Citrus Oils

Citrus Oils

I know some of you’ve been thinking; “When is David finally going to clean-up and organize his links page?”

Well, that day has come and gone folks, and instead of the previous mish-mash of links added haphazardly, they’re now neatly organized into categories and specialties. I’ve added a couple—and given a few the heave-ho, especially the stale ones that are perhaps older than a few of you out there.

As I clicked around to make sure there weren’t any clunkers, a thought flashed through my mind. It was something “hardened and naked.” No, it wasn’t my other secret blog, it was Deb commenting on the citrus in her refrigerator; all those forgotten fruits that have been zested and left to dry up.

Now that’s not very blog-worthy…or hot, is it?

I’ve been thinking about zest and I have these tiny little bottles in my refrigerator door of pure citrus oil, that are sort of my secret weapon. They’ve been there well over five years and each time I open the bottle, before using it, I tentatively take a sniff. And each time I expect the flavor to have diminished. But truthfully, I haven’t noticed any major deterioration of aroma.

Expiration date? Bof!

So let’s say you’re tired of coming home and finding hardened, naked things in your fridge? That’s where citrus oils are great to keep on hand. You can replace fresh zest in many recipes with these oil, which is especially nice to know if you’re baking and you remember that the lemon you thought you’d put on the conveyor belt at the supermarket—Merde!— but is probably still rolling around in that shopping basket.

I like having these little bottles around for emergencies like that. And like most men, I don’t think nudity and frigid temperatures are exactly an ideal combination…and definitely not hot. I use these aromatic oils in lots of ways. Because these are pure oils and not extracts, which have water or alcohol added, you can add them to melted chocolate without worrying about it seizing up.

I add a demi-capful to pound cake batters, cheesecakes, and cookie dough if I’m citrus-less, and when I do, I can’t resist rubbing a small amount under my nose afterwards, since I love the fragrance. Of course, I sterilize my hands thoroughly before getting back to kneading my cookie dough. So if I bring you cookies someday and you find some stray whiskers in them, they’re definitely not mine.

Boyajian, the maker of these citrus oils recommends using 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dry ingredients plus 1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid ingredients. But in my experience, that’s way too much and your madeleines might end up tasting like lemon Lifesavers. If using them, I’d try half that amount, or even less. Then taste, and add more from there. These are st-rong

I’ve been told the lime oil makes killer margaritas, which sounds pretty good to me. And considering it takes around 80 limes to make 1 ounce (30ml) of pure lime oil, these are the bargain of the century.

Even though this century is only 8 years old, I feel pretty confident. You’re welcome to correct me in a couple of years if you want. And somehow, I know some of you will…

The Mini Citrus Oil Box which you can order direct from Boyajian is a great deal at only $9, as well as other oils. And you can also order them through Amazon, including the 1 ounce (30ml) bottles of lemon, tangerine, and orange oils. Many well-stocked food stores carry them too.

(Please note that not all citrus oils are intended for food use. Some are solely for cosmetic purposes. Check to make sure whatever brand you’re using is edible.)


This Saturday, February 9, I’m going to be a featured guest on Gourmet magazine’s Diary of a Foodie airing on PBS stations. The crew came to Paris to film me in one of my favorite pastry shops and in my Parisian bachelor pad. You can find more information at Movable Feast or visiting the Diary of a Foodie website.

Update: One of my readers (thanks B!) alerted me that it’ll be airing on KQED in the San Francisco area on February 16th. Click link for more info, or check the website for your local PBS station, for exact date and time in your region.

Never miss a post!


  • February 6, 2008 5:33am

    hee hee, stray whiskers in the cookies..hee hee am picturing more then a little oil under the nose, more like a face full of cookie dough…you’re funny. I get the citrus scent thing though…when I zest a lemon I chase my husband around the kitchen hollering “smell my fingers” It’s a little game we play.
    We are eating homemade ice cream, your salted caramel amazingest. Thanks again for creating it.

  • February 6, 2008 6:58am

    I’ve got a bottle of their Pure Orange Oil – and I made madeleines with it, which were too strong. Last weekend I made a pound cake, and although I added less oil than Boyajian suggests, it was still too strong. So you’re right – less is better in this case. But they sure smell heavenly :)

  • February 6, 2008 7:23am

    I love the Boyajian oils. I sometimes use the citrus ones to flavor cream cheese frostings. They also work well in sugar cookie dough. I make a killer chocolate-peppermint icing with their peppermint oil and use the basil oil sometimes in the winter to add flavor to pastas and pizza.

  • February 6, 2008 7:23am

    And here I was thinking I could just spray a little airfreshener into my cookie dough and everything would taste wonderful!

  • February 6, 2008 8:55am

    Is there such a thing as banana oil, banana essence? I’m still trying to work out a ‘side cake’ from a wedding three years ago. (And the baker declined to provide the recipe, even a hint.) I do think it had real banana in it but the flavor was SO banana-y but without all the attendant moisture/heaviness. It must have come from some other concentrated source.

  • February 6, 2008 8:56am

    hardened, naked things

    in your fridge, I mean.

  • February 6, 2008 10:58am

    Hey David,
    I do the same thing with my fruits that have been partially zested, etc. ;)
    Also, I’ve used the oils in fillings for chocolates. They are intense. Also, I’ve used the Fiori Di Sicilia flavor from the King Arthur Flour folks to get that “creamsickle” flavor.

