How to Store Lemon Zest and How Long Does It Last?

Here’s all you need to know about the storage and shelf life of lemon zest. Learn where to store it and what to do if you have too much on hand.

Zested a few lemons and found yourself with a surplus of lemon zest? How to store lemon zest and how long it lasts?

The Short Answer

Fresh lemon zest keeps quality for a couple of days in the fridge, or you can preserve it for months by freezing it. Another option is to dry it and store it at room temperature, but that’ll affect its flavor.

That’s the gist of it. Want to learn more?

Here’s what we cover in this article:

  • ways to store lemon zest and their pros and cons
  • shelf life of lemon zest depending on how you store it
  • when to toss yours

Let’s jump right in.

Just zested lemons
Just zested lemons

How to Store Lemon Zest

You can store fresh lemon zest in the fridge or freeze it if you need it to retain quality for more than a few days. Or you can dry it and store in a container in the pantry.

Each method has its pros and cons that I cover below, but if what you care about is quality, nothing beats the freezer.

In the Fridge

If you make your own lemon zest, you can store any leftovers in the fridge, where they’ll retain flavor for a couple of days.

To refrigerate lemon zest, use an airtight container or a resealable bag. Or anything else that’ll ensure the rind is sealed tight so that it doesn’t dry out.

Now, while lemon zest will probably keep for at least a week or two in the fridge, it’ll most likely lose its flavor much quicker. And that makes it useless, even though it’s not technically spoiled or unsafe to eat.

The bottom line is that storing lemon peel in the fridge is okay if you plan to use it within a day or so. For long-term storage, freezing or dehydrating are both better options. Let’s cover those.

How to store lemon zest: a resealable container
How to store lemon zest: a resealable container

In the Pantry

If your lemon zest is dehydrated, you can store it at room temperature, in the spice drawer or any other cabinet in the kitchen.

If you’re buying lemon zest in the supermarket, it’s most likely dehydrated, which is why it’s not in the refrigerated section. But if you zest your lemons, you can dry the rind yourself: here’s how.

Storing dehydrated lemon zest is convenient, as it doesn’t take up any space in the fridge or freezer, but you don’t quite get as much flavor from it as you do from fresh lemon zest.

Because of that, you should consider freezing your lemon zest if you want to both retain the taste and make it last months.

In the Freezer

Fresh lemon zest keeps quality in the freezer for at least a couple of months, and the freezing process is super simple. If you need your lemon rind to keep for more than a few days, that’s the best approach.

(To learn more about how to freeze lemon zest, check out my article: Can you freeze lemon zest?.)

And speaking of the freezer, you can also zest frozen lemons. So if you already got a couple in the freezer, not all is lost.

Tablespoon of frozen lemon zest
Tablespoon of frozen lemon zest

How Long Does Lemon Zest Last?

PantryFridgeFreezer
Fresh lemon zest1 – 2 days3+ months
Dehydrated lemon zest3 – 6 months
Lemon zest storage time for best quality

Fresh lemon zest retains optimal flavor for 1 to 2 days in the fridge and more than 3 months in the freezer. Dehydrated lemon zest keeps quality for at last 3 to 6 months at room temperature, but it’s not as flavor-rich as its fresh counterpart.

All these storage periods might seem short, but that’s about how long lemon zest stays at its best. Over time, it loses quality, and at a certain point, there’s little flavor left. That’s when that lemon rind becomes useless.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of telling ahead of time if your 5-day-old lemon zest will still be acceptable or not. There are too many moving parts. So you can either go ahead and test it yourself or play it safe and freeze the leftovers.

Baking lemon cupcakes
Baking lemon cupcakes: a great way to use lemon zest

When to Toss Lemon Zest?

Discard your lemon zest when it has lost its flavor.

Lemon zest doesn’t spoil easily (unless you help it), so in most cases, you’re going to toss it when it loses its citrusy flavor.

Like most spices, lemon zest gradually loses quality, and most of its lemony taste will be gone at a certain point. That’s when you discard it.

That said, if it still has some flavor left, you can always use more of it in a dish to make up for the lower quality. This way, you use up the lemon rind quicker and make sure whatever you’re cooking tastes like it should.

(They’re no way to tell how much you need to use to get the flavor you want, so go with your gut. If you have no idea, double the amount the recipe calls for.)

Sugar with lemon zest
Sugar mixed with lemon zest, a base for many lemony baked goods