Lemon extract is a concentrated liquid made from lemon peel and adds a strong lemon flavor to dishes, but without adding as much bitterness or acidity as lemon flesh. This extract, made by soaking lemon peels in alcohol or oil, is used to add flavor to desserts, baked goods, dressings, and marinades.
The zests, juices, and extracts of other citrus fruits make good substitutes for lemon extract because these replacements add similar flavor, acidity, and consistency to dishes.
Best Lemon Extract Substitute: Lemon Zest
The best substitute for lemon extract is lemon zest — the fine shavings of fresh lemon peel — because lemon zest is an accessible ingredient that adds a similar flavor to the dish. Lemon zest doesn’t add too much acidity to the dish because, like lemon extract, the zest is concentrated. Lemon zest also doesn’t affect the consistency of a dish because the zest is not in liquid form.
To create lemon zest, use a zester to shave off the bright yellow peel of a lemon, but not the bitter white pith beneath it.
Substitute lemon zest for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio to match the flavor profiles. Lemon zest is useful for dairy dishes because, unlike other lemon products, zest has low acidity and doesn’t cause dairy to curdle.
Other Lemon Extract Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Use these other substitutes in place of lemon extract to achieve a similar flavor profile and add acidity to a dish.
Wet Substitutes for Lemon Extract
Use these alternatives for lemon extract when the consistency of the dish requires a wet substitute.
Homemade Lemon Extract
Homemade lemon extract is made from lemon peel soaked in alcohol and is a good substitute for store-bought lemon extract because it matches the flavor, consistency, and acidity level of lemon extract perfectly.
The following two ingredients are needed to make homemade lemon extract:
- 2 pounds of fresh lemons (preferably organic)
- 3 cups of unflavored vodka
Make homemade lemon extract by following these instructions:
- Wash the lemons thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticides
- Carefully peel the lemons with a knife while avoiding the pith (the white bits beneath the peel), because the pith will create a bitter-tasting extract
- Fill a glass jar or jug ¾ of the way with the lemon peels and add the unflavored vodka before sealing tightly
- Gently shake the mixture before placing it in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks
- During the first week, gently shake the mixture every other day, and in the following weeks reduce to shaking only once a week
- After six weeks, strain the mixture to remove the lemon peels and pour the extract into a clean glass jar
Use homemade lemon extract as a 1:1 substitute for lemon extract in marinades, baked goods, dressings, and desserts.
Lemon juice is the juice squeezed from lemon flesh and is a good substitute for lemon extract because the juice also adds a lemon citrus flavor to the dish. Lemon juice is less concentrated and more acidic than lemon extract, so substitute lemon juice for lemon extract at a 6:1 ratio — which equates to using 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for every 1 teaspoon of lemon extract needed.
Lemon juice is suitable for marinades and dressings but should be used with caution in dishes containing dairy products because lemon juice causes dairy to curdle. To prevent curdling, add lemon juice to the recipe at the end and not directly into any dairy products.
Lime extract, made by soaking lime peels in alcohol, is a good substitute for lemon extract because lime extract adds similar citrus flavors to a dish. Lime extract may change the taste of the dish slightly, but the consistency will remain the same.
Substitute lime extract for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio. Lime extract is useful in marinades, baked goods, and dishes with dairy products because it doesn’t cause dairy to curdle.
Lime juice is squeezed from lime flesh and is a good substitute for lemon extract, although lime juice may add a sourer taste to dishes.
Substitute lime juice for lemon extract at a 6:1 ratio. To avoid curdling, use caution when adding lime juice to dishes with dairy products — add lime juice at the end of the recipe, and don’t pour the juice directly into dairy products.
Any type of citrus juice squeezed from the flesh of citrus fruits can be used as a substitute for lemon extract because citrus juice adds a similar acidity and flavor to dishes. However, juices from non-lemon citrus fruits will alter the taste of the dish.
Substitute citrus juice for lemon extract at a 6:1 ratio in marinades and dressings. Citrus juice can cause dairy products to curdle, so add it to dishes, containing dairy products, at the end of the recipe.
