The most common uses of oranges are for fresh eating or juice, but there are plenty of ways to use orange zest too. Even if you’re just eating your oranges, save the zest for one of these fun, useful, and sometimes tasty projects. Orange zest is great for culinary, and even some cosmetic, uses.
Stop throwing away those orange peels. That’s where all the flavor and a lot of the nutrition in orange is. Use the orange zest instead in baking and cooking, in DIY cosmetics and in cleaning products. Here are some ideas to get you started.
There are so many ways to use orange zest that you will start saving it from every orange you eat so you can make scrubs, doughnuts, cake, cleaners and more!
The zest of citrus fruits is the thin layer of outside skin, or outer peel, before the white pith. Zest is appealing. Pith is bitter, so you want to avoid the pith when you are using the zest otherwise you’ll get a bitter taste. You can zest oranges in a couple of different ways, the most common and straightforward is using the fine side of a grater, or box grater. If you need thicker zest, use the thicker side of the grater instead of the fine side. You can also use a veggie mandolin on the thinnest setting, or a specially designed zester or microplane. You can also use lemons or limes in the same way.
Any orange is good for zesting, and you can use other types of citrus zest as well. After zesting, use the fruit in a fruit salad, or even in savory recipes like orange chicken.
A few of these suggestions will use whole orange skins, like the candied orange peel, or the citrus addition to thieves vinegar. Citrus peels have strong antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, as well as tasting awesome. So, you don’t want to waste the peel side of these awesome fruit powerhouses. Just remember to work on a cutting board, and use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, or potato peeler, as needed.
Powdered Orange Zest
Powdering your orange zest is one way to keep some in your pantry for those moments where a recipe catches you off guard and you don’t have an orange in the house. It is a little bit less punchy, but an awesome way to keep it on hand for any dish. Plus it is really easy to make and does keep a nice citrus flavor. All you do is follow these quick steps:
- take your orange peels and dry them out either in the sun, on the top of your woodstove (makes the house smell delish), in a dehydrator, or if you watch closely on the lowest setting in your oven.
- You want to dry them until they snap when you try to fold the peels in half.
- Then take the dried peels and put them in a coffee grinder or the dry container for your blender. Blend or grind until your orange zest is a powdery texture.
And voila you have powdered orange zest to use for any of these ideas here or just to keep on hand for when a recipe calls for it.
Frozen Zest for Quick Use:
If you prefer the fresh zing of freshly zested oranges, you can try freezing your zest for later use. Take a cookie tray and place parchment paper on it. Spread your orange zest in a thin layer and freeze. Break up zest and pour into a Ziploc, store in the freezer for six months to one year. Pre-freezing the zest outside of the bag helps keep it from clumping together, so it’s easier for you to use in your recipes and keeps the taste fresh. This also helps keep the zest looking great for dessert toppings, salad dressings, or other garnishes.
Candied Orange Peel:
Skip the zesting and slice your clean, organic orange peels into narrow strips to make your own candied orange peels. These peels can be chopped up and substituted for candied fruit in holiday breads, used as toppings for cakes, used as an add-in for teas and hot chocolate, or just nibbled on as a sweet orange snack! The slight bitterness is great as a digestive aid for the children who have a tummy ache, too. It can go well with some cheese too, and makes a great digestive booster with it’s unique flavor.
Orange Sugar Scrub
Sugar scrubs make your skin silky smooth! You can use your orange sugar scrub anywhere on your body, it smooths the skin but it also exfoliates your skin as you use it. My favourite is to use it on my hands every day. This recipe is so easy to make using things you already have around your house and it makes your skin feel so good. This Orange Sugar Scrub smells so delicious you’ll want to eat it! Sugar scrubs make an awesome gift and if you double the batch you can make enough to keep some for yourself.
Healing salve is so handy to have around the house for so many different things from scrapes and scratches to bumps and bruises. Use the master recipe here and just add 1 tsp of orange zest for its antimicrobial effects. You can use a cheesecloth to strain it out if you don’t want the zest in your salve, or you can just leave it in.
