The best limoncello substitutes include lemon juice, lemon vodka, lemon zest, lemon syrup, and lemon extract. These ingredients require little to no alterations and can be used in place of limoncello in a wide variety of recipes, such as cocktails, mocktails, cakes, dressings, or marinades.
1. Lemon Juice
Nothing beats fresh lemons when it comes to the lemon flavor. If using limoncello in a dressing, marinade, or cocktail, lemon juice can be substituted into the recipe. If baking, it is recommended to use a combination of lemon juice and lemon zest to get a strong lemon flavor.
To replace limoncello with lemon juice, use a 2:1 ratio.
For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tbsp of limoncello, use 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice. You may want to add a small amount of sugar to replicate the sweetness of limoncello.
The best way to get lemon juice is to use a hand juicer designed for citrus fruits. If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand, you can use lemon juice from a bottle, though this may compromise the flavor of your recipe.
2. Lemon Extract With Sugar
An easy substitute for limoncello is lemon extract mixed with sugar. Lemon extract is lemon peels extracted into alcohol to make a light yellow flavoring agent. Mix 1 tsp of lemon extract with ¼ tsp of sugar for your limoncello substitute.
Lemon extract is very strong, so the recommended use is 1 tsp of lemon extract for every tablespoon of limoncello when substituting.
This means if your recipe needs 2 tbsp of limoncello, you should use 2 tsp of the lemon extract and sugar mixture.
Lemon extract with sugar can be used in place of limoncello for virtually any recipe, including baking, marinades, or cocktails. It is beneficial for baking, as the strong flavor will not get lost like lemon juice or zest often does.
3. Lime or Lemon Zest
If you are out of limoncello and just need a subtle citrus flavor for your recipe, try zest of lime or lemon. Zest works very well in cocktails, dressings, marinades, and baking.
The zest of citrus fruit is obtained by grating the outermost skin of the fruit with a fine grater. The idea is to get the colored part of the peel highest in essential oils separated from the bitter white pith.
You can use a specialized zester or just the finest holes on your cheese grater. Avoid the white part of the peel as much as possible when grating.
Zest can be substituted using a 1:1 ratio in your recipe with limoncello.
This is an easy way to flavor most foods or drinks.
4. Dried Lemon Peel
Dried lemon peel can be used instead of limoncello for cakes, cookies, or dressings. Dried lemon peels are high in the essential oils of the fruit and are convenient to have on hand in your pantry.
To use in a recipe that calls for limoncello, use 1⁄8 of the required amount of limoncello. For instance, if a recipe calls for 4 tbsp of limoncello, you can substitute ½ a tablespoon of dried lemon peel.
When baking, it’s important to consider the wet-to-dry ratio. To substitute limoncello (a wet ingredient) with dried lemon peel (a dry ingredient), you must also compensate by adding more wet ingredients to the recipe. This can be done by adding more oil, butter, milk, or water, depending on what the recipe calls for.
5. Lemon Syrup
Lemon syrup is one of the closest substitutes available for limoncello. Limoncello and lemon syrup are very similar in flavor and consistency.
When using lemon syrup instead of limoncello, there is no need to add extra sugar, as the syrup is just as sweet as limoncello. Furthermore, you can use the same measurement to substitute limoncello with lemon syrup per the recipe.
Lemon syrup can be found in most specialty beverage stores or easily ordered online.
This substitution works great for any recipe calling for limoncello. It is especially useful for making a non-alcoholic version of cocktails that contain limoncello.
6. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil is highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. It is recommended to combine ⅛ tsp of lemon oil with ¼ teaspoon of sugar and use this mixture as a substitute for limoncello.
Baking is a great place to use lemon oil. Other recipes requiring cooking will also do well with lemon oil as a substitute. Lemon oil is not recommended for drinks or dressings due to its potency.
To replace limoncello with lemon oil, use ⅛ the amount of limoncello required.
7. Lemon Vodka
Another close relative to limoncello is lemon vodka. This is the best substitute for cocktails. Lemon vodka is vodka infused with lemon peel. It has citrus but lacks the sugar found in limoncello.
You can substitute lemon vodka for limoncello in equal parts.