  • February 6, 2008 12:30pm

    In pastry school, we would zest any citrus fruit (even if it wasn’t needed for the recipe) prior to using the flesh or juicing so that it would not be wasted. Then, by adding sugar to the zest, the natural oils are brought out and due to the hygroscopic nature of sugar, the zest stays nice and moist for weeks. Just keep in an airtight container and you have a stash of zest for any occasion!

  • Kuri
    February 6, 2008 12:40pm

    These oils are great.

    Well, I never use more than a few drops, but the citrus one’s several times cause milk, cream and eggs to curdle. That’s with other brands that are sold as edible, not Boyajian, maybe that’s why. Anybody else had that problem ?

    I had no problem to finding another use for them. Citrus oil is a powerful and ecological detergent and it works for stuff you thought you’d never see clean again, like my bathroom floor.

  • February 6, 2008 1:42pm

    Hm I have pure orange oil at home and havent really played much with it. Maybe its time to start…

  • February 6, 2008 4:07pm

    An absolutely killer thing to do with the orange oil is to add a couple of drops, and I really mean just a couple of drops, plus a shake of good cinnamon, to your French toast batter. It’s irresistable.

  • February 6, 2008 4:08pm

    We should have done a smell-o-vision episode with you for Diary of a Foodie. We’d watch you, sniff some citrus oil, and imagine we were sniffing you. Next season. I love Boyajian products too – great range, quality, and price. BTW grocery store conveyor belts freak me out – they’re so gross – thank goodness for belt-less TJ’s.

  • February 6, 2008 4:21pm

    Butter mints come to mind.

  • B
    February 6, 2008 5:08pm

    According to the listing online, you’ll be on KQED Channel 9 in the Bay Area on Feb 16 at 1:30pm.

  • February 6, 2008 5:58pm

    Thanks for writing this post! As a recipe writer who loves citrus oils I really hope that as more people like you talk about citrus oils that they’ll become pantry staples. I’d love to be able to call for them in the recipes I write for home cooks. Right now most of my editors think they are too obscure to use in mainstream publications.

  • February 6, 2008 7:16pm

    Such great timing for the post! With all the talk lately about eating seasonally and locally, and with my move from the SW USA to the Pac NW, I was starting to feel pretty guilty about all the lemons I buy for zesting for baked goods, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever be virtuous enough to give them up entirely, but it’s nice to know there is an out-of-season option for citrus.

    Also, ditto TACE’s comments above re salted caramel sauce. Holy moses!! I made it for the first time this weekend and I am still kind of stunned that I was able to make something so outrageously tasty in my own home. A million thanks for such a wonderful (and simple!) recipe.

  • February 6, 2008 7:43pm

    is this the same thing than “pure essential oils” that can be found in pharmacies here ?

  • Laura
    February 6, 2008 9:08pm

    You can order these oils in the US at the King Arthur Flour website. They have a great baking catalog and newsletter, and stock all kinds of unusual ingredients. The oils are VERY strong but last forever, even not in the fridge but on a top spice shelf near the woodstove ^_^.
    – Laura in northern Vermont

  • Cece
    February 6, 2008 9:44pm

    Totally unrelated to today’s blog topic, but wanted to plug this.

    My father in law got me The Perfect Scoop for my birthday. Ice cream is the only thing I cook-my husband is the gourmet man-but I’ve wanted the book forever and nobody got it for me for Christmas.

    Yippee! It is just like the blog. Awesome book!

    Thanks David-now I get to stay up all night reading it.
    P.S.-Thanks for the response re the chocolate creme brulee.

  • February 7, 2008 2:52am

    Laura: I do keep mine in the fridge but am totally jealous of your woodstove!

    As Deb mentioned, I’ve heard the ‘Fiori Di Sicilia’ flavoring that King Arthur sells is interesting too, but haven’t tried it.

    Krysalia: Don’t know about essential oils and it’s best to ask the pharmacist or herbalist.

    Dana: In your editors defense, I think it is hard for readers if a product isn’t readily available. That’s why I save recipes like Pistachio Gelato for my blog ; )

    Still, it’s nice to turn people on to something new as well.

    And who realized a few years ago that things like radicchio, chèvre, and Dulce de Leche would be readily available in Safeway and other supermarkets?

  • February 7, 2008 4:40pm

    I would wear these as perfume. Dab a little on the wrist, and out the door I go.

  • Lynn
    February 8, 2008 7:46am

    I’ll get to reading about the citrus oils later…… I’m still blown away by the BEAUTIFULLY organized links page!! David, your website and blog are so wonderfully rich will all sorts of fantastic information but my neurotically-organized brain would seize up, at times, when trying to navigate it. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! Time truly well spent.

  • February 8, 2008 12:01pm

    Great post. Hit home in so many ways it’s funny. First with the mish mash links page…oh yeah, need to take a day or two to fix that myself on several sites/blogs. And the furry friends in the fridge, well let’s just say they’ve unionized…gotta get to that too. Now I have an idea of how to salvage. Better stay off this thing for awhile then huh?

  • February 8, 2008 1:03pm

    I love the links page! Thanks for linking to us and organizing it so beautifully! You made our day! :)

  • February 9, 2008 9:31pm

    Hi David,
    I saw the preview for your Diary of a Foodie appearance. Too bad the video’s not online, because it looks really good. Oh, and I spent a late night putting your recipe on the Gourmet site. (I just started working there.)

  • Karen M
    February 9, 2008 10:00pm

    Speaking of the PBS program… that’s how I ended up here. It was on in my area tonight… (Philly) and I needed a break from politics, so I thought I’d check out all of the featured food blogs from tonight’s show.

    Citrus oils… a revelation.

  • February 10, 2008 1:51am

    I have those and I LOVE them! I have their basil oil too.