9 Top-Notch Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes

Kaffir Lime Leaves is a plant native to Southeast Asia. Kaffir lime leaves alternative names to include Makrut lime, Thai lime, and kaffir lime. As suggested by its name and origin, kaffir lime leaves have a rich flavor. Sadly, its use is limited to Asia only. And people in the west cannot enjoy its robust zestiness.

I recall being in the highlands for a holiday, and I felt a strong urge to cook Thai Tom Yum Goop soup. As expected, superstores were unaware of this tangy ingredient. However, this doesn’t mean I didn’t cook the soup. 

As with most foods in the world, mother nature has her secrets for this one too. So, I quickly scribbled a list of likely kaffir lime leaves substitutes. I’ve since found better ones. But before I reveal that information. Let us skim through various facts.

The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes

What are kaffir lime leaves?

Kaffir lime leaves come from the Kaffir lime plant. Its leaves have an hourglass shape. Although, the kaffir lime is too bitter to eat, the leaves serve a culinary purpose. Kaffir lime leaves are 100% and gratifying to taste.

Macronutrients  Values Per leaf (0.2g)
Vitamin A 0.3%
Vitamin C 0.2%
Calcium 0.1%
Iron 0.5%


What do kaffir lime leaves taste like?

Kaffir lime leaves are very potent. They have a diverse citrusy taste – think lemon, lime, and oranges. Kaffir lime leaves are similar in texture to bay leaves. Both of which we discard once cooked.


Where can I find kaffir lime leaves?

Kaffir lime leaves are a vital part of most Southeast Asian cuisines. You can always find them in the herb section of food stores. Most Vietnamese and Chinese stores sell it. However, it is a staple in Thai foods, so you can easily find it. Although, its availability depends upon where you live.


Why are kaffir lime leaves so expensive?

Kaffir lime leaves are handpicked from long thorny branches. It is a very grueling process. Besides, its limited harvest and relatively high demand make it even costlier.


Are kaffir lime leaves beneficial?

Kaffir lime leaves have earned their name for nothing. This plant has a variety of health benefits. Some kaffir lime leaves benefits are:

  • It reduces hair fall.
  • It relieves stress. No wonder you’ll find Kaffir lime essential oil in almost every store.
  • Chewing it freshens your breath. It is known for its anti-garlic effect.
  • It’s a natural mosquito (and all insects in general) repellant.
  • It has antibacterial properties which work well for acne problems.
  • It is rich in antioxidants.


Do kaffir lime leaves have any side effects?

Although, I’m happy to chew kaffir lime leaves all day long. Others are less fortunate. Kaffir lime leaves can have an array of side effects should they grace the lips of an allergic person. These symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Irritation
  • Enamel erosion
  • And digestive problems

While most of these symptoms usually manifest in a mild form. Still, if the state worsens, seek immediate medical attention.


Kaffir lime leaves recipes:

  • Coconut curry
  • Thai green chicken thigh curry
  • Lime chicken fried rice
  • Tofu, sweet potato, and chicken curry


9 Top-Notch Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes

Now that the introduction is over. Let’s move on to the real issue: What can you use instead of kaffir lime leaves? Here’s a record of all the ingredients you can use to replace kaffir lime leaves and the amounts needed.

1. Lime Zest

Lime zest the outer portion of lime. It is usually peeled with a zester. Most cooks use it for its tart notes. Besides, you can also use it along with the juice for added strength. However, the zest is more fragrant and flavourful than the juice. Although, the flavor won’t be as unique. It is the closest alternative you can use.

Macronutrients  Values Per 1 tbsp (6 g)
Vitamin A 0.1%
Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 0.6%
Iron 0.3%


Lime Zest - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


2. Lemongrass

Although there’s a high chance, you won’t have this plant growing in the backyard. However, it does make an excellent kaffir lime leaves substitute. Lemongrass is also known as silky heads and fever grass. It is a powerful aromatic. Therefore, you’ll find it in many soaps, shampoos, and cleansers.

Macronutrients  Values Per cup (67 g)
Vitamin A 0.1%
Vitamin C 2.9%
Calcium 3.4%
Iron 30%

Lemongrass is rich in antioxidants. Moreover, it has also shown antifungal and antibacterial properties. One finely diced stalk of lemongrass convincingly mimics the taste of Makrut leaves.

Lemongrass - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


3. Lemon Zest

Quite similar to lime zest, you can also use the lemon zest for a change. However, the tang will not be as potent. But it is better than to leave the leaves out entirely. The lemon zest will lend some citric fragrance to your dish. A good thing about this sub is that you can always find some lemons in the fridge, unlike lime and lemongrass.

