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What to do with zested citrus? Make lemon, lime, and grapefruit juice simple syrups.

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This is so easy. And so refreshing.

I don’t know why I haven’t done it before.

I found myself with lots of citrus fruits denuded of their zest after I made citrus kosho and I knew I would never get through it if I didn’t do something with it right away.

Citrus that’s been zested keeps for a while in an airtight container, but it starts to dry out, and maybe it’s just confirmation bias, but it seems to me that it gets moldy more quickly than intact citrus fruits.

I had visions of pulling hard little orbs that used to be limes out of the back of the refrigerator in a month.

I was determined not to do that this time. (Not that I’ve ever done anything like that before…ha ha.)

The obvious way to use zested citrus is to focus on their juice. There are plenty of ways to use citrus juice, in lemon curd, for example, but I had just made meyer lemon ginger curd and didn’t need anything else like that at the moment.

And lemon and lime and grapefruit juice get weird after a few days. The flavor turns bitter, and they lose the intense punch of flavor they bring to the table.

That’s why the stuff in those little lemon and lime shaped bottles doesn’t compare to the freshly squeezed stuff. (Seriously, do a side by side taste test if you don’t believe me.)

Then I remembered something Stephanie Izard (of Top Chef and The Girl and the Goat and Little Goat fame) had mentioned at a chef demonstration I attended at the Green City Market last summer.

She was talking about this dessert with candied eggplant that gets simmered in this lemon syrup. It’s something I’m going to have to try when eggplants are back in season.

But it was the lemon syrup itself that stuck with me.

It’s so obvious really. It was a “why hadn’t I thought of that” moment for me. It’s a simple syrup, which is traditionally a syrup made of equal parts water and sugar, that substitutes lemon juice for the water. Simmer on the stove until the sugar is dissolved, let cool, and refrigerate.

That’s it.

I did this with lime juice and grapefruit juice as well.

It keeps for weeks that way and can be used in all sorts of ways, like in cocktails (a gimlet, anyone?). A splash of it would be nice if you like lightly sweetened iced tea. 

I love my home carbonator (it seems like so many people have them now), and when added to fizzy water this makes a soda with real fruit juice flavor, reminiscent of Orangina or the Lemon-Soda that we got in Italy when I lived there ages ago. It’s just delicious.

What to do with zested citrus? Make lemon, lime, and grapefruit simple syrup. From Blossom To Stem | Because Delicious
Yield: 3/4 cup

Lemon Syrup, Lime Syrup, and Grapefruit Syrup

Lemon Syrup, Lime Syrup, and Grapefruit Syrup

If you’re wondering what to do with zested citrus, these syrups are great.. I fear it would be too sweet with oranges, but for the citrus fruits on the tarter side of the spectrum this is lovely. I use a combination lemon/lime squeezer like this for juicing citrus fruit. I even cut the grapefruit into eighths to make it fit. I find it makes it so much easier to get most of the juice out than other methods I’ve tried. This is more of a ratio and a method than a recipe. You really just want equal parts juice and sugar. I'm giving you a half cup of each so you have a starting point, but if I were looking to use up citrus, I'd juice everything and measure it out, then add the same amount of sugar.

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes


  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, or lime juice, or grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Juice your lemons or limes or grapefruit. Measure the juice in a liquid measure. Pour it into a small saucepan. Add the same amount of sugar. Bring to a simmer and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several weeks at least.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 57Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g

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Sunday 27th of December 2020

Oh Mary, I can’t believe how simple and genius this is! My fridge is constantly full of naked little fruits and this such a smart thing to do with them.

Happy New Year, btw!

Mary Kasprzak

Monday 4th of January 2021

Happy New Year, Megan!

brittany bishop

Friday 19th of October 2018

How long can these syrups stay in the fridge? They looks delicious and easy to make!


Saturday 20th of October 2018

They'll keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Rhubarb Syrup - Blossom to Stem

Sunday 28th of September 2014

[…] prefer sodas with a flavor that can balance the sweetness of the sugar. Citrus syrups are winners for this, as are things with spices like ginger or cardamom, hints of floral flavors […]

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