Smart Uses for Citrus Peels

Are you just throwing away citrus peels after juicing or eating the fruit? Believe it or not, there are plenty of smart uses for these fragrant and flavorful peels. From cleaning your home to enhancing your cooking, citrus peels have a variety of surprising benefits that you may not have considered before. In this article, we’ll explore some creative and practical ways to put citrus peels to good use.

Collage of grapefruit, oranges and peels, limes and lemons and lemons

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Smart uses for citrus peels


The citrus fruits that I save zest from are oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.

If you do a lot of cooking from scratch, there are so many recipes that require citrus zest.

oranges and orange slices

Before cutting up the fruit, use a Microplane to remove the zest from oranges, lemons and limes. You can use a regular grater, but the Microplane is light, easy to use, and no scraped fingers! And it goes into the dishwasher when you are done. I just got mine a few years ago, and don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner.

Remove only the part of the peel that has color – not the white pith of the fruit. When you are done getting all the zest off the fruit, bag it in a freezer bag and label it with the contents and date. Now you will always have zest on hand when you need it!

Once the zest is removed, the fruit is still firm enough to slice into wedges for tea, fish or that lime wedge for your Corona or margarita.

Orange zest

My most-used zest is from oranges. I use it to make Sloppy Joe mix from scratch and yummy Orange-Pecan Rolls. There are also cookie recipes that call for orange zest, like the Spritz cookies my family makes for Christmas. And cranberry orange bread.

Having a bag of orange zest in the freezer means that I can make these recipes without running to the store for the ONE orange that the recipe calls for.

Orange, zest and microplane

Lemon zest

Another favorite is lemon zest. Want a quick, delicious lemon frosting? Just add a little lemon zest to some vanilla frosting!

A little lemon zest is a great addition when you are cooking fish. And then there is lemon poppy seed bread, lemon Spritz cookies, lemon cheesecake….ok, now I’m hungry!

Do the same as you did for the orange zest, and Microplane some to freeze.

Lime zest

I love Key lime pie, and a little lime zest is a beautiful and tasty finishing touch. It’s also great for beef fajitas and ceviche.

Citrus household cleaner

Once all the zest is removed, and you have either made juice or cut up the fruit for fruit cocktail, there are still uses for the remaining peels!

Used citrus peels in white vinegar for a household cleaner

This is a great use for grapefruit peels. Remove the fruit pulp from the peels, and put the peels in a big glass jar. I use gallon-sized jars that held maraschino cherries from a restaurant’s bar.

Once the jar at least half filled with peels, cover them with white vinegar.

If the jar lid is metal, be sure to cover the opening of the jar with a doubled piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap before you screw on the top. You don’t want the metal to come in contact with the vinegar.

Let this mixture set for a few weeks, and occasionally shake the jar to move the peels around in the vinegar. Once your brew is done, strain it through cheesecloth into a clean glass jar. Keep those vinegar-soaked peels!

I save spray bottles to use to hold small amounts of this cleaner, and keep one handy in the bathroom. The cleaner is great on bathroom tile, and when I had the tile installed, it was recommended that I use vinegar to clean the shower stall and the floor tile.


Now that you have gotten a few uses from those citrus peels, it’s time for their final destination – the compost bin!

As you can see, there are many smart uses for citrus peels beyond just throwing them away. Whether you’re looking for a natural cleaning solution or a delicious addition to your favorite recipes, citrus peels have plenty to offer. So the next time you enjoy a juicy orange or a zesty lemon, remember to save those peels and try out some of these smart and practical ideas. You may be surprised at just how versatile and useful these little scraps can be!

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