Skip to Content

Lemon zest vs. Lemon juice – How They’re Different & How To Use Them

Sharing is caring!

Even if it may be obvious that lemon zest and lemon juice are not the same things, they can be substituted with each other in some recipes, while in other recipes, there is no way you can use substitute them.

So I thought I would check for every difference that people noticed between lemon zest and lemon juice and share with you what I found, combined with my experience in cooking with both.

Lemon zest vs. Lemon juice

Lemon zest vs. Lemon juice

The biggest difference between lemon zest and lemon juice is that lemon zest adds a nice lemon flavor and is often used inside the recipes, whereas lemon juice adds a sour taste and cuts through a strong taste.

You will often notice that lemon zest is used in baking while lemon juice is not.

They have very different uses, but even so, they can be substituted for each other in some recipes.

Read Also: Is Lemon A Fruit Or A Vegetable ?

What is lemon zest ?

Lemon zest is the yellow part of the lemon peel, which contains the essential oil of lemon. This gives a powerful lemon taste that will help your recipes taste as close as possible to the lemon taste everybody imagines.

If you want to bake a lemon tart or cake, the zest is the part you should opt for. Make sure you wash the lemon very well before using the zest since many producers use some sort of wax to preserve it better. It is not dangerous if you clean it thoroughly and then dry it with a paper towel.

What is lemon juice?

Lemon juice is the juice inside the lemon, which we all know for its sour, acidic taste. Lemon juice is more often used in drinks or alongside cooked food like fish or steak. Lemon juice is better at bringing a tangy flavor and cutting through some thick meaty flavors with its acidity. 

Now, by explaining to you what lemon juice is and the difference between lemon juice and zest, I hope that it is clearer why the lemon taste in a cake is not the same as a lemon taste in a lemonade.

lemon juice

Four main differences between lemon zest and lemon juice

-Taste. The taste of lemon juice is sour and acidic and doesn’t really allow you to notice the flavor as much. Meanwhile lemon zest has the lemony flavor you expect, without any sourness from the zest. Be careful not to peel the white part, that way, the lemon zest will be much bitter than it should. Also keep in mind that lemon zest has a lot of citrus oil in it, which can make your tongue sting or burn when you have it in high amounts. 

-Texture. Lemon juice is liquid, and thus easy to incorporate into drinks or sauces, with an immediate effect. Lemon zest is solid, and it will not soften or break down with cooking. Lemon zest also releases its flavor pretty quickly, but the more you mash or mix it in something, the more flavor it will release. One of the best ways to get lemon flavor out of lemon zest quickly is to mix lemon zest with sugar and let it sit for a couple of minutes. 

-Usage. The lemon juice is used wherever a sour taste is needed, but it is more than that. Since it has useful nutrients and is vitamine C’s most well-known one, it is used for different diets.

In my particular case, lemon juice makes me hungry since it is very acidic, so it does not work well in losing weight but rather when I don’t have the appetite to eat. Fun fact: pure, raw lemon juice has a similar pH as stomach acid ! Lemon juice is 2-3pH while stomach acid is 1.5-2.5 pH. 

On the other side, the lemon zest is used whenever you need a lemon flavor in your recipe. It can be used for cakes and sweets and can work a lot of meat dishes and salads. 

The lemon zest can be used in different skincare or hygiene products since it has some beneficial effects. But, most importantly, the smell of lemon that comes from its essential oil is irresistible. That being said do not use lemon zest (or juice) directly on your skin ! It can cause burning and irritation. 

-Nutritional Values Lemon zest has a bit more nutrients than lemon juice. Both have Vitamin C, but Lemon zest has more of it as well besides having a bit of Vitamin A, Potassium, and Iron.

Side Effects

There are no proven side effects for using lemon zest or lemon juice in cooking or in drinks. 

When it comes to lemon zest, usually, you don’t use a large quantity of it for most recipes out there. Just make sure that you clean your lemon very well before using it, and you should be perfectly fine.

With lemon juice, on the other hand, since it is very acidic and sour, I would be a bit cautious about how much you consume. Lemon juice by itself is not dangerous for your health, but in an unfortunate combination with stomach problems, it can cause some discomfort.

Read Also: Pomelo Varieties


Lemon juice and lemon zest both came from the same fruit, lemon(pretty obvious), but other than that, they don’t have that much in common.

They have different textures and tastes. They often have different uses, so if you check a recipe online, make sure you add exactly what they said and don’t substitute lemon zest for lemon juice or vice-versa.

After reading this article, I hope that it is more clear when to use lemon zest and when to use lemon juice.

Sharing is caring!