This is a recommended substitution for drinks or salad dressings. The lemon flavor will likely be cooked out if used for baking or roasting recipes.
Limoncello vs. Lemon Vodka
Limoncello is a specialty liqueur from regions in Southern Italy made with lemon peel infused into grape or sugar beet-based alcohol and then sweetened with sugar. Lemon vodka is simply any vodka infused with lemon peel.
The main difference between limoncello and lemon vodka is that limoncello is sweet and is designed to be drunk as an aperitif. Lemon vodka is less likely to be drunk straight and shines as an ingredient in cocktails.
8. Curacao Liqueur
If you are looking for something to give similar benefits and ambiance as limoncello, curacao is a worthy substitute. Curacao is made from bitter orange, while limoncellos are made from lemons.
If you are making a cocktail that requires a citrus aperitif, curacao will be closer in flavor than most other liquors.
Curacao can also be used in baking recipes or savory recipes requiring limoncello. Just be aware that the distinct lemon flavor will not be there.
Kitron is a Greek Liqueur made with the leaves and fruits of the citron tree. Citron has a stronger flavor than lemon but is closely related. Kitron hails from the Greek island of Naxos and is very similar to limoncello in consistency and taste.
Kitron shots are also served as an after-meal drink, and it is an artisanal liqueur specific to one region, like limoncello.
You can substitute Kitron for limoncello at a 1:1 ratio.
Kitron can be difficult to find, but it is the closest substitute for limoncello available.
Meloncello is an Italian liqueur made by infusing cantaloupe into alcohol. It is a digestif and aperitif very similar to limoncello. Sometimes meloncello is combined with cream and sold this way.
Meloncello is a great replacement for limoncello if you don’t mind losing the lemon flavor. It will add a delicate sweet flavor to your recipe and is wonderful in cocktails.
It can be used in a 1:1 ratio for any recipe that requires limoncello.
Is Lemon Liqueur the Same As Limoncello?
Lemon liqueur is essentially the same as limoncello. Many use the terms lemon liqueur and limoncello interchangeably. However, authentic limoncello comes from Southern Italy and is made only from either Sfusato or Sorrento lemons.
These varieties of lemons are famous for being more sweet than sour, and thus give limoncello its distinctly sweet citrus flavor. Many lemon liqueurs are made in the same way as authentic limoncello but differ slightly in flavor due to the variety of lemon used.
What Does Limoncello Taste Like?
Limoncello tastes like sweetened lemon. Less sour than lemon juice and sweeter than lemon vodka, it is a combination of fresh, sweet, and sour on the tastebuds. It does not have a harsh alcoholic taste but packs a pleasant sour punch. Limoncello is made from lemon peel and has a syrupy consistency.
Limoncello hails from the regions of Capri, Amalfi, and Sorrento in Southern Italy. It is a celebration of the famously huge lemon fruits that grow in the region. that is perfectly balanced with a complex sweetness that comes from the aging process of limoncello.
It is meant to be consumed on its own in small amounts before or after a meal, served chilled or over ice.
Best Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Limoncello
The best non-alcoholic substitutes for limoncello are lemon syrup, lemon juice, or lemon extract mixed with sugar. These substitutions will keep the same ratio of liquid to dry in your recipe while maintaining the sour lemon flavor.
Lemon syrup is the best substitute for limoncello in mocktails or flavored drinks. It is very similar in consistency and contains the sweetness that lemon juice or lemon extract lack.
What Is the Difference Between Lemon and Limoncello?
The difference between lemon and limoncello is in flavor. Limoncello is made by infusing lemon zest using into alcohol, making a concentration that is combined with sugar and water to create a sweet lemon liqueur. Lemon fruit is more tart than limoncello.
Lemon zest or juice is a good substitute in recipes calling for limoncello to provide a fresh citrus flavor.
For more, don’t miss The 8 Best Substitutes For Lemon Extract.
Throughout the years, I've learned a thing or two about making the most of seasonal veggies. Today, I want to share some things I've learned about freezing one of our winter favorites: parsnips....
Sometimes, even the most seasoned home cooks have a batch of grainy or crystallized jam or jelly. But fear not! I've dealt with this issue many times over the years and am here to guide...