Lemon pepper seasoning is an incredibly versatile and refreshing spice mix that has been used more and more in a wide variety of recipes.
It brings together the delightful citrus and floral notes of lemon with the peppery and spicy elements of black pepper.
This is a very useful spice mix to have at home. If a recipe calls for lemon pepper spice, it cannot and should not be left out! But, sometimes, especially with spices, you don’t realize that you’re out until you desperately need some.
So, what are the best substitutions for lemon pepper seasoning? The best substitutes for lemon pepper include spices and herbs with citrus notes such as lemon thyme. Other options include lemon juice, shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7 spice), and lemon curry powder.
In today’s article, we will have a look at the various substitutes for a lemon pepper seasoning.
We will not only look at how they’re made but also when and how they should be used.
What Is Lemon Pepper Seasoning?
Before diving deep into various substitutions and alternatives, let’s first have a look at exactly what this spice mix is in order to understand what we need to use to replace it.
A lemon pepper seasoning mix is just that; lemons and pepper. This is of course the simplest recipe, but it contains lemon zest or peel mixed with ground black pepper and salt.
There are a ton of variations available to buy, each as delicious as the last. The varieties usually include different textures, different flavors of pepper, and even different intensities of lemon.
These seasonings also often contain garlic flakes or powder and even onion powder or flakes to add more complex flavors to the mix.
This seasoning mix is best used with chicken or pork, although there are many other uses for it. Exactly what you want to use it for will also help determine the best substitution for it.
DIY Lemon Pepper Blend
Your best option for a store-bought substitution will be to make your own blend at home. It is actually incredibly easy, and in our opinion, much more fragrant and flavorful.
To make your own lemon pepper blend at home is very easy. All you need is a lemon element and a pepper element – these form the base of the seasoning mix.
To incorporate lemon, the easiest option is to use freshly zested lemon peel or finely chopped lemon peel. You can also use dried lemon peel, zest, or flakes.
For the pepper, the best option is to use freshly ground black pepper, but you can use different varieties if you’d like. Try pink peppercorns or even a peppercorn mix.
Once you have chosen your two bases, you can combine them with salt (either fine salt or sea salt flakes), and of course onion and garlic flakes. We never make a lemon pepper mix without these!
The blend mainly consists of lemon and pepper, so use a lighter hand on the other ingredients.
What makes this substitution great is that you can customize the flavor to your exact liking! You can easily make substitutions for these ingredients as well to create a new and unique blend.
Instead of lemon, you can easily make an orange pepper seasoning or grapefruit pepper seasoning. The possibilities are endless and you can experiment as much as your heart desires.
This substitution can be used in exactly the same manner the original blend was and you do not have to change or tweak the recipe at all.
A simple and easy recipe is for lemon pepper is:
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest or peel
- 2-3 tablespoons pepper
There are tons of lemon pepper seasoning recipes available that can be easily customized to your taste.
The Best Substitutes for Lemon Pepper Seasoning
So, now that we have broken down the flavor profile of lemon pepper, you can easily choose substitutions accordingly. It is important to think about the texture you need, the final flavor you want, and the ultimate use for the seasoning.
If you require a rub, you cannot use lemon juice. If you require a dressing, it is best to use lemon juice instead of peel. These are only a few examples of how you should choose a substitution according to their use.
You will see that we have also included substitutions for certain ingredients used, for example, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon peel, lemon flakes, lemon thyme, and lemon verbena are all interchangeable depending on their use.
They all have lemon flavors that only vary slightly.
1. Lemon Thyme
Lemon thyme is a very underrated herb and we absolutely love using it in our foods. It is a soft herb that is part of the thyme family.
It has the most beautiful and delicate lemon flavors – not so much the acidity that normal lemon carries, but rather the citrus and floral notes of it.
This herb doesn’t contain much spice, so it is recommended to add some freshly ground black pepper. That being said, this herb can definitely work as a substitute on its own and will add those much-needed citrus flavors.
Keep in mind that when adding this herb, because it also carries flavors of plain thyme, it is recommended to only use it in savory meals.
Lemon thyme can also make a great substitution for lemon zest. So, for example, if you do not have lemons (and therefore lemon zest) when making your home-made blend, you can use lemon thyme instead.
Another lemon-flavored herb that can be used instead of lemon thyme is lemon verbena or lemon balm. Both these herbs have distinct lemon flavors that closely mimic their floral and citrus notes.
2. Minced Onion and Lemon Thyme
Our next solution is a lot more creative in order to match the flavors of the original blend. This blend makes use of finely minced onions and lemon thyme.
Minced onions, especially if finely minced and rested for about 5 minutes, have a slightly peppery and spicy flavor that closely resembles that of black pepper.
You can use different types of onions like shallots, brown onions, red onions, or white onions, but for the closest flavor match to pepper, we would recommend using shallots and white onions.
Lemon thyme, as mentioned above, is a lemon-flavored herb that belongs to the thyme family. Although it isn’t sour, it has the exact floral and citrus notes that pure lemon does.
By combining these two ingredients, you have a very similar seasoning blend to that of lemon pepper.
If you do not have lemon thyme, you can of course substitute it using lemon zest or finely chopped or grated peel.
3. Lemon Juice
If you were planning on making a salad dressing, marinade, or a sauce of some kind, you can definitely use lemon juice instead of the zest or peel.
Simply combine fresh lemon juice or bottled lemon juice with some black pepper and you now have a base for a sauce.
This version should only be used for liquid recipes because of its consistency. If you need a rub, then using lemon juice will not be effective.
4. Shichimi Togarashi
This is a Japanese spice mixture that consists of 7 different spices.
Theses may include coarsely ground red chili pepper, ground sanshō (Japanese pepper), roasted orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, hemp seeds, ground ginger, nori (seaweed), and poppy seeds.
The red chili pepper and orange peel are always included in the mix, which is why it works as a substitute for the original lemon pepper seasoning.
This spice mix will work perfectly for rubs and general seasoning of items. It adds a ton of complex flavor, focusing mainly on the peppery side of things.
This spice also made our list for the absolute best ramen condiments, so it may be handy to keep some of it around anyway.
5. Lemon Curry Powder
Our final substitution is a last resort substitution and only works for a few recipes.
Lemon zest and powdered lemon juice form part of many curry spice blends. There are hundreds of different curry blends available on the market, each focusing on a different element.
You can look for specific blends that focus on lemon flavors. These also sometimes are referred to as verbena curry blends which use lemon-flavored leaves instead of lemon.
If you cannot find such a blend, look at the ingredients inside the blend; if it contains a lot of lemon (or lime), then you can use it to add slight lemon and peppery flavors to your recipe.
Keep in mind that curry powder will change the color of your food because of the turmeric present.
Using curry blends in stews, casseroles, soups, and even rubs will be your best options.