6 Of The Best Orange Zest Substitutes + When And How To Use Them

Have you ever started cooking dinner, or been in the middle of baking, when you realize you are out of an ingredient? 

You might be in that situation right now, frantically searching your cabinets for an alternative to orange zest!

What could possibly replace the bright, fresh, yet slightly bitter quality of orange zest?

Don’t worry. I’ve been in that exact situation before and come out on the other side. I’ve compiled six orange zest substitutes that will integrate into your recipe seamlessly.

And I’ll save you a trip to the grocery store!

Substitutes for Orange Zest

1. Other Citrus Zest

yellow lemon zest on a wooden cutting board

The most straightforward swap for orange zest is for another kind of citrus zest. 

Whether you use lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, clementine, or mandarin zest, you can substitute at a 1:1 ratio.. 

Substituting citrus won’t meaningfully alter the flavor, and you’ll still achieve a subtle freshness in whatever you are making. 

This should be your go-to substitute for baking because you will not be changing any wet-to-dry proportions. This way, the substitution will not affect the outcome of your baked good. 

2. Orange Juice

A Glass of Orange Juice and Orange Fruit

Although orange juice doesn’t have the bitter edge of orange zest, its bright, fruity flavor will be spot on. 

To replicate the strong flavor of orange zest, you will need to take the amount of zest called for and double that amount of orange juice following a 1:2 ratio.

Orange juice works best if you’recooking a dish on the stovetop where the added liquid can be reduced. 

Recipes like duck a l’orange, orange chicken, or orange beef strips are perfect for swapping zest with a liquid ingredient. The stovetop cooking will evaporate extra liquid. 

3. Citrus Juice

Fresh citrus juice

Citrus juice can also be used in place of orange zest, as long as the quantity of zest called for is less than ½ cup. When substituting wet for dry ingredients, you can quickly alter the dish’s consistency.

The ratio of swapping zest for juice is 1:2, so you will be doubling the amount of zest called for and replacing it with a liquid.

Lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, clementine, or mandarin juices are all suitable alternatives

Citrus juice is a great option when making savory dishes because other strong tastes will mask the switch up of flavor. No one will realize that your orange chicken is actually mandarin chicken! 

When a recipe calls for small amounts of zest, you can substitute two tablespoons of citrus juice per teaspoon of zest.

4. Orange Extract

Bottles with Essential Oil and Oranges on the Table

Extracts are highly concentrated oils and are a powerful substitute for zests. 

As a guide, for each teaspoon of zest in a recipe, you can substitute ½ teaspoon of orange extract.

Using extract works well in baking since the proportions of wet and dry ingredients will not be altered. Your cake will still be airy, your cookies won’t spread, and your bread will still rise. 

Orange extract blends seamlessly into savory dishes as wel. This alternative works well for most applications, if you have it on hand. 

5. Citrus Extract

Citrus Essential Oil

Other citrus extracts will work the same way as swapping orange zest for orange extract. 

For each teaspoon of zest in a recipe, you can substitute ½ teaspoon of citrus extract.

Extracts will work whether you are cooking or baking. They are concentrated so that you only need a very small amount to achieve the flavor you are looking for. 

Pro-Tip: Lemon extract is a staple in my baking arsenal. It is incredibly versatile, can sub in for any citrus zest, juice, or extract, and is the perfect safety net to keep on hand at all times. 

6. Fruit Vinegar

Four fruit vinegars

There are as many different varieties of fruit vinegar as there are fruits to make the vinegar from.

The fruit flavor will offset the tartness of the vinegar providing the fruity bitterness associated with orange zest.

Citrus-derived fruit vinegar will be an even closer substitute for orange zest than something like raspberry vinegar.

If you only have a fruit vinegar on hand like apple, plum, or strawberry, depending on the recipe you are making, the swap could still work, but you will end up with a different flavor in the end. For example, orange cranberry sauce will become strawberry cranberry sauce, and so on.

I prefer to only swap fruit vinegar for orange zest in cooking and not baking applications. 

Vinegar is an ingredient that breaks down starches and proteins. Although in small amounts, this can create an airier structure in your bread or cakes, too much vinegar and the chemical reaction will inhibit the desired texture.

Tips for Working with Orange Zest Substitutes

If you’re baking, the chances are the recipe you are following is down to a science. Tread lightly when adding liquid that isn’t listed in the recipe (like in the case of substituting orange zest for orange juice). 

Swapping zest for a liquid substitution like vinegar shouldn’t affect the consistency much since you will be adding such a small amount.

Overall, as long as the recipe calls for less than ½ cup of orange zest, your dish will be fine, even if you use orange juice. 

If the recipe needs more than ½ cup of zest, which is rare, opt for other zests or extracts as your first substitution options. 

How To Never Run Out of Zest Again

A great way to ensure you always have zest on hand to either substitute for orange zest or any other citrus zest is to freeze and store it whenever you can. 

When you are using lemon, lime, grapefruit, or any other citrus where you are only eating the insides or using it for juice, you can zest that fruit and spread the zest on a piece of parchment and freeze it. Once it is frozen, you can transfer it to a freezer bag, and you will always have it on hand whenever you need it. 

You can keep each zest separate and labeled, but I just mix them all together and have a bag of citrus zest in my freezer.

In my kitchen, lemon poppy seed muffins become citrus poppy seed muffins, orange and fennel cake becomes citrus and fennel cake, etc.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use fruit concentrate in place of orange zest?

Yes, for every 1 part of zest called for, use ¾ of fruit concentrate. 

How much zest can I swap for orange juice?

As long as you substitute less than ½ cup of orange zest for orange juice, the consistency of your dish shouldn’t be altered drastically. Any more than that, and you should consider using another type of zest or an extract.

About the author

Jasmine graduated top of her class from culinary school and has continued cooking and baking ever since. Alongside her passion for food, she is a total bookworm, writer, and editor. You can find her bookish ramblings on her website and bookstagram.