6 Best Substitutes For Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Don't you just adore the aromas and flavors of Asian cuisine? Asian dishes are known for such smells and tastes due to the spices used. One of them is kaffir lime leaves.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

However, sometimes you will need help finding this spice. When that happens, you will need a substitute for kaffir lime leaves, and it will be great to have this list with you.

The best kaffir lime leaves substitutes are bay leaves, lima zest, lemon zest, lemongrass,  lemon thyme, basil or mint.

What Are Kaffir Lime Leaves?

Kaffir Limes are a citrus fruit that originates from tropical Southeast Asia. Its fruits and leaves are used in Southeast Asian cuisine, and the essential oil is used in perfumery. In addition, its bark and crushed leaves emit an intense citrus scent, which makes them recognizable. That is why kaffir lime leaves are often used as a spice in Asian and other world cuisines.

The appearance of this plant is unusual. It looks like a regular lime, but it's covered in warty bumps. Even though it does not look very appetizing, this plant and its leaves add a wonderful flavor to various dishes.

Kaffir Lime Leaves on a plate

Most importantly, there are plenty of benefits in terms of health if you consume this plant, one way or another. Simply put, kaffir lime leaves are great for oral hygiene, as people across Southeast Asia used them before the toothpaste invention.

Also, these leaves are great against bacteria, which are basically present everywhere. If you eat the kaffir lime leaves for some time, your immune system will grow stronger and therefore you'll be able to fight off any kind of cold or bacteria-related infections.

How to Use and Store Kaffir Lime Leaves

When it comes to using and storing this type of ingredient, the only thing that matters is to keep them fresh. Namely, kaffir lime leaves are sensitive to sunlight exposure so they will lose the main taste and health benefits if they're not stored properly. So, let's take a look at some of the most important notes to use and store kaffir lime leaves:

  • Keep them in the fridge - The first thing to do when you get these leaves is to keep them in the fridge where it's cold. This is quite important as these leaves are not able to withstand high temperatures, apart from when you use them for cooking.
  • Slice them in tiny pieces - If you want to add them to your favorite dish, you can easily slice kaffir lime leaves into tiny pieces and sprinkle them in the pot. This works well with almost all meat-dominant dishes like Instant Pot Turkey meatballs or even Swedish meatballs. Surely you notice that meatballs are an excellent dish to eat with this type of ingredient.

What Do Kaffir Lime Leaves Taste Like?

These leaves have a sour taste with a small dose of floral aroma. The taste is similar to a combination of lime, lemon, and tangerine. Such a profile of flavor and aroma gives an incredible freshness and fragrance of citrus that you first feel in the dish. They are usually eaten in food because you can chew them.

Kaffir Lime Leaves in a bowl

This spice is challenging to replace, given the unique combination of flavors and aromas. As a result, it's used in many dishes, such as soups, stocks, and stir-fries.

However, when you don't have kaffir lime leaves in your kitchen, you can replace them with one of the substitutes that we have selected for you. Keep reading for more.

Best Substitutes for Kaffir Lime Leaves

Since you may not get hold of this spice, you can still find the best substitutes in your kitchen or local supermarket. Some of these substitutes are very easy to use whenever you don't have kaffir lime leaves, such as lime zest and juice, lemon zest, or mint. But those are just some of the replacements. So let's go in order now to get to know them all.

1. Bay Leaves

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are the best substitute for kaffir lime leaves. Due to its pungent taste, it is most reminiscent of the intense flavor of kaffir lime leaf. So it will go well with dishes that generally use kaffir lime leaves.

The only problem may be that you will not feel the taste and aroma of citrus. Bay leaves have a much more floral flavor but can be combined with lime zest. In this case, you get the best combination that you can use for a similar taste that kaffir lime leaves have.

2. Lime Zest

Lime Zest

Instead of kaffir lime leaves, you can add some lime zest to your recipe. In this way, you will get the desired citrus taste. Given that the spices are similar, it will be easy to guess the flavors and make the dish you want.

3. Lemon Zest

Lemon Zest

Like lime zest, lemon zest is a great way to replace kaffir lime leaves. Grate some lemon zest in dishes where you generally use kaffir lime. You may not get such an intense taste, but your dish will be overwhelmed by the citrus aroma you will enjoy.

4. Lemongrass


If you accidentally found lemongrass somewhere in the kitchen, the great news is that you can use it as a substitute. Lemongrass is a highly aromatic plant that you can finely chop and add to your dishes. The dishes will take on a rich citrus flavor with a bit of bitterness. It is enough to use one lemongrass stalk for three kaffir lime leaves.

5. Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme

Also, lemon thyme is an excellent herb for traditional Asian dishes. It has a taste of thyme with citrus notes. It also has a strong lemon scent that is pungent and intense, just enough to replace kaffir lime leaves.

6. Basil or Mint

Basil or Mint

Herbs like basil, mint, and coriander is another good substitute for kaffir lime leaves. Although these spices do not taste very similar, they still have common aromas that complete the dish.

That means it is enough to use basil and mint leaves to get additional aromas in your dish. If you still have Thai basil, all the better because the taste will be even richer. It may lack citrus flavor, but you can get it by adding some of the above spices.

Table of Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes

Substitute Characteristics How to use
Bay Leaves A Bit Minty, Spice and Intensive Flavors Seafood, Pasta, Meat, Fish, Soups, Stews
Lime Zest Citrus Flavor Dressings, Marinades, Tea, Baked Goods, Seafood, Pasta, Soups
Lemon Zest Mild Citrus Flavor Dressings, Marinades, Tea, Baked Goods, Seafood, Pasta, Soup
Lemongrass Mild Citrus and Hint of Ginger Flavor Tea, Marinades, Grilled Meats, Seafood, Curry Pastes, Sauces
Lemon Thyme Minty, Earthy, Floral Flavor with notes of Citrus and Floral Taste Seafood, Vegetable Dishes, Stews, Soups, Sauces, Salads, Marinades

Asian cuisine is specific for its rich aromas and flavors, and its citrus taste is unique in its cooking. Because of this, it is often difficult to find an adequate replacement. However, since many herbs and citrus fruits have similar flavors, they can be suitable substitutes.

That's why it's a good idea to always have this list with you when you have kaffir lime leaves in a recipe and don't have them in the kitchen. Don't be afraid to try new flavors and aromas and enjoy them.


What Are Kaffir Lime Leaves?

Kaffir Lime leaves have an intense citrus scent, which makes them recognizable. That is why kaffir lime leaves are often used as a spice in Asian and other world cuisines.

What Do Kaffir Lime Leaves Taste Like?

These leaves have an intensely sour taste with a small dose of floral aroma. The taste is most similar to a combination of lime, lemon, and tangerine.

What Is the Best Substitute for Kaffir Lime Leaves?

The best substitutes for kaffir lime leaves are bay leaves, lime zest, lemon zest, basil, and mint.

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