orange and lemon zest

How to Make Orange & Lemon Zest Extract by Alcohol Extraction

When making a dessert (hot cross waffles!) the other I needed the zest of about 1/5 of an orange and of a lemon. I don’t like using half products though. So I wanted to use all the zest in some useful way and decided to give making my own orange and lemon zest extracts a try!

The extraction is very easy to do (=mix alcohol + zest and leave to stand for a while) so worthwhile to give it a try and limit waste in the kitchen.

Why make orange (or lemon) zest extract?

Honestly, I’ve never run into a recipe that requires orange or lemon extract. Most recipes just call for zest. But I’ve often been in the situation that I don’t have fresh oranges or lemons and do want to make something that requires the zest of one of these.

In most cases I left it out but that does leave me with a slightly more bland dish. So I decided I did need some extract on stock, in case I would run out of lemons and oranges. Very similar to me always having vanilla extract, but not always vanilla bean pods.

As we’ve discussed in a post on using orange zest there’s a good reason why zest should not be substituted with juice. Orange/lemon juice and zest have a very different flavour profile. Also, juice will add water to the recipe, whereas zest (and extract) won’t.

Substitute zest for extract

When making an extract the flavour is just about always diluted somewhat. Therefore, you generally need a bit more extract than you need zest. That said, if you make your own extract there’s not going to be a pre-set perfect ratio. It will be a matter or trial-and-error to figure out the best balance.

I found several websites claiming that you need about half the amount of zest compared to using extract. So use that as a starting point and learn from there.

The orange and lemon peels have been soaked in rum and are now ready to mature/extract.

Making lemon & orange zest extract

Making an extract is not hard. Be sure to use fruits of which you’re confident you can use the peel safely.

orange and lemon zest

Orange and lemon zest extract - Alcohol extraction

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes


  • Lemon or orange zest
  • Rum (or wodka)


  1. Take the zest of as many lemons or oranges you have left over (this is perfect to make from left overs, it's a shame to make from fruits specially bought for this).
  2. Place the zest in a container/glass jar that you can shut off (to prevent it from spilling when shaken or from animals/insects going in).
  3. Pour as many wodka/rum to cover all the zest. The more you add the weaker the extract becomes.
  4. Leave to sit for at least 2 weeks, but longer won't hurt to extract as much flavour as possible.

Storing lemon & orange extract

The extract contains a lot of alcohol. You need the alcohol to extracts all the flavours well, but it also has another great advantage. The high alcohol content will prevent the extract from spoiling. Micro organisms will not be able to grow in these high concentrations of alcohol. This will allow you to keep the extract almost indefinitely. For an even longer shelf life it’s best to sieve out the zest after a few weeks.

The great thing about this extract is that you can add new zest everytime you have some left over. Just add it to the extract, add some extra alcohol if it doesn’t cover all zest anymore and keep on extracting that flavour!

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