Culinary Arts

How to Candy Grapefruit, Lemon, and Orange Peels at Home: 8 Creative Ideas for Using Candied Citrus Peels

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 19, 2019 • 4 min read

Candying is a culinary process where fruits, roots, or peels are simmered in simple syrup. As they cook, the fruit’s natural water is replaced by the sugar syrup mixture, resulting in extra sweetness and longer shelf life. A popular candied treat, especially around the holidays, candied citrus peels.

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What Are Candied Citrus Peels?

Candied citrus peels are the peels of any citrus fruits (such as lemon peel, orange peel or grapefruit peel) that have been blanched until soft and then simmered in simple syrup until sweet. They can be eaten plain as a treat or mixed into other desserts.

Candied fruit peels are a staple in French and Italian bakeries and holiday treats. They’re a versatile treat because they’re naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

Why Candy Citrus Peels?

While citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits are used often as snacks or as an ingredient in home kitchens, citrus peels are often thrown away because, when raw, they are tough, fibrous, and bitter. However, by candying the peels, cooks can make the peels soft and sweet.

How to Choose the Right Fruit to Candy

While technically any fresh fruit peel can be candied, there are certain characteristics that will give you the best results. Since the candying process requires the peels to be cooked in boiling water several times, you’ll want fruits with peels that are thick and substantial—that way, they won’t break apart during boiling and will retain their shape the best.

In the grocery store, avoid fruits that have thin peels, such as Meyer lemons or mandarin oranges. Instead, consider the following thick-peeled fruits:

  • Valencia orange
  • Navel orange
  • Ruby red grapefruit
  • White grapefruit
  • Eureka lemon
  • Pomelo

While selecting citrus fruits, be sure to choose fruits that have blemish-free peels.

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Orange peels with sugar

How