Lemon pepper seasoning is a zesty blend that adds a burst of citrusy, peppery flavor to roasted veggies, dips, and salads. This 5-ingredient, homemade version is not only fresher than store-bought but also avoids additives like citric acid for a more natural taste.
I’m all for using pre-made spice blends, but there are some mixes that are best made at home. Store-bought lemon pepper seasoning usually tastes like fake lemon, contains sugar, and is overly salty. Nobody wants that!
It’s typically made with citric acid, which gives it a tart, tangy flavor, but it doesn’t compare to the wholesome flavor of freshly grated lemon. Making your own lemon pepper seasoning blend means you get a naturally zesty flavor with sharp, spicy notes from cracked black pepper.
The unique part of this recipe is oven-drying the lemon zest at a low temperature to preserve its aroma. Not to toot my own horn, but you’re going to want to keep a jar of this on hand at all times. I like to use it to season pretty much everything, from chickpeas and mushrooms to chickpea tofu and tempeh.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Fresh Lemon Zest: Make sure it’s freshly grated for the best results. If fresh lemons aren’t available, lime zest makes an even tangier alternative.
- Black Pepper: Keep it coarsely ground for a robust, spicy flavor. I prefer not to use pre-ground black pepper.
- Sea Salt: Flaky sea salt adds a delicate saltiness. Kosher salt is a good alternative. If you want, you can leave the salt out and season recipes as you go.
- Onion Powder: Gives the mix a slight depth and savoriness. Dehydrated onion flakes also work. This can be omitted if you don’t have any or don’t like the taste.
- Garlic Powder: If garlic powder isn’t available, sub extra onion powder or leave it out.
How to Dry Lemon Zest
Set your oven to its lowest temperature, and spread freshly grated lemon zest on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put the zest in the preheated oven until it’s completely dry. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the coarseness of the zest.
If you have a dehydrator, you can also dry it in there following the same process. Since dehydrators operate at an even lower temperature than the lowest setting on your oven, keep in mind that it will take longer.
How to Make Lemon Pepper Seasoning
- Mix the Ingredients: Once the zest is completely dried, mix it with the black pepper, sea salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. For a more even consistency, you can blitz the mixture in a spice grinder if you have one!
- Storage: Use your lemon pepper seasoning immediately, or transfer it to an airtight glass jar or container for storage.
Lemon pepper seasoning can last for up to 6 months if it’s stored properly. Keep it in a cool, dry, dark place like a cupboard, pantry, or spice drawer. I also recommend airtight glass jars for storage as they don’t transfer odors and are easy to clean.
- Organic Lemons: Organic lemons are less likely to have pesticides, which is an important factor since you’re using the zest!
- Low Oven Temperature: Use the lowest setting on your oven or a dehydrator for drying the zest to prevent burning.
- Be Patient: Allow the zest to fully dry to prevent mold from forming in the seasoning mix.
Frequently Asked Questions
Make sure the lemon zest is completely dry, and store the blend in a moisture-free environment.
A lack of aroma and a dull color are indicators that it’s time to make a new batch.
Absolutely! Lemon pepper seasoning is perfect for grilled vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and mushrooms.
Fun Ways To Use Lemon Pepper Seasoning
While this is a vegetarian food blog, some common uses for lemon pepper seasoning are on chicken (like lemon pepper wings) or seafood (like shrimp or fish). Some of my personal favorites are to use this on pasta, popcorn, or roasted chickpeas! Here are some of my favorite recipes to add lemon pepper seasoning to:
- Lemon Pepper Tofu
- Pepper and Gorgonzola Risotto
- Oven Roasted Broccoli With Lemon
- Lemon Risotto With Basil
- Lemony Arugula Grain Bowls
- ½ cup grated lemon zest from about 4-5 lemons
- 2 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp flaky sea salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Set your oven to its lowest temperature, and spread freshly grated lemon zest on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put the zest in the preheated oven until it’s completely dry. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the coarseness of the zest.
- Once the zest is completely dried, mix it with the black pepper, sea salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. For a more even consistency, you can blitz the mixture in a spice grinder if you have one!
- Use your lemon pepper seasoning immediately, or transfer it to an airtight glass jar or container for storage.