Can you eat lemon zest?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, ” Can you eat lemon zest?”. We will also elaborate on the taste of lemon zest, the nutritional content of lemon zest, different recipes involving lemon zest, as well as the advantages, and disadvantages of lemon zest.

Can you eat lemon zest?

Yes, you can eat lemon zest. Incorporation of lemon zest in cooking is the most common way of eating lemon peels. Lemon zest can be used in sweet foods as well as in savory foods. They are very versatile. Besides adding in sweet dishes, lemon zest can be added to tea. 

Lemon (Citrus limon, family Rutaceae) peel’s outer layer is called flavedo, the color of which differs from green to yellow. Flavedo is a rich source of essential oils that has been used since early times in flavoring and fragrance industries. The major component of lemon peel is albedo, which is a spongy and cellulosic layer under the flavedo and has high dietary fiber content (1).

The taste of lemon zest

The flavor of lemon zest is intense with a little bit of bitterness that comes from the white part of the lemon, while the flavor of the zest comes from the natural oils in the zest. The compounds responsible for this bitterness are polyphenols (phenolic acids, flavanones, flavanol, and flavones, of which lemon peel is an abundant source. Ferulic acid was quantified as a major phenolic acid and caffeic acid as minor in peels of citrus fruits (lemons, oranges and grapefruits) and their levels were significantly larger than those of peeled fruits (2).

When lemon zest is added to the food, it provides a pungent, tart flavor. This flavor is refreshing as well as light.

The nutritional content of lemon zest

Following are some of the nutrients found in lemon zest, according to the USDA.

Total lipid (fat)0.3g
Calcium, Ca134mg
Iron, Fe0.8mg
Magnesium, Mg15mg
Phosphorus, P12mg
Potassium, K160mg
Sodium, Na6mg
Zinc, Zn0.25mg
Copper, Cu0.092mg
Selenium, Se0.7µg
Vitamin C129mg
Vitamin B-60.172mg
Choline, total8.5mg
Vitamin A50IU

Different recipes in which lemon zest can be used

Following are some of the recipes in which lemon zest can be used as an ingredient.

  • Roasted Brussels sprouts with warm honey glaze: Oven is preheated at 450 degrees centigrade. Brussels sprouts and oil is tossed in a large bowl and is seasoned with salt and pepper. Brussels is placed on the baking sheet and is roasted until they become soft. 

By keeping heat medium, honey is simmered in a saucepan for three to four minutes. The saucepan is then returned to medium heat, butter and one by two tsp salt is added, and cooked for 3 to 4 mins by continually whisking, till the glaze is shining, bubbling, and somewhat thickened. 

Then it is topped with lemon zest after transferring to a platter.

  • Greek wings with lemon and feta: In a large container, lemon zest and juice, garlic, oil, black pepper, salt, and oregano are whisked. Wings are added and are tossed to coat. Then it is covered for two hours. 

After heating the oven to 375 degrees centigrade two large rimmed baking sheets are lined with foil. Wings are arranged on baking sheets and are baked for about an hour. 

Oil, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, plus black pepper are whisked in a small container. Before serving, parsley is stirred into the dressing. Wings are arranged on a plate and feta is dispersed on top.

  • Pizzettes: After preheating the oven to 350 degrees centigrade almonds are toasted on a baking sheet for about seven to ten minutes. After letting it cool, these are chopped. 

Flour, baking powder, plus salt are whisked in a medium bowl. Then it is stirred in cinnamon, cloves, plus nutmeg. After whisking granulated sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl, it is poured in spice butter. Cookies are baked in rotating baking sheets. 

After adding powdered sugar and salt, chocolate is melted in a small bowl over medium heat. Tops of cookies are dipped into the glaze. Pizzettes can be made five days ahead. It is preferred to store Pizzettes at room temperature and in an airtight jar. Then these can be used for about one month.

Some advantages of lemon zest       

The major advantages of utilizing lemon peel is that it is a source of natural flavonoids (flavanones, flavanone glycosides and polymethoxylated flavones). Moreover, it is an easily available, economical and cost-effective plant-based source to address lifestyle associated diseases. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber and minerals. Therefore, lemon peel can be used in food products as a functional ingredient for potential health properties and/ or as a substitute for chemical preservatives. Phenolic compounds present in the lemon zest show various bioactivities such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and antiallergic properties (2).

Following are some advantages that can be availed by using lemon zest 

  • High in nutrients: A lot of nutrients are present in lemon zest like protein, potassium, iron, etc. D. limonene is present in lemon zest that provides unique health benefits.
  • Boosts oral health: Lemon can fight off bacteria that cause gum diseases. Lemon zest contains four compounds that impart antibacterial properties to it. In addition, studies demonstrate that lemon peel extract has shown in vitro antitumor activities by decreasing the viability (by over 80%) of colorectal cancer cells (2).
  • A high amount of antioxidants: A lot of antioxidants are present in lemon zest. These antioxidants help to treat diabetes and heart-related diseases. Citrus flavonoids are the powerful antioxidants and potent free radical scavengers that help in the prevention of diseases that occur due to reactive oxygen species (2)
  • Promotes heart health: Lemon zest is composed of certain compounds like flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin which is the main fiber in lemon peel. These compounds are very effective to promote heart health.
  • Can treat gallstones: Sometimes hard deposits are formed in gall which can be treated by using D-limonene(a compound present in lemon zest). Lemon peel extract helps in prevention and management of calcifications in the urinary system by inhibiting the formation of calcium oxalate stony concretions and provides protection to the urinary tract from stone induced damage (2).

The disadvantages of lemon zest

Following are some disadvantages of lemon zest

  • Increases iron content: Vitamin C present in lemon zest enhances iron absorption. Iron can be dangerous if it is absorbed in a high amount (4).
  • Can cause migraines: High amounts of calcium and citrus present in lemon zest can cause migraines (3). 

Other FAQs about Lemon that you may be interested in.

How to preserve lemon juice

How to counteract too much lemon?

How much juice does one lemon make?


In this brief article, we have provided an answer to the question, ”Can you eat lemon zest?”. We have also elaborated on the taste of lemon zest, the nutritional content of lemon zest, different recipes involving lemon zest, as well as the advantages, and disadvantages of lemon zest.


  1. Pathak, Pranav D., Sachin A. Mandavgane, and Bhaskar D. Kulkarni. Fruit peel waste: characterization and its potential uses. Curr Sci, 2017, 444-454.
  2. Singh, Balwinder, et al. Phenolic composition, antioxidant potential and health benefits of citrus peel. Food Res Int, 2020, 132, 109114.
  3. Yin, Peter, et al. Serum calcium and risk of migraine: a Mendelian randomization study. Human molec gen, 2017, 26, 820-828.
  4. Izuagie, A. A., and F. O. Izuagie. Iodimetric determination of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in citrus fruits. Res J Agric Biol Sci, 2007, 3, 367-369.