Lemon oil is made by extracting lemon flavors from lemon peel using oil-based products and is a good substitute for lemon extract because the two ingredients have a similar flavor. Make sure the lemon oil is safe for consumption and note that lemon oil is more concentrated than lemon extract and will add a stronger lemon flavor to dishes.
Substitute lemon oil for lemon extract at a 1:8 ratio (⅛ teaspoon lemon oil for every 1 teaspoon lemon extract) to match the lemon flavor in the dish. Lemon oil is best used in cakes, sorbets, cookies, and desserts.
Lime oil is made by extracting lime flavors from the peel of the fruit and offers a similar flavor to lemon extract, but with a higher concentration. Lime oil is a good substitute for lemon extract if a slightly sourer taste is desired.
Substitute lime oil at a 1:8 ratio to lemon extract, tasting as you go to ensure the flavors are correct. Lime oil is best used in marinades, dressings, cakes, cookies, sorbet, and desserts.
Lemon essence is an artificial flavoring that mimics the taste of lemon extract, making the essence a good substitute. Lemon essence is found in most grocery stores and has a long shelf life.
Substitute lemon essence for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio, but note that some lemon essences have a sharper taste than lemon extract, so consider taste testing as you add. Lemon essence works well in baked goods, desserts, and sweet treats.
Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made from vodka and lemon peels and makes a good substitute for lemon extract because the two products are made by a similar process, resulting in similar flavors. Limoncello adds a similar citrus flavor to a dish but is sweeter than lemon extract.
Substitute limoncello for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio in dishes like cakes, tiramisu, sweets, and baked goods.
Dry Substitutes for Lemon Extract
Use these substitutes for lemon extract when the consistency of the dish requires a dry substitute.
Lime zest is the shavings from fresh lime peels and makes a good substitute for lemon extract because of the similar flavor profile and consistency the zest adds to a dish. Because lime zest is sourer than lemon extract, substituting with zest may alter the taste of the dish.
Substitute lime zest for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio to keep the desired consistency and texture. Lime zest is suitable for cakes, desserts, marinades, and dressings.
Citrus zest is the peel shavings from any citrus fruit like oranges or grapefruit and can be used as a substitute for lemon extract due to the similar flavor profiles. Citrus zest contains less acid than citrus juice, making the zest suitable for dishes that contain dairy.
Taste citrus zest before adding it to a dish because certain citrus zests are sweeter and less sour than lemon extract.
Substitute citrus zest for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio in cakes, ice cream, dressings, and marinades.
Less Conventional Substitutes for Lemon Extract
Use these substitutes for lemon extract when the other alternatives are not available.
White vinegar is a good substitute for lemon extract when acidity is needed rather than flavor. Substitute vinegar at a 1:2 ratio to lemon extract in dishes where lemon isn’t the predominant flavor. White vinegar is best suited for dressings and marinades that need extra acidity.
Dry White Wine
Dry white wine is an alcoholic beverage often used in cooking that has a slightly citrus taste, making it a good substitute for lemon extract in certain dishes. Substitute dry white wine for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio, adding more if necessary to ensure the dish has enough acidity. Dry white wine is best used in marinades, sauces, soups, and desserts.
Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar, a powdered byproduct of winemaking, has a high level of acidity and makes a good substitute for lemon extract. Cream of tartar is useful when the dish requires acidity rather than a lemon flavor.
Substitute cream of tartar for lemon extract at a 1:2 ratio, especially in dishes — like fillings, pies, and cakes — that need an extra foaming agent.
Dried Lemon Peel
In a pinch, dried lemon peel makes a good substitute for lemon extract because the peel offers a similar flavor to the dish. Substitute shredded and dried lemon peel for lemon extract at a 1:1 ratio. Dried lemon peel is best suited for cakes, desserts, and baked goods.
Citric acid is a compound extracted from lemon juice and is a good substitute for lemon extract because the acid adds the same acidity to a dish. However, citric acid doesn’t add the same consistency and flavor to a dish that lemon extract does.
Substitute citric acid for lemon extract at a 1:4 ratio if you have no other substitutes available. Citric acid is best used in cakes and desserts that need acidity.