Lemon juice adds brightness and sourness to foods. It can be used to add a hint of citrus or just a bit of tang to foods. In some cases, lemon juice is not readily available, and depending on your requirements, lemon extract can be used instead. However, if you are using the juice for its sourness or taste, lemon extract isn't an ideal substitute.
Baked Goods or Savory Dishes
Both lemon extract and lemon juice provide a lemon-y flavor to foods, but in remarkably different fashions. Lemon extract is most commonly used with baked goods to provide a lemon scent without the sourness. It isn’t recommended for cooked foods, as it does not replicate the taste of lemons, only the aroma. In turn, lemon juice can be used for cooking as well as baking. In baking, lemon juice is most commonly used as a leavening agent.
Common items that can use lemon extract instead of lemon juice:
- Custards and creams
- Dessert sauces
- Cakes, muffins or other crumb-baked goods
- Pie fillings
Lemon extract is made from the rind of lemons, not the flesh of the fruit. The natural oils found in the lemon rind are used for the extract, which is why lemon extract has a strong smell of lemon. Too much lemon extract can lead to a bitter flavor, as lemon oil is naturally bitter.
Lemon Extract as a Substitute
Because of its strong lemon aroma, lemon extract is best used as a substitute for lemon zest, not lemon juice. In general, 1 teaspoon of extract is equal to 2 teaspoons of lemon zest. You can also use lemon extract in place of other citrus zest for baked goods, such as lime or orange zest.
Lemon Juice Substitutes
Whichever substitute you use depends on the function of the lemon juice in the recipe. In general, you can substitute lemon juice on a 1-to-1 ratio with lime juice or another citrus juice. However, orange and tangerine juices may not provide as much acidity as lemon juice.
You can also use vinegars in place of the lemon juice on a 2-to-1 ratio. However, this depends on the recipe. For example, rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar have very strong taste profiles, making them not well-suited for more delicate flavoring tasks, such as sweet baked goods or light-tasting sauces. However, white vinegar is often a good substitute for lemon juice, when no more than 1 tablespoon of acid is required in a recipe.