Macronutrients  Values Per 1 tbsp (6 g)
Vitamin A 0.1%
Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 0.6%
Iron 0.3%

For every two makrut leaves, you can use ¼ teaspoon of lemon leaves. You may also squeeze in some lime juice to add diversity to the taste.

Lemon Zest - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


4. Preserved Lemon

Lemons that have been dipped and pickled in salt and vinegar for a month are called Preserved lemons. These lemons provide a very tangy taste. But without the tartness. Once opened, you have to refrigerate the lemons. Be sure to use it within a week. These lemons, especially Moroccan ones, have a lime-like fragrance.

Macronutrients  Values Per 1 tbsp (13 g)
Vitamin A 0.8%
Vitamin C 20.5%
Calcium 0.7%
Iron 0.8%

A quarter teaspoon of preserved lemons is enough to replace one stalk of kaffir lime leaves. I used a small amount, as pickled lemons are very salty and can overpower the flavors of your dish.

Preserved Lemon- The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


5. Curry Leaves

Curry leaves are perhaps the best substitute for Kaffir lime leaves in Indian cuisines. You may find them very distinct in certain aspects. But they have a similar citrus flavor. However, unlike kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves are inedible. Therefore, you must discard them before serving. It may surprise you, but the British government has banned the export of curry leaves from anywhere outside the EU. It was done so to stop the spread of citrus greening disease.

Macronutrients  Values Per leaf (0.5 g)
Vitamin A 0.5%
Vitamin C 0.1%
Calcium 0.1%
Iron 0.1%

Curry Leaves- The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


6. Basil

Basil is another option you can utilize. But it’s better if you have Thai basil. It is a tender plant that is famous in cuisines around the world. Basil is also known as Great Basil. It is native to the lands of central Africa and Southeast Asia.

Basil is rich in vitamins (A. C and K). It is also an excellent source of omega 3-fatty acids. Moreover, we also use its oil for external purposes (wound infections, etc.) Basil has many health perks, such as curing intestinal gas, stomach cramps. It also improves kidney health.

Moreover, it is a great herb to combat head colds. Pregnant women also take basil by mouth to enhance blood flow before and after birth. However, taking basil as medicine by mouth is discouraged in the long term.

Macronutrients  Values Per leaf (0.5 g)
Vitamin A 0.5%
Vitamin C 0.1%
Calcium 0.1%
Iron 0.1%

Basil - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


7. Cilantro

Cilantro is a culinary herb that is brimming with antioxidants. It has many uses and benefits. Around the globe, it is known by many names. Some of which are Chinese parsley, dhania, and coriander. Cilantro has a rich citrus-like taste and a pleasant aroma. Although, you’ll also see people describe it as soapy and pungent. However, according to a study, only 4-14% of unfortunate souls think this. 

Macronutrients  Values Per 1 tbsp (1 g)
Vitamin A 1.3%
Vitamin C 0.5%
Calcium 0.1%
Iron 0.1%

You can use cilantro as a substitute in marinade and salsas. 

Cilantro - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


8. Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves

Can’t get your hands on fresh kaffir lime leaves? What’s the worry? You can always substitute dried kaffir lime leaves for fresh ones. The taste is the same, and so is the aroma. While we are on the topic, you can replace all fresh herbs with their dried alternative. The only variation you’ll notice is in the color of your dish.

Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves - The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes


9. Make Your Own Substitute

If you want to replicate the complex kaffir lime leaves flavor, you can add several spices instead of just one. Half a teaspoon of bay leaves, a quarter teaspoon lemon zest, and ⅛ teaspoon of lemon thyme will give you the best taste.

This substitute will give you bitterness, citrus flavor, and pungency. But, if you want it all, add a small portion of Lemon thyme too. Lemon thyme is very fragrant, so your recipe will come out tantalizing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use any lime leaves for cooking?
Yes! You may use them in a similar fashion as bay leaves. Or you can slice them thinly and use them in salads.
Is Kaffir lime juice safe to drink?
Yes! And it is very beneficial too. Kaffir lime juice can treat indigestion and constipation. Moreover, it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Can you make tea from lime leaves?
Yes! And it tastes lovely. Grind a leaf in your palm and add it to hot water. Wait a few minutes as you do with regular tea before drinking.
Are lime tree leaves poisonous?
No! Unless the tree or its leaves have been sprayed with an insecticide or a pesticide. You are safe to eat lime tree leaves.

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