How to zest without a zester or grater

Watch and learn an easy way to zest lemons without a zester or grater - all you need is a small, sharp knife!

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How to zest without a zester or grater

Want to zest a lemon but there’s no zester in sight? No worries, this is how you can zest a lemon with no zester or grater. All you need is a small, sharp knife!

Zesting may seem like a lot of effort for a little payoff, but even a small amount of it can take your recipe from good to great. There are lots of recipes that call for zest instead of more juice, and this is because you can get amazing citrus flavour from the oils in the zest without adding more acidity or liquid from juice. So even though it takes extra effort, it's definitely worth it!

How to zest a lemon without a zester


  1. Start by carefully slicing off a thin layer of the citrus skin with a small, sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. 
  2. Check for and remove any of the bitter pith. If you slice the skin too deep, it will have some white coloured pith attached. You can place the zest flat on a cutting board and slice this off.
  3. Once you’re left with just the brightly coloured zest, finely slice and dice it. Now it’s ready to use!


Zesting tips

  • This zest won’t be as fine as the zest you get from using a zester, so it will impart the same delicious flavour but it may also make your finished dish more textured. For recipes like curd, custard and posset, you can cook with the zest and strain it out for a smooth texture if preferred.
  • Don’t forget to wash your fruit before zesting.
  • It’s easier to zest your citrus before juicing it. If you’ve already juiced your lemons, press the leftover skin down flat on the chopping board to make it easier to cut.


What to do with zest

Mix extra zest with butter to make a compound butter for barbecuing, or mix it in with sea salt for a tasty finishing salt. You can also add it to cakes, dips, marinades and as decoration on top of desserts. 

You can also freeze zest. First, freeze in a single layer on a lined baking tray. Then place in a zip lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Check out some sweet and savoury recipes below that use different types of citrus zest!

Get the recipe: Lemon and White Chocolate Crackle Cheesecake

Intensify the lemon flavour in this no-bake cheesecake by adding lemon zest! 

Get the recipe: Easy Custard Berry Trifle

Orange zest adds a lovely fragrance and flavour to the custard in this classic trifle, and extra strips of zest make a beautiful decoration.

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