Orange Cake with Icing
This is my grandmother’s recipe. She and I used to make this cake all the time when I was growing up. She had me baking with her from the day I could stand on my own 2 feet, get on a chair to reach the counter and put ingredients into a bowl. This recipe takes the cake when it comes to orange cake. Nothing can beat grandmas recipes right?!? Looking for a gluten free cake? Substitute the regular flour for a gluten free flour blend.
Pumpkin Coffee Cake (Gluten Free)
This is like a pumpkin spice latte, but it is also a cake! Whoa. And yes it is gluten free, but it’s so delicious you wouldn’t even know it. For this recipe, you want to use blood oranges, both juice and zest, if you can because it gives it a robust orange flavor and bold color that can’t be matched. A little secret I want to let you in on… you can make this cake any time of year, you don’t have to wait for pumpkin spice season.
Homemade Orange Gingerbread Playdough
This playdough smells so good you could eat it!! And that’s the best part, if the kiddos eat some of this, it won’t harm them because it is homemade using ingredients from your pantry. If allergies are a concern, this recipe can help since it’s also gluten free. It is made using rice flour, spices and orange zest. It is easy to whip up and it is definitely a unique spin on playdough. It feels just like playdough but it has the added bonus of smelling so delicious.
Cranberry Orange Relish
This recipe can be used as cranberry sauce for a turkey dinner, as a side salad on its own or as a relish. It also goes well with fish, chicken, beans or eggs. This cranberry orange relish is raw, filled with Vitamin C and can be made in under 10 minutes!
Orange Glazed Jelly Doughnuts
Ah, doughnuts! There is nothing like one that is filled with jelly. Yum yum. If you have never made your own doughnuts, you have no idea what you’re missing. Yes, they are a lot of work, but you will forget all about it when you take the first bite. Plus you can make your own doughnuts, how cool is that! These jelly doughnuts are filled with whatever jelly you want and then topped with a delicious orange glaze with little bits of orange zest in it.
Blood Orange Curd
Surprisingly, oranges and lemons both make delicious curd. Lemon curd, or in this case orange curd, is a great way to use up eggs, and citrus fruit. Orange curd uses the juice and zest of oranges, while lemon curd uses lemons. You could technically also make it from grapefruit, or kumquats even if you really wanted to get adventurous. One favorite way to use up orange curd is on mini meringue cookies, so it’s like personal pavlova.
Citrus Thieves Vinegar
Thieves vinegar is a disinfectant, it’s anti bacterial, it’s used for cleaning and it can even be used as a bug repellent. It’s quick and easy to make yourself at home and so useful to have around the house. All you want to do is add orange peel from one orange to this recipe.
A few fun facts about Thieves Vinegar:
- The recipe for thieves’ vinegar is older than the internet.
- It’s older than television or radio.
- It’s even older than the printing press.
- The recipe came out of a very dark time in history when trader ships replaced the Silk Road, men killed each other for cloth and spices, and honest men were forced to steal.
There are so many unique things you can do with orange zest, from Orange Gingerbread Playdough to Orange Glazed Jelly Doughnuts to Thieves Vinegar and I know you’re excited to try some of these recipes. Don’t be afraid to make up your own too, any recipe that calls for lemon or lemon zest can have orange and orange zest substituted for fun, new flavors.
This is a guest post by Savanna Hines.
Savanna lives in British Columbia and has experience in the hospitality industry/entrepreneurship. She’s also a certified life coach. Authenticity is important to her. She’s passionate about living a raw, authentic and unabashedly vulnerable life! She also believes that the whole raw vulnerability thing is the cornerstone for growth, love and connection so she’s committed to inspire conversation about all of the qualities that make us human.
On her blog “Being Raw” (coming soon) Savanna wants you to explore with her the concept of taking in and putting out raw vibes to the world with amazingly unique raw/vegan recipes and insights on being your most vulnerable self.
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