Lime juice adds a delightful brightness and a tangy, citrusy undertone to dishes, creating stunning masterpieces. It’s the perfect ingredient to add to recipes that need that zesty tang.
Although lime juice can be difficult to replace, there are quite a few substitutes for lime juice that you can use in a pinch to get just the right amount of citrusy flavors. Here’s a curated list to get you started.
1. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is a great substitute for lime juice, especially in baking and cocktail preparations as it shares a similar flavor and has comparable acidity levels as lime juice. Lemon juice is also slightly sweet with hints of bitterness that can act as stand-in flavors for lime juice.
To substitute it in recipes, swap lime juice with the same amount of lemon juice. However, keep in mind that while lemon juice is a good enough substitute for lime juice, it cannot completely replace the “zing” of lime. So, replacing lemon juice for lime juice while preparing Latin and Mexican food or baking something like a key lime pie, where lime is a key ingredient, may not yield the desired results.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
2. Citrus Zest
Citrus zest (from limes, lemons, or oranges) can work as a wonderful substitute for lime juice, especially in recipes where lime juice is used for flavor rather than acidity. Some good examples will be cilantro lime rice and baked goods.
Citrus zest adds some amazing brightness to the dish and can give you a more intense flavor than the lime juice itself — without its liquid content. This also means that you’ll want to keep an eye on the amount of citrus zest you’ll use in recipes to make sure it doesn’t overshadow the dish’s flavor profile.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1/2 teaspoon citrus zest.
3. Orange Juice
Orange juice may not taste the same as lime juice, but it can act as a good stand-in. It will give your food the same tart flavor as lime juice while also adding some liquid content to your dish. Orange juice also tends to be less acidic and sweeter than lime juice while being subtly bitter, so it’ll work differently in different recipes.
If you’re creating a dish that calls for the freshness of lemon (rather than its bitter aftertaste), consider replacing lime juice with the same amount of orange juice. If a recipe calls for a bit of sweetness, skip the sugar and add extra orange juice. If you’re worried the flavors won’t line up as well with orange juice, start with a small amount and gradually add more until you achieve the ideal taste.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 teaspoon orange juice.
4. White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar can work to replace lime juice in various savory dishes and marinades as well as in salad dressings. Keep in mind that white wine vinegar does not have the same acidity level as lime juice and will thus impart a different flavor to the dish.
White wine vinegar, however, can be overpowering, so use this substitute as a last resort when you don’t have the time to run to the store. It works best for marinades, dressings, and other liquid recipes, but it may not work as well in baked goods as it tends to react strongly with ingredients like baking soda and might end up drastically changing your baked goods.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar.
If you’re using lime juice in recipes for its acidity, and not for its flavor, you can replace it with any type of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. It works as a great substitute for lime juice in salad dressings, ceviche, salsa, and guacamole.
It’s important to remember that vinegar has a higher potency than lime juice. It also has a sour, pungent flavor without the lime juice’s subtle sweetness, which might change the dish’s overall flavor profile. So, it’s best to start with a small amount and adjust to taste.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1/2 teaspoon vinegar.
6. Tamarind Paste
Tamarind may not be your first choice in the event of a lime juice shortage, but this underrated ingredient can work as an excellent lime juice substitute. While it has a uniquely sweet and sour flavor, it also brings a tangy element to the dish that is quite similar to that of lime juice.
Consider diluting tamarind pulp with water before using it in liquid dishes like drinks, sauces, and marinades to match the intensity of lime juice as well as to get your desired flavor and texture.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste.
7. Grapefruit Juice
Citrus fruit juices in general perform exemplary well as lime juice substitutes, and grapefruit is no exception. Because both lime and grapefruit are sour citrus fruits, you can use fresh grapefruit juice (or bottled grapefruit juice) in equal amounts to lime juice.
You may need to tweak the amount required because grapefruit juice is a little less sour and slightly sweeter than lime juice. On the same note, if the recipe calls for whole limes rather than specific measurements, keep in mind that grapefruit tends to be much larger than limes. This means you will need to adjust the amount depending on the recipe.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 teaspoon grapefruit juice.
8. Black Lime
Black lime, also known as dried lime or loomi, is a prominent spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. It has a fragrant and acidic flavor with umami undertones that can work well as a substitute for lime juice.
While it may not have the same flavor profile as lime juice, its lack of sweetness may help to improve the flavor of soups, stews, meats, and other dishes.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 teaspoon black lime.
9. Lime Oil
Food-grade lime oil has a more overwhelming citrusy and herbal flavor profile than lime juice. It also has an intense lime scent and is best used to replace lime juice in baked goods and desserts, as well as in fresh foods like salads.
As lime oil is extremely concentrated, you will need a very little amount to replace lime juice.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 1 drop of lime oil.
10. Key Limes
Key limes share quite a few similarities in terms of the taste profile with lime juice. They have a wonderful scent, are somewhat less acidic than lime juice, and are best used to make desserts.
Key lime is also tangier and can also be quite bitter, so make sure you adjust the taste as per the recipe.
1 teaspoon lime juice = 2-3 teaspoons of key lime juice.