The Homemade Seasoning That'll Have You Saving All Of Your Lemon Peels

Springtime calls for bright recipes made with fresh lemon juice, such as lemony spring pea and asparagus pasta salad, and inventive takes on classic beverage recipes, such as fresh-squeezed violet lemonade. While in the midst of squeezing lemons to extract their acidic juice, you might stop and wonder what else could be done with the zesty fruit, instead of just throwing away the peels. If you're looking for a way to make the most of your lemons, look no further than crafting a homemade lemon pepper seasoning blend using the zest from leftover peels. 

Homemade spice mixes not only serve as a way to upcycle used fruit and reduce waste in the kitchen, but they're also a fresh alternative to the store-bought stuff. 

While lemon pepper blends found at the grocery store often contain added sugar and natural flavors that can taste overly sweet, strongly bitter, or artificially astringent, as well as modified food starches to prevent the blend from sticking, homemade lemon pepper seasoning requires just three ingredients: lemon zest, peppercorns, and salt.

How to make lemon pepper

To make lemon pepper seasoning from leftover peels, simply use a microplane or box grater to zest the peels of five lemons that have been washed and dried, zesting directly onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (You can also zest the whole lemons in advance prior to squeezing them.) Then, add 1/3 cup of crushed black peppercorns to the sheet, spreading the lemon zest and peppercorns evenly with a spatula before transferring to the oven. 

Bake the mixture at the lowest heat setting on your oven (typically 150 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit), using a spatula to mix the zest and peppercorns on the pan halfway through the baking time, until the zest is completely dry, about 25 to 45 minutes. It's important to monitor for doneness and make sure the zest is completely dry to avoid introducing any moisture to the spice blend, as moisture will cause mold growth.

Once you've removed the dried zest and peppercorn from the oven, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before grinding it in a spice grinder or food processor. Once the peppercorn and zest are ground, mix in 1/4 cup of salt until evenly distributed to form a fragrant seasoning blend.

Add a zesty twist to your favorite lemony recipes

Depending on your personal preferences, you can grind the lemon pepper seasoning into a coarser granulation size to use as a rub for lemon pepper chicken, cuts of steak, or a marinade for grilled fish. Alternatively, give the seasoning blend a finer grind size for seamless incorporation into creamy pasta sauces, garlic aioli, lemony vinaigrette, or even to elevate and add zesty depth to comfort food recipes, such as lemon pepper chicken noodle soup

Once you've used leftover lemons to make homemade lemon pepper seasoning, you won't want to waste those leftover lemon peels again. The seasoning blend can be kept on hand in the pantry to add a convenient and delightfully zingy dash of flavor to a variety of recipes. Store the seasoning blend in a cool, dry environment in repurposed seasoning jars or other airtight containers for optimal freshness.