Lime juice is juice extracted from the lime citrus fruit. Pale green in color, lime juice has a tart, sour taste with a hint of sweetness.
Lime juice is not as sharply sour as lemon juice, but it’s also not as sweet as orange juice. Lime juice adds a unique flavor to dishes and is a popular ingredient in cocktail drinks. Lime juice is frequently used to add an interesting twist of flavor to baked goods.
The juices of other citrus fruits — such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits — make good substitutes for lime juice because these fruit juices taste similar to lime juice.
Best Lime Juice Substitute: Lemon Juice
The best substitute for lime juice is lemon juice because limes and lemons are both citrus fruits with a similar flavor.
Compared to lime juice, lemon juice is more acidic and sour, and it doesn’t have the same sweet undertone that lime juice has. However, lemon juice still works well as a lime juice substitute in most recipes that call for lime juice.
Use lemon juice as a 1:1 substitute for lime juice in baked goods, sauces and marinades, and other cooked foods. In cocktails, use less lemon juice to prevent an overpoweringly sour flavor: substitute one-half part lemon juice for one part lime juice (a ½:1 ratio).
Other Lime Juice Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Many other ingredients can be used in place of lime juice.
Lime-Based Substitutes for Lime Juice
Lime oil is the natural essential oil extracted from the peel of the lime. Highly concentrated in flavor, lime oil adds intense flavor to foods.
Use lime oil as a substitute for lime juice in foods and cocktails to achieve the same unique tart flavor with a hint of sweetness that lime juice provides. Because lime oil is so concentrated, use 3 or 4 drops of lime oil in place of one teaspoon of lime juice.
Black limes are dried limes that have a concentrated, intense lime flavor. Because they have been dried, black limes have no juice. However, ground black limes make a great substitute for lime juice when mixed with water.
Mix ½ teaspoon of ground black limes with one teaspoon of water, and use this mixture in place of 1 teaspoon of lime juice in cooking. Because of their grainy texture, black limes aren’t a suitable substitute for lime juice in cocktails or baked goods.
Key Lime Juice
Key limes are smaller and more spherical than regular limes, and are more yellow than green. Key limes have a much stronger, tarter flavor than regular limes.
Key lime juice can replace lime juice in cooking, baked goods, and cocktail drinks. Due to key lime juice’s concentrated sour flavor, use less key lime juice: substitute one part key lime juice for two parts lime juice (a 1:2 ratio).
Citrus Fruit Juice Substitutes for Lime Juice
The juices of other citrus fruits work as a replacement for lime juice in most recipes.
Oranges are available in many varieties — some are sweeter and some are more sour. Orange juice has a sweet flavor, with a hint of sour, depending on the variety of orange.
The best orange juice to use as a substitute for lime juice is the juice of either the seville orange or the calamondin orange, due to their tart flavors.
Use orange juice as a 1:1 substitute for lime juice in cocktails, cooked foods, marinades, sauces, dressings, and baked goods.
Grapefruits come in a few varieties and colors, such as white, yellow, and red. The ruby red grapefruit has a sweet and sour flavor that makes its juice an excellent substitute for lime juice in any recipe.
Use ruby red grapefruit juice as a 1:1 substitute for lime juice, but be aware that the deep red color affects the color and appearance of cocktail drinks and baked goods.
White and yellow grapefruits have the same citrus flavor as limes, but these grapefruits are more acidic, with a strong, sour, and slightly bitter flavor.
The juice of white or yellow grapefruits also works as a replacement for lime juice, but use less of these grapefruit juices to prevent an overpoweringly sour and bitter taste. Substitute white or yellow grapefruit juice for lime juice at a 1:2 ratio.
Half Lime Juice and Half Other Citrus Fruit Juice
If you have some lime juice but not enough for your recipe, try “stretching” the lime juice that you do have by mixing any of the above juices with lime juice at a half-and-half ratio.
The half-part lime juice provides the unique tang of lime, while the half-part citrus fruit juice adds a sweet or sour flavor.
