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Using Citrus Peels – A No Waste Solution

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Winter is the season for citrus and while citrus is not at all local to me here in Montana, we do eat some now and then. As in everything we do here at our homestead, we try to have as little waste as possible. Using citrus peels gives us ample opportunity to get creative with what would otherwise be considered waste. 

Lemons and oranges on a table with peel removed.

Compost Citrus Peels

Citrus peels can be composted but they can take a very long time to break down in the piles. Citrus peels should not be put in vermicomposting bins, as the citrus as it tends to be too acidic for the red wiggler worms. When composting it in a traditional pile, make sure to cut them into smaller pieces to help it break down faster.

Dehydrate Citrus Peels

Dry those peels. Lay them out on dehydrator trays and dry at 125 degrees until crisp. Alternatively string the peels with a needle and thread and hang somewhere warm and dry (near the wood stove, for example) until they’re crispy dry. Careful with this method as they could mold before drying if the air is humid or cool. It’s worth trying however. 

Use these tips for winter seasonal eating to make delicious, frugal, and nutritious meals from what's in-season and available.

Once dried, those peels have a multitude of uses: 

Dried citrus peels are a flavorful addition to hot tea.

Run the dried peels through a blender or food processor and turn it into a powder. That powder can then be added to baking soda and borax for a homemade scouring cleaner.

Add coarsely ground peels to homemade body sugar & salt scrubs for a little extra exfoliating power.

Make a homemade Vitamin C supplement by mixing dried powder with other herbs for a natural solution.

Make the most seasonal winter fruit for food, cleaning, body products and more with these easy, no-waste solutions for using citrus peels throughout the home.

Rather than running the dehydrator every day – keep peels stored in a container in the refrigerator. Once a week, put all the collected peels in the dehydrator and run until dry. The great thing about grinding it all into a powder is that it’s easy to store in a compact place.  

Infuse Citrus Peels

Put those peels in a jar with some vinegar and let it sit for a few weeks. After straining use that citrus vinegar for all your household cleaning needs.

Mix the zest with salt or sugar for a delightful citrus flavor for all your savory and sweet cooking needs. Lemon salt is especially good on chicken or fish. Orange sugar is delightful in cookies, even hot chocolate.

Make the most seasonal winter fruit for food, cleaning, body products and more with these easy, no-waste solutions for using citrus peels throughout the home.

Cover the zest with vodka and let it steep. After a few weeks, a citrus flavored extract is born. That extract is perfect for use in cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. It’s even delicious mixed with a little sugar syrup as an adult cordial.

Remember, most any citrus peel can be substituted for another, so don’t be shy in making tangerine salt or grapefruit extract, simply substitute equal amounts of zest or rind in any recipe calling for citrus peel.

As this winter season moves by us, be sure to save and use every bit of that expensive, organic citrus for use in the home. Use those peels for cleaning, body products, food and much more that will last long beyond this winter season. What’s your favorite way to use citrus peels?

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Sunday 18th of October 2020

Is it possible to dehydrate the citrus peels after being soaked in vinegar to use as fire starters?

Kathie Lapcevic

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

I imagine so though I haven't tried.


Tuesday 18th of August 2020

In southern part of India, we mix the orange peels with rose petals and turmeric powder to Mungbean In blender - make it powdered and use as bath powder. It reduces Facial and body hair growth Leaving the skin hydrated.


Friday 28th of February 2020

Thank you for sharing all your ideas on citrus peels. I have never tried any of these, but I will now. I am trying to be more conscious of what I am disposing of. These tips will be a great help!


Friday 14th of February 2020

If you've got rinds left over from juicing (like with some flesh attached), you can chop them a little, cover with an equal weight of sugar, stir occasionally, and after 12-24 hours you can strain it for a fabulous syrup! It would be great on ice cream, cheesecake, a spoon...

Jean Carey

Monday 20th of January 2020

I have kept & used my citrus rinds for years. Always refreshing. This winter I tried keeping the thin mandarin orange peels for hot teas & find it also works well with my cold water bottles. I remove the pith from oranges since it gets bitter when reused. Thank you for the tips.


Sunday 3rd of January 2021

@Jean Carey Pith from satsumas is not bitter, one of the few citrus. We use the peel to make orangello, similar to limoncello. So easy since you use the entire skin.