The Difference Between Citrus Oils & Extracts

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

What is the difference between citrus oils and citrus extracts? Are they the same thing? Can I use citrus extract in place of citrus oil in a recipe?

They are not the same. Sadly, one of them drinks — a lot!

Citrus oils are natural essences that are cold-pressed from the rind of the fruit. The folks at the Boyajian company, makers of premium-quality citrus oils, say it takes 220 oranges, 330 lemons, or 400 limes to make 5 ounces of oil. The good news is that those fruits have not given their lives in vain — a little citrus oil goes a long way. In some recipes, only a drop or two of oil may be needed to give a substantial boost in flavor. In denser dishes or those with stronger flavors, you may need more. Boyajian recommends 1/2 teaspoon of citrus oil per cup of dry ingredients plus 1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid. In many dishes, if you have the option, you will want to stir in the oil just before serving, so that the flavor does not dissipate.

Citrus extracts — like vanilla extract, almond extract, and chocolate extract — are highly alcoholic. Generally, 80 percent or more is alcohol, diluting the citrus oil. (Some extracts also include water.)

There are a variety of citrus oils and extracts on the market, including orange, lemon, lime, lemon-lime, tangerine, and grapefruit.

You can indeed substitute citrus oil for citrus extract and vice versa. Given the relative strength of the oil, we would use about a quarter as much oil as extract. You can also use citrus oil in virtually any recipe that calls for zest.