Citrus Zest Substitutes for Lime Juice
The zest of the citrus fruit is the outer layer of the peel — also called the falvedo — and contains concentrated amounts of the fruit’s essential flavor. The inner layer of the peel — called the albedo — contains the soft, white pith and doesn’t have any flavor.
Zest is obtained by using a zester tool to grate the outer peel. The resulting fine threads of peel are used to add intense flavor to dishes. Take care not to include any of the pith.
Lime zest is a good substitute for lime juice in baked goods, cooked foods, marinades, sauces, and dressings because lime zest has the same unique flavor as lime juice. Because the flavor of lime zest is so concentrated, use ½ teaspoon of lime zest to replace 1 teaspoon of lime juice (a ½:1 ratio).
Use the zest of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits in a similar way as a substitute for lime juice.
Zest isn’t a good replacement for lime juice in cocktails and other drinks because the texture of zest is too grainy.
Vinegar Substitutes for Lime Juice
Vinegar is a liquid used in cooking, made from a solution of acetic acid and water. Vinegar is available in many varieties, all containing acetic acid, which gives the vinegar a sour taste.
Most vinegars work as a substitute for lime juice because they have a similar tart flavor to lime juice, with a strong kick. Sometimes it’s necessary to increase the quantity of sweetening agent in the recipe to compensate for the sour flavor of the vinegar.
White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is made by straining and bottling white wine after the wine has been left to ferment. White wine vinegar is highly acidic, with a strong, tangy flavor and aroma.
White wine vinegar works well as a substitute for lime juice in cooking and baking, and in cocktails. Use ½ teaspoon of white wine vinegar to replace one teaspoon of lime juice (a ½:1 ratio) to achieve a similar tart flavor.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar has a similar tart flavor to white wine vinegar, but red wine vinegar is sweeter than white wine vinegar.
Red wine vinegar makes a good substitute for lime juice. Use red wine vinegar as a 1:1 replacement for lime juice in Mediterranean recipes, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings.
Red wine vinegar tastes good as a substitute for lime juice in cocktails, but the red color changes the appearance of the drink.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple juice and has a tangy, sour taste with fruity undertones.
Apple cider vinegar’s fruity flavor makes it an excellent substitute for lime juice in foods and cocktails, but because the flavor is heavily concentrated, use half the amount of apple cider vinegar in place of the recommended quantity of lime juice (a ½:1 ratio).
White or Brown Household Vinegar
White and brown household vinegar both have a high acid content which gives them a strong, tart flavor with a sour taste.
Dilute white vinegar or brown vinegar with an equal part of water, and use the resulting solution as a 1:1 replacement for lime juice in recipes. Add extra sugar or sweetener to balance the sour taste of the vinegar.
Wine Substitutes for Lime Juice
Wine doesn’t have the citrus flavor of lime juice, but certain wines work as a substitute for lime juice in cooking and cocktails because of their tart flavor with fruity undertones.
Dry White Wine
Dry white wine doesn’t contain sugar. Dry white wine can be used as a substitute for lime juice because the wine has a sharp, tart flavor, but not the sweetness of lime juice.
Use dry white wine as a 1:1 substitute for lime juice in recipes and drinks, but add extra sweetener to balance the tart flavor of the wine.
Dry Red Wine
Dry red wine has a heavier, richer flavor than dry white wine. Use dry red wine as a substitute for lime juice in cooking in the same way as dry white wine, adding extra sugar for sweetness.
Dry red wine isn’t a good substitute for lime juice in cocktails because the color of the wine changes the appearance of the cocktail.
Moscato is a sweet wine made from muscat grapes. Moscato has low acid levels, allowing the fruity flavor to dominate over the tartness.
Although moscato doesn’t have a citrus flavor, moscato makes a good substitute for lime juice in cooking, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings because of the fruity flavor of the wine. Moscato adds an interesting twist to cocktails. Use moscato as a 1:1 substitute for lime juice.