If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what to do with lemon peels to avoid wasting them, here’s an easy, sweet solution: make candied lemon peel! All you need are lemon rinds, sugar, and water. You can use the candied peel in your favorite baked goods, eat it as a snack, or turn it into a homemade gift!
Lemons are one of those ingredients you find yourself using in all sort of recipes, but I’d be willing to bet you don't have a habit of eating lemon peel. Rather than throwing it out, let's put it to good use! With just a few simple ingredients, you can turn basic lemon rinds into sweet lemon peel candy - and the options for using it are endless!
What is candied lemon peel
Candied lemon peel is made from the rinds of a lemon that have been blanched (to remove excess bitterness) and simmered in a sugar syrup until they’re soft and translucent. After they’re strained from the syrup and tossed in extra sugar, they dry into a sweet, zesty treat that can be eaten as-is or used in another recipe!
Ingredients you'll need
You need three ingredients for this candied lemon peel recipe: lemons, water, and granulated sugar. Feel free to use any type of lemon, including your standard Eureka and Lisbon lemons (the varieties most widely available in stores) or Meyer lemons.
I do recommend using organic lemons, and here’s why: you’re consuming the skin, which comes in direct contact with all of the pesticides used in conventional farming. This is something that I’d rather avoid, so any time I’m using lemon peel in a recipe - whether to candy it, add it to ginger juice, or zest it for muffins - I splurge on the organic stuff.
Either way, make sure you give your lemons a good rinse before you use them. You’ll need about 7-9 lemons for this recipe, depending on how large they are.
How to make candied lemon peel
If you’ve ever made candied orange peel, you’ll see that the process is very similar whether you’re using lemons or any other type of citrus fruit. However, since lemons do have a relatively thinner rind, these are a bit faster to make!
Step one: Rinse your lemons. Use a sharp knife to slice off the top and bottom of each one and score the skin into quarters.
Step two: Remove the peel and slice it into thin strips about ¼”-⅜” wide.
Step three: Place the strips of lemon peel in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, use a metal colander to carefully strain the water from the peel.
Repeat this process (what we call blanching) at least 3 times; this will help remove the bitter flavor citrus peel naturally has.
Step four: Setting the peel aside in a bowl, combine 9 ounces of water and 2 ¼ cups of sugar in the same saucepan you used for step 3. Heat over medium-low, whisking occasionally just until the sugar dissolves. Then, bring to a simmer and simmer for 8-10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed, until the temperature of the syrup reaches 230°F-235°F.
This is known as the “thread stage” of candy-making, and it’s easiest to identify with a reliable kitchen thermometer. However, you can also determine whether your syrup has been cooked to the appropriate temperature by drizzling a small amount into a bowl of very cold water. If it holds its shape in thread-like strands, it’s ready to go!
Step five: Add the lemon peel strips to the sugar syrup and cook at a simmer (around medium-low heat) until the peel is mostly translucent. This takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes with my stove, but the time can significantly vary based on your stove type, how many times you blanched your peels, and even the thickness of your lemon rind. Be patient!
Avoid stirring the syrup during this process. If needed, you can lift the saucepan and swirl it gently, but do not stir. That will cause crystallization, which we don’t want! Also avoid letting the syrup boil - be vigilant and keep it at a nice simmer the entire time.
Step six: Use a slotted spoon to remove the candied peels from the syrup, saving it for another use. Transfer the peel in a single layer to a wire drying rack set over a large piece of parchment or baking sheet (to collect drips). Let it cool for about 15 minutes.
At this point, you can toss your candied lemon rind in granulated sugar (you’ll need about ¼ - ⅜ of a cup) to give it a light coating. This will give it a sweeter flavor and prevent the pieces from sticking together when they’re stored.
Transfer the sugared lemon peel back to the wire rack to finish drying. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, but keep in mind that the less time you leave them out to dry, the softer your peel will be.
How to store candied peel
Once the peel has thoroughly dried, transfer it to an airtight container or zip-top bag and store it in your pantry or any other relatively cool, dark place. It should stay fresh for 6-8 weeks. After that point, although it'll still be edible, it may start to dry out and become hard to chew.
