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:
Have you made this recipe?
If so, I'd love to hear your feedback; you can leave a rating and review in the comments section below! It's also so helpful if you help spread the word by sharing this post on your favorite social media channel. If you happen to snap a photo of what you've baked, be sure to share it on Instagram and tag me (@brighteyedbaker) so I can give you a shoutout!
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
Abha Nulkar says
Phenomenal....never will buy flavorless peel again. I have a Washington orange tree and made a double batch with 6 oranges. Have about 3/4 cup of syrup left over. Already ate about a quarter. Question: Technically, what is the reason for boiling 3 in cold water and pouring it off?
It helps get rid of any biterness from the peel. :)
so delicious - I just store them in the fridge without drying them out. They don't last long as I can't stop eating them.
Glad you like them!
So, I love candied fruit peels, but I'm trying to avoid too much sugar. Do you think honey would work as a substitute for the sugar? Both for boiling in and coating with?
I suppose after blanching the peels (boiling in water multiple times) you could simmer them in honey rather than the sugar/water syrup. You shouldn't need to simmer the honey first, in that case, as you would the sugar syrup. I would not coat the peel in honey afterwards since that would just make them increasingly sticky; part of what coating in sugar does is remove some of the stickiness. What you could try is coating them in raw sugar, if that doesn't bother you.
I have about 2 cups of leftover orange infused sugar syrup from boiling my orange peels. Not sure how much water is left in this syrup solution. Any suggestions for how to use this in some yummy way?
You could add it to tea or sparkling water, use it to brush on a homemade cake or muffins, put it on ice cream... just a few suggestions off the top of my head!
sheila rosterman says
This in just an idea, but I am trying it out. I have a little kombucha mumhroom and I am trying to get citrus flavored kombucha from the left over sugared water. But it's still an experiment at this stage
Flavor kombucha with it!
This year and last I enjoyed some awesome dates from Saudi Arabia that had candied peel in them along with candied ginger, some spices, and ground nuts. Next year I make my own! Thanks for the recipes!
candied peel freezes well, by the way.
Thanks for the tip!
Great recipe - Thanks. I've made several different batches - for a fun gift assortment, I used grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, Meyer Lemon, limes and Key limes - made a very pretty bundle. A bit labor-intensive due to different cooking times but, oh, so worth the effort.
Ooh, sounds so amazing! I need to be as ambitious as you and try out some other citrus... kudos!!
Thanks. Glad to hear that. Just got to keep my hubby from eating them all! He's been enjoying eating them as they are!
How long does the candied citrus peel store for? I've heard that it's only good for a couple of days, others say you can store it in the fridge for over 6 months. I'm hoping it will be closer to the 6 month figure, but am not sure. Have you stored yours for longer than a couple of days? I just made some candied meyer lemon peels using your method and am going to be using some some in a recipe tomorrow, but am hoping to be able to save the rest for down the line a few days, weeks or months.
In my experience, they definitely last for months! Anywhere between 6 months to a year, I'd say. :) Just keep them in an airtight container of some sort in a cool pantry or cabinet.
Put some moisture control packets in with them. They should last a LONG time.
How about using honey instead of sugar, or a combination of the two? Thank you for the recipe and the variations!
I think you could definitely sub in some honey, but you could probably reduce the water a bit depending on how much honey you use. Let me know how it goes if you try it out!
I have some Seville oranges left over from making a batch of marmalade - do you think it would work with these or be too bitter?
I think it could work, and you could always blanch the peel a few more times before continuing with the recipe. I'd love to hear how it goes if you try it!
Seville oranges are amazing for this recipe. A neighbor had a tree and said the oranges were too sour to eat so she gave them away! I just candied orange peel from 40-50 of these. They are slightly bitter but perfect for cookies. I dried them in a dehydrator for 24 hours and they should keep for a very long time! Perfect! I froze the juice in ice cube trays for later use.
This is awesome!!
Karen West says
What about candied kumquat peels. I love them....have a large bag full and have already got plenty of kumquat marmalade on hand...would love to preserve the peels only....my favorite part...any ideas...thanks
I haven't tried it, although it sounds like it would be delicious! From what I know the procedure would be essentially the same as with the candied orange peel, but I can't say exactly how much peel to use without trying it myself. Just be careful to watch the peel as it cooks to ensure it doesn't burn. They may cook faster than the orange peel.
Let me know if you try it; I'd love to hear how it turns out!
It will be sublime. My mom once made kumquat marmalade and it was the best I've ever tasted.
sheila rosterman says
I made candied limequats. I just cut them in quarters lengthwise, but I didn't't dry them, I just put them in ball jars and left them to cure for a week in the refrigerator. They are delicious, both tart and sweet at the same time
This post on candied kumquats might be helpful for limequats in the future too! :)
Do you know if it is possible to dry the peels in the oven on a low-low temp instead of waiting 24 hours? I dont have enough room in my kitchen to leave things sitting out for 24 hours.... :-)
I haven't tried it but I have to think that it would work just fine. Let me know if you give it a go!
I spread out the orange peel on a tray and let it sit on top of our wood stove for a few hours. They dried beautifully. I'm sure it would work just as well in the oven on a low temperature. Convection oven probably even better. Just be sure and check often so they don't get overdone.
Thanks for the tip!
I put the peel on the dehydrator tray for a few hours, depending on the peel - was looking for a'difference' and found this page - pretty neat!! (I use chopped fruit peel in oatmeal)
The first time i made candied citrus peel, i tried a bunch of different fruit. Without question, the grapefruit was the best - the skin of a grapefruit is a lot thicker than oranges, so they had a thickness and body to them that oranges did not have. They were also the most flavorful, with the result tasting more like i had expected the oranges to be.
I'll have to try grapefruit next! What kind did you use?
Becky Clark says
Do you think grapefruit or tangerines would work? What amounts would you use? It appears the process is very similar but I am unsure of the number of fruit peel to use. Does the fact that tithe white membrane is thick or thin? This is such a neat recipe. I knowiwilluse it for dessert garnish and perhaps in salads. This is really an untapped product. Thank you for posting the information and recipe.
I think tangerines would work, but I would probably aim for using a kind that doesn't have bumpy skin. Grapefruit would probably work as well, but I would definitely be sure to coat it in sugar (as I described for the candied lemon peel) once it has dried, since grapefruit is tart. For tangerines, I would use about 7 to 9, depending on the size of your tangerines. For grapefruit, I'd say about 2. As long as the pith (the white membrane) isn't extremely thick on your fruit (like a pomelo, for example), the thickness doesn't seem to matter too much. You could always peel some of it off if it seems too thick. Hope that helps!
I have tasted every kind of peel including tangerine and grapefruit. I just used your recipe on mandarin peels- I was careful to remove the pithe and it worked perfectly. They got translucent very quickly so I did not wait the full time. I dried them on parchment for a few hours but some were still sticky so I just buried them in sugar- this morning they are dry and perfect with a little sugar 'frost' on them. I am going to get fresh bergamot peels and try those next. I imagine any peel will be fantastic.
They would definitely get translucent faster if you aren't using the pith, and thinner peels usually do work well tossed in sugar to help get rid of the stickiness. Awesome that all went well for you! :)
Sue M says
Hi Chris -
How did the bergamot peels turn out? Bergamots are very healthy fruit so candied peels should be wonderfully healthy and tasty.