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Can I use lemon pepper instead of lemon juice?

Lemon juice is a common ingredient used to add bright, citrusy flavor to dishes. However, if you don’t have fresh lemons on hand, you may be wondering if lemon pepper can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for lemon juice. Here’s what you need to know about using lemon pepper instead of lemon juice in cooking and baking.

What is Lemon Pepper?

Lemon pepper is a seasoned salt that contains granulated black pepper and dried lemon peel. It provides acitrusy, lemony flavor along with a punch of spiciness from the black pepper. The main ingredients in lemon pepper typically include:

  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Dried lemon zest
  • Dried lemon juice powder
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Sugar
  • Other spices and seasonings

The flavor profile of lemon pepper is tangy, sour, and spicy. It makes a great seasoning for meats, seafood, vegetables, and more. However, it’s not quite the same as fresh lemon juice squeezed from lemons.

Key Differences Between Lemon Pepper and Lemon Juice

There are some important ways that lemon pepper differs from lemon juice:

  • Acidity: Fresh lemon juice has a very acidic, tart flavor. Lemon pepper has some acidity from the dried lemon juice powder but not nearly as much.
  • Flavor intensity: Lemon juice provides a very bright, potent lemon flavor. Lemon pepper has a mellower lemon taste.
  • Liquid vs. seasoning: Lemon juice is a liquid ingredient that can thin out mixtures. Lemon pepper is a dry seasoning blend.
  • Uses: Lemon juice is often used for its acidity in marinades, dressing, and vinaigrettes. Lemon pepper works better as a rub or seasoning sprinkled on foods.

Can You Substitute Lemon Pepper for Lemon Juice?

In some cases, you can use lemon pepper as a substitute for lemon juice, but there are also many instances where it will not work as well. Here are some tips on when and how to use lemon pepper in place of lemon juice:

  • For marinades and dressings, lemon juice is very important for its acidity to help tenderize and flavor meats and vegetables. Lemon pepper will not work as well in wet mixtures.
  • In baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins and scones, the acidity and moisture of lemon juice is needed for leavening, flavor and texture. Lemon pepper could overwhelm sweeter baked goods.
  • As a rub on meats and vegetables that will be grilled, sautéed or roasted, lemon pepper can provide citrusy flavor. Use about 1-2 teaspoons per pound of food.
  • To season rice or grain dishes, lemon pepper can add tanginess and spice. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of uncooked grains.
  • Add it to breading or coating mixes for chicken, fish, pork chops, etc. The lemon pepper will add tasty flavor to crunchy coatings.
  • Stir some into softened butter for a lemony compound butter. Great on seafood, chicken and more.
  • Use it in dry rubs and seasoning blends for meats along with other spices and herbs.

Lemon Pepper Conversion

If you want to use lemon pepper as a lemon juice substitute in a recipe, here is a handy conversion:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice = 1 teaspoon lemon pepper + 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice = 1 tablespoon lemon pepper + 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice = 2 tablespoons lemon pepper + 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice = 3 tablespoons lemon pepper + 1/2 cup water

The water helps thin out the lemon pepper and approximates the acidity level a bit more. You may need to tweak these conversions depending on the recipe and your taste preferences.

What About Using Lemon Zest?

Freshly grated lemon zest can also substitute for lemon juice in some instances. Lemon zest provides bright, concentrated lemon oil and flavor without the acidity. It works well in sweeter baked goods, sprinkled on meats and fish, or added to dressings and marinades along with a bit of lemon juice for acidity.


Lemon pepper can mimic lemon flavor in some recipes, but lacks the acidity and liquid that lemon juice provides. For marinades, dressings, and baking, lemon juice is difficult to replace. However, lemon pepper does work well as a seasoning rub for meats and vegetables. Use the lemon pepper conversions as a guideline, and adjust amounts to suit your preferences. And when possible, use fresh lemon juice or zest to really maximize bright citrus flavor.