Recipe tips and tricks
Before you set out to make your own candied peel, here are a few helpful details to keep in mind:
- Save the citrus syrup left over from candying your peels. It makes a great, lemony sweetener to use in a variety of recipes!
- For thinner, more delicate candied peel, use the citrus zest only, removing the inner white pith. Blanch only once before candying.
- To curl candied peel for use as a garnish, let it cool slightly and then twist it around a toothpick or straw while it’s still soft. Leave it to dry that way, and then store as usual.
- Chop the candied peel into smaller bits before storing if you plan to use it for baking. That way, it’s ready to go when you need it!
Candied lemon peel uses
There are a tons of creative ways you can use this lemon peel and other candied citrus:
- Knead it into a sweet bread dough, like stollen, panettone, or hot cross buns.
- Add it to baked goods like scones, cookies, and cakes. If you love lemon and chocolate, try using it in these almond florentines!
- Or, dip it in chocolate to turn it into a sweet snack of its own. This makes a great homemade gift!
- Add it to your favorite trail mix.
- Use it as a sweet salad addition, much like you’d use dried cranberries.
- Add a candied lemon peel garnish to cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts, like these lemon meringue cupcakes!
The bitter taste present in citrus peel - lemons and otherwise - comes from the pith, which is the white layer that’s part of the rind. By blanching the peel repeatedly before candying it, you can get rid of much of this bitterness. You can also remove the pith entirely before candying your peel, essentially making candied lemon zest instead.
The leftover syrup from candying citrus peel is perfect to use in cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, or even a dessert glaze. This one would be a great substitution for simple syrup in my raspberry limoncello cocktail!
Absolutely! You can make candied citrus peels with the rind from oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, limes, pomelos, and other citrus. You can even candy kumquats! While the amount of time required will vary from one type of peel to another, the overall process remains the same.
Recipes for using the rest of the lemon
You’ve used your lemon peels, now let’s make sure the rest of the lemon doesn’t go to waste! Here are a few of my favorite lemon recipes to choose from:
Candied Lemon Peel
With just a few simple ingredients, you can turn scraps of lemon rinds into sweet, zesty candied lemon peel. This is a great way to reduce food waste, and the options for using it are endless!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes (up to 55 minutes)
- Total Time: 50 minutes (up to 65 minutes)
- Yield: 2 - 2 ½ cups 1x
- Category: candy
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- 7-9 fresh lemons, preferably organic
- 18 ⅜ ounces (2 ⅝ cups) granulated sugar, divided use
- 1 ⅛ cups (9 ounces) water
- Rinse lemons. Slice off the top and bottom of each and score the skin into quarters.
- Remove peels from lemons and slice into strips about ¼”-⅜” wide.
- Place strips of lemon peel in a medium saucepan and add water to cover. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, use a metal colander to carefully strain water from peel. Repeat this process at least 3 times to remove the bitter flavor present in the peel.
- Setting peel aside, combine 9 ounces (1 ⅛ cups) water and 15 ¾ ounces (2 ¼ cups) sugar in the same saucepan used for step 3. Heat over medium-low, whisking occasionally just until the sugar dissolves. Cease whisking and simmer mixture for 8-10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed, until the temperature of the syrup reaches 230°F-235°F.
- Add peels to the sugar syrup and cook at a simmer until the peel is mostly translucent. For me, this takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes, but the timing can vary greatly. Avoid stirring the mixture or letting the syrup boil during this process.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the candied peels from the syrup, saving it for another use. Transfer peel in a single layer to a wire cooling rack set over a large piece of parchment (to collect drips). Let cool for about 15 minutes. Toss the peel in the remaining 1 ¾ - 2 ⅝ ounces (¼ - ⅜ cup) sugar as needed to coat. Transfer back to wire rack to finish drying - at least a few hours - before storing.
Storage and shelf life:
- Candied citrus peel is best kept in an airtight container or zip-top bag. Store in your pantry or another cool, dry place.
- For thinner candied peel, use the citrus zest only, removing the inner white pith. Blanch only once before candying.
- To curl candied citrus peel, let it cool slightly and then twist it around a toothpick or straw while it’s still soft. Let it dry in this shape, and then store as usual.
Keywords: candied lemon peel, candied citrus peel, use for lemon peels, what to do with lemon peels, candied lemon zest