How to Make Candied Lemon Peels

On The History Kitchen I made an apple pudding from Sarah Josepha Hale, commonly known as “The Mother of Thanksgiving” in America. The recipe called for candied lemon peels. I’d never candied lemon peels before, so I looked at a few different tutorials online and read lots of reviews of recipes to determine the best way of going about it. After putting together the best aspects of each technique, I jumped right in and candied some peels.

Guess what? They turned out absolutely delish! I decided to post the tutorial here on my site. It’s a fun, economical food project that you can make with peels you might normally discard. They taste kind of like chewy lemon drops. My husband is addicted. Now that I know how to make them, I’ll be setting aside my unused lemon peels when I cook and reserving them for candying. Uncandied peels will last for about a week in an airtight Ziploc bag in the fridge. Candied peels will last for months, especially if you dust them in sugar. They’d make a super fun homemade food gift for the holidays… put them in a pretty Mason jar with a ribbon and a tag. You can dip them in white or dark chocolate for an extra special treat!

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How to Make Candied Lemon Peels

You will need

  • 4 lemons
  • 3 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • A saucepan
  • 4 oz white or dark chocolate (optional)
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 60 Minutes
Total Time: 5 Hours
Servings: Varies
Kosher Key: Pareve (or dairy if using dairy chocolate for dipping)
  • Slice the lemons into four quarters lengthwise.
  • Peel the lemon flesh away from the peels. Reserve for another use.
  • Use a small, sharp-edged spoon to scrape the tough fibrous parts off of the inner peel, leaving a thin layer of white left behind on the peel.
  • Slice the peels into thin strips.
  • Alternatively, for thinner and daintier decorative peels, you can use a serrated peeler to scrape yellow strips from the exterior of the lemon peel. Cut those peels into thin slices.
  • Place the peels into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil for 30 seconds.
  • Drain the peels in a colander.
  • Cover with water again. Bring to a boil for 30 seconds, then drain again in a colander. The boil and drain process helps to cook out any bitter flavor from the peels. You can boil and drain up to three times, but I usually only do it twice because the lemon flavor is weakened each time you do it.
  • When you're finished boiling and draining, pour 4 cups of water into the saucepan along with 3 cups of sugar. Stir with a whisk while the water heats, till all of the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add peels to the saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.
  • Reduce heat to the a low simmer. Let the peels simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Different sized peels will take different amounts of time to cook. The peels are ready when they're transparent and easy to bite through. Err on the side of cooking them longer, if you're unsure... undercooked peels will have a slightly bitter flavor.
  • Drain the peels. If you want to, you can strain the peels through a mesh strainer, letting the liquid stream into a jar. The leftover lemon flavored simple syrup can be used to flavor drinks and cocktails. It will be a thick syrup, and sugar crystals may collect in the jar over time. You can reconstitute the syrup by adding water and stirring over moderate heat if the syrup becomes overly thick.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peels out in an even layer on the parchment. Let the peels cool for about 15 minutes till tacky to the touch.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Dip the peels into the sugar till coated. Sugar coating the peels will add sweetness and help to keep them from sticking together.
  • Alternatively, you may let the peels dry as-is for a deeper yellow color and a gel-like texture.
  • Place the peels back on the parchment. Let them dry for 2-3 hours longer if they are sugar coated, and overnight if they are not.
  • At this point, you can serve them, or you can dip them in chocolate. For a batch of lemon peels, you will need about 4 ounces of chocolate (dark or white).
  • Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave for 60 seconds, or until you can stir the chocolate to a smooth consistency. Dip the candied peels one at a time into the chocolate, so they are coated halfway up the peel.
  • Place the dipped peels on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let them dry for 30-45 minutes.
  • These candied peels make a great homemade gift. They will last in a sealed jar for a few months. If you're jarring them and giving them away, I recommend sugar-coating the peels to keep them from sticking to each other. Thicker peels are more candy-like, and taste similar to lemon drops.
  • Thinner peels (using a serrated peeler) will dry curly and slightly crunchy. They're perfect for decorating daintier dishes like cakes and cupcakes.
  • The chocolate-dipped peels are a personal favorite of mine. I especially like the lemon peels dipped in white chocolate.

Other Great Recipe Ideas

Taste with the Eyes: Meyer Lemon and Pink Rose Petal Risotto

Joy the Baker: Dairy Free Lemon Cream with Oat-Thyme Crumble

Vanilla Garlic: Lemon, Yogurt and Almond Custard Pots

Domestic Fits: Mini Lemon Meringue Tarts

Dinner in Venice: Lemon and Lavender Tart

Comments (55)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori – those little candied lemon peels with white chocolate look heavenly, my kind of treat! Love the photo of the lemon syrup in the window!
    P.S. Thanks for linking the lemon risotto.
    And wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Off to make these right now! I have also done this with cranberries! They look like little gems when done. I put them right in the syrup to boil first.

  3. I made these with orange peel and put about 1 tsp citric acid in the sugar to roll them in. Heaven if you like sweet-sour candies! Thanks so much for posting this.

  4. I love these. I make them on occasion with not only lemon but orange, grapefruit and lime peels as well. I always use a cooling rack though to dry them on and always dry overnight as I normally end up packaging them up as gifts and want to make sure they are all equally dry. As you said in your post here, not all peels are the same thickness etc. :) Your’s look scrummy!

    1. Oh and if you don’t have enough peels at first, I always freeze them until I have enough for a large batch :) They freeze well and can go (prepare and slice before freezing) from freezer directly to pot of water as well.

  5. Thanks so much for this how-to. I used the candied peel to add into sugar cookies. Delish!! By the way, I kept the water that I boiled the raw peels in, squeezed in the lemons, and sweetened it with some of the lemon simple syrup. Really terrific lemonade!

  6. I loved your version of this recipe. It is better not to boil citrus peel, but soak it in cold water for 48 hours changing it every 6-8 hours.

  7. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I just made a batch with a lemon, a grapefruit, and a pomelo, and they turned out great! Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. The pomelo turned out the best, and the syrup is so good in iced tea. I will always save my peels from now on.

  8. Thank you for this post. Got crates full of lemons. Going to make these and everything else I can find recipes for. Need to preserve all of them.Just love lemons.

  9. You don’t have to use fresh peels. As you use lemons, save the peels and let them dry out in a mesh bag or in the fridge. When you’ve saved up enough peels to candy, soak overnight in water (weighted, or fill a jar with peels and water and put on the lid) to reconstitute. They seem to me to be as good as fresh, for this purpose. You can start the recipe by boiling them in this soaking water.
    I also save the drained water in which peel has been boiled to use for cleaning: it cuts grease!

  10. Thanks so much for this tutorial, and the presentation was excellent and easy to follow. My peels are cooling as we speak, and I’m looking forward to creative alcohol-based uses for the lemon sugar syrup.

  11. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I love these! They came out great – and it’s my first time making these. I have a quick question – my sugar is ‘melting’ and I can’t figure out why :(. It’s only 65 in the house with the heat on, and it’s snowing (again). I let them sit about 15 minutes before tossing them in the sugar. Should I let them sit longer?

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My 10 yr old grandson and I made these today. He had an unexpected day off from school and we decided to make homemade lemon drops. The drops came out great! I hate wasting anything so we saved the lemon skins and made these candied peels. They came out perfectly! I flavored the sugar with lemon extract before dipping the peels. We had fun doing this. Next time we’re doing an orange. Thanks!

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Tori, we loved these thanks for the recipe! I was wondering though, what could I use the syrup for exactly? I was thinking of slicing up the leftover lemons and making lemonade but I’m thinking the syrup might be too sweet. Any ideas you have would be great!

    1. Lemonade would be great, but only use enough syrup to sweeten it to taste. I’ve also used it to sweeten drinks and cocktails for a bright, lemony burst of sweetness. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, no need to use it all at once. :)

  14. My mother used to make these for Hannukah…also Ginger and other fruits…what was left ( when there was any left) was put into a metal tin with a fitting lid…more sugar added and stored for summer. I remember when she pulled out the tin and we was all surrounding the table picking the “BEST” pieces… What a feast it was. Thank you so much for bringing back memories and sharing a recipe that surely will stay in my family now :)

    1. Hi Ruth, it may work, but I would worry that the syrup might become overly thick with prolonged cooking. You may need to add some water to thin it out a bit if reusing. Also, be sure to boil the peels twice in clean water beforehand– don’t skip that step or you’ll end up with bitter peels.

  15. For the past few years I have used chopped up candied peels, when I make my sweet Yom Tov challahs. (Kneaded into the dough along with raisins and dried cranberries)
    It’s always a crowd pleaser

  16. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This was awesome. We’ve done watermelon rinds and wondered about orange peels (because we eat a lot of oranges LOL). My kids loved helping! We used the leftover orange syrup for sweet tea :)

  17. i LOVE your site more and more!!!!!!!!! at this time of year psycopathy kicks in because three lemon trees, eight orange trees, and six tangerines are dropping all their fruit at once and the grapefruit still has 10 to 20 globes left. i truly hate waste and now i have something else to do with the trash cans full of citrus peel besides trying to compost them which takes a looooooonnngg time. my handicapped daughter can use a hand squasher to do the juicing and the lemon peels survived well enough to transform into delectable edibles with this magical recipe. thank you soooooo much!!!!!!!!!! the limones mexicanos are easier to handle than the meyers but i didn’t know if the thinner skin would be problematic in the sugar bath. nope, not at all they work great in this recipe and in the preserving with salt recipe as well, i did not alter either recipe and they are great.. thankyou again.

  18. I am in the process of making limoncello and would like to use the peels for your candied lemon peels recipe. Do you think they would still be fine to use (even though they have been soaked in vodka)? I’m thinking the flavor may even be better…

  19. Hi Tori,

    Would the candied lemon peels come out as good if I use artificial sugar like stevia rather than real sugar?

    1. Hi Sarah– I have not tried this with stevia, but I don’t think it will work because sugar has preservative properties that stevia lacks. I don’t believe it will “candy” the same way it does with sugar.

  20. I’ve been trying to find something like this for a few year now. Mother, rest her soul made some candied lemon wedges for me once. She took her method to the grave and I haven’t had a taste since. This looks the closest to what she made. I don’t know why but the end result was a disc shape. She used the whole lemon too. For the life of me I can’t figure out how she did it!

  21. Bad - 2 starsBad - 2 starsBad - 2 starsBad - 2 starsBad - 2 stars
    Unfortunately, when I got done with it, I ended up with very very bitter Lemon Peels and followed the instructions to letter.

    1. Hi Epsilon, that is strange. If you read through the comments you’ll see that others have had a much better result. Did you boil and strain the peels once, twice or three times? Only once can leave you with bitter peels. Twice usually takes the bitterness out. You can do it up to three times without losing too much lemon essence. You can actually taste a peel after boiling and draining to see how bitter it tastes; if it is still bitter, feel free to boil and strain again until the bitterness is removed. Good luck!

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