Substitute for kaffir lime leaves

Substitute for kaffir lime leaves
Substitute for kaffir lime leaves

Exotic ingredients such as Kaffir lime leaves are not easy to find in the market. These ingredients are useful for Thai home cooking. But sometimes you can chop them into pieces and sprinkle over your meat or fish to add fragrance. So what can you substitute for kaffir lime leaves when you want to make stir-fries or Thai curries? First, let’s find out what makes them so important and what a good substitute for kaffir lime leaves should contain.

Kaffir lime leaves are obtained from the lime plant (Makrut, magroot), a shrub common in Asia. They are popular because they have a distinct citrusy flavor and aroma suitable for making Asian recipes. You can find the frozen or dried at the Asian markets in Canada and the US. Sometimes they are also available in groceries or supermarkets but it is very rare. Fresh makrut leaves work best, deep-frozen work well too. However many cooks will argue that kaffir lime leaves should not be included if not fresh. Given the fact that these leaves are rare outside Thailand, deep-frozen can be very helpful as well.

Cooks use them to prepare exciting recipes across the world. But this is not the only thing that makes kaffir lime leaves so important. They are packed with multiple nutrients and many health benefits. For example, they are good for your hair, oral health, and good insect repellants as well as they can boost the immune system.


1.    Bay leaves

Bay leaves are strongly flavored herbs that come from Laurel tree. They can be used dried fresh or deep-frozen. You can easily identify them from their dull dark green tops and a lighter green underside. However, when you dry them both sides will look the same. The laurel plant grows in warm areas. Bay leaves have a strong aroma that makes the perfect for preparing different types of cuisines. But they are not eaten generally, but rather included in a braising liquid or simmered in a sauce. After serving bay leaves are removed, however, sometimes they can be used a spice when ground into powder.

Bay leaves make a suitable substitute for kaffir lime leaves because they have a similar pungent smell for preparing savory dishes. But they contain fewer citrus notes for preparing Thai curry paste hence you should combine them with lime zest. Another reason why bay leaves are the best alternatives is that they are easy to get in the stores compared to kaffir lime leaves. Additionally, they are highly nutritious and equipped with many health benefits. For example, they may improve cholesterol profiles and help in fighting diabetes.


Bay leaves have a similar pungent aroma to kaffir lime leaves hence make the best alternative. But to bring out the citrusy flavour, you should mix them with lime zest.

2.    Lime juice

Lime juice is no doubt one of the best drinks that nature pledges us with. Many sources say that this tasty drink boosts the uptake of water in our bodies. Lime juice is obtained from a shrubby citrus tree that is common in Asia. It produces a green fruit that is similar to the lemon. The juicy pulp of lime fruits is squeezed to produce the lime juice. The juice has many non-culinary and culinary uses. It is a perfect substitute for kaffir lime leaves when making Thai curry paste. Lime juice is a good source of potassium and magnesium. Main lime juice health benefits include:

•    It improves digestion

•    Prevents cancer

•    Reduces inflammation

•    Fights infections

•    Helps with weight loss


Lime juice is a great substitute for kaffir lime leaves when making Thai curry paste. It contains a citrusy note similar to kaffir lime leaves. Lastly, making lime juice is very easy but it can also be found in shops or supermarkets.

3.    Lime zest

When you peel the outer green layer you get the lime zest. It contains flavorful oils and fragrance that is useful for adding flavors, to desserts, cocktails and other recipes. Lime zest has the same distinct citrusy flavour as the kaffir lime leaves. It is sold at the groceries but you can also prepare yours at home. There are so many ways to make lime zest. All of them constitute using various utensils that are easily found in any household. For example, a zester, grater or a peeler. Don’t worry if you don’t have any of those because you can use a knife too. Peel the green part of the care and chop it into pieces. You can use the lime zest as a marinade, to garnish or on baked products. Limes are said to important as they clean arteries making them healthy.


Lime zest contains similar citrusy flavour making it a suitable alternative for kaffir lime leaves. Above that, lime zest is easy to make on your own if you have some limes around. Finally, it’s affordable and available in many grocery stores.

4.    Lemon thyme

Thyme is a Greek word that means to fumigate. You can also refer it as citrus thyme and it is popular because of its strong lemony fragrance. Lemon thyme is special in the kitchen because it does not contain chromophores bitterness that is common with other garden thymes. It brings a strong lemon flavor and citrus note hence can be used as a substitute for kaffir lime leaves.

Lemon thyme is a powerhouse for antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It contains compounds that can be used to prevent or treat conditions like, gingivitis, respiratory tract and gastrointestinal ailments. Lastly, lemon thyme is easy to grow and find in various grocery stores.

Other health benefits of lime thyme are:

•    Can get rid of pests

•    You can make skincare products using lime thyme

•    Can lower blood pressure

•    It can cure stress and fatigue


Lemon thyme has lemon fragrance and a citrusy note that is available in kaffir lime leaves. This makes it a good alternative. Besides, it grows easily in most places hence it is easier to find.

Nutritional Facts Summary Table

Item Calories Total Fats Carbohydrates Proteins Source Works Best In
Bay Leaves 313 (per 100g) 8.4g 74.97g 7.61g Leaves of bay laurel tree Soups, stews, sauces
Lime Juice 30 (per 100g) 0.1g 10.54g 0.42g Extracted from limes Marinades, dressings, beverages
Lime Zest 20 (per 100g) 0.4g 8.42g 1.69g Grated outer skin of limes Baking, cooking, cocktails
Lemon Thyme 101 (per 100g) 1.7g 24.45g 5.5g Herb from Thymus citriodorus plant Seasoning, marinades, roasted dishes


Can you use lime zest instead of lime leaves?

Lime zest can be used as a substitute for lime leaves in certain recipes, but keep in mind that the flavor might not be exactly the same. Lime leaves have a unique citrusy and aromatic flavor that can be challenging to replicate with just zest.

What are lime leaves used in Thai cooking?

Lime leaves are used in Thai cooking to add a distinctive citrusy and floral flavor to dishes. They’re commonly used in soups, curries, stir-fries, and sauces to enhance the aroma and taste.

What do kaffir lime leaves taste like?

Kaffir lime leaves have a strong citrus aroma and flavor, with a combination of tanginess, bitterness, and earthiness. They contribute a unique and essential element to many Southeast Asian dishes.

Are curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves the same?

No, curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves are not the same. They come from different plants and have different flavors. Curry leaves have a distinct curry-like aroma, while kaffir lime leaves have a citrusy and floral flavor. They are both used in different types of cuisines.


Kaffir lime leaves are a key ingredient in many Southeast Asian dishes, but they can be hard to find outside of their native region. If you’re looking for a substitute for kaffir lime leaves, there are a few options that will work well in a pinch.

Mei Lin Zhang

Written by Mei Lin Zhang

I love to writes about stories and cooking. I really enjoys creating new recipes and taking pictures of my food. When I am not writing, you can find me in the kitchen or snapping photos of my tasty creations.

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