How to Make Orange Zest without a Zester

Zesting an orange is very much like skinning a cat; there is more than one way to get the job done.

Tools may vary and results might have a slightly different look, but the overall purpose is unchanged: To separate the zest, or flavedo, from the bitter, white pith, that make up the peel.

These are some tools, other than a zester, plus some tricks and suggestions for using the delicious result:


This grater, or shredder, often has grating slots of different sizes and shapes to satisfy specific culinary purposes. They make it easy to remove the zest in morsels varying from mush to strips and leave the pith on the fruit.

A box grater is an arrangement of these shredders into a box shape that will stand alone on a work surface.

Microplane grater or zester

Chefs and good cooks around the world have usurped this carpenter’s rasp or shaver because of its convenient shape and ease of handling. They make quick and easy work of zesting thin-skinned oranges.

Vegetable peeler or paring knife

It is relatively easy to zest an orange with either a vegetable peeler or paring knife:

Peel the orange leaving as much pith on the fruit as possible. Then, place the strips of peel flat on a counter and use a spoon to scrape and remove any remaining pith.

A sprinkle of finely chopped zest brings a nice hint of orange to a salad of green leaves and herbs. Combine a few thin strips of orange zest with fresh sweet herbs, like basil and tarragon, and an ordinary rice pilaf becomes a special summertime treat.

Candied citrus peel

Once you have mastered the idea of preparing the zest, steps for making candied citrus peel are a bit time-consuming but relatively simple. The candied zest is one of those delicious cook’s secrets to be prepared on a quiet day and stored away in the freezer to finish a special dish.

Your homemade candied citrus bears little resemblance to most purchased orange peel but delicious when the moist, finely chopped peel are folded into cheesecakes or ice cream. When dipped in chocolate, they become the stars of almost any dessert table.

Savory dishes

This method of cooking fresh asparagus, taken from the latest print edition of Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking, is only one example to get you thinking about savory dishes accented with orange zest.

Roast, grill, or boil prepared asparagus to your desired degree of doneness.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, add:

2 Tablespoons butter,

1 ½ Tbsp grated orange zest, minced

¼ cup hazelnuts, roasted

Juice of ½ orange


Brown butter mixture slightly, then add in asparagus and toss a few times to heat through.

Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with a few strips of orange zest and serve immediately.


These are only a few ideas to get you started thinking about using orange zest to its best advantage