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close up of vegetable peeler shaving zest off an orange on a wood cutting board

How to Zest a Lemon Without a Zester or Grater

Author: Janet Harlow
Course: Cooking Basics
Servings: 1 Tbsp
Fancy tools aren’t needed to zest a lemon (but they do come make it quick and easy, when available!). Here’s how to zest a lemon if you don’t have a zester, microplane or grater at home.
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Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 7 mins

Recommended Products

  • vegetable peeler (y-shaped works best)
  • cutting board
  • large chopping knife
  • small paring knife


  • 1 lemon lime, orange or tangerine


  • Zest with a Vegetable Peeler
  • Using the vegetable peeler, shave the outer layer of the citrus peel. Use light pressure so that you do not go down to the white part of the skin. This is called the pith and is quite bitter.[mv_img id="5473"]
    close up of vegetable peeler shaving zest off an orange on a wood cutting board
  • Zest only on left and zest with pith on right.[mv_img id="5474"]
  • Use your large knife to cut the strips of peel into thin long pieces.[mv_img id="5475"]
    orange zest cut into long strips with knife on left on wood board
  • Now rotate the strips 90 °and cut across.[mv_img id="5476"]
    orange zest partially minced on wood cutting board
  • Place the tip of the knife on the cutting board and press down on it with your non-dominant hand. Quickly rock the knife up and down to chop finely.[mv_img id="5477"]
    hand on back of knife mincing orange zest on wood board
  • Zest with a Paring Knife
  • Cradle the lemon in you non-dominant hand.
  • Using the paring knife, start at the top of the lemon and use gentle pressure to shave off the outer layer of the peel.
  • Chop the peel as described in steps 3-5 above.
Did you make this recipe?Let me know how it was! Tag @chefjanetk on Instagram.