you replace lime juice with lemon juice? 

Lemon juice is the ideal substitute for lime juice if you’re ok with a slightly different flavor profile. It works great as a 1:1 substitute in most recipes.

About the author

Ryan worked the Twin Cities circuit as a line cook, sous chef, and kitchen manager for over 15 years. Though he doesn’t cook professionally anymore, he loves to share his restaurant expertise with anyone that needs a tip. Once a cook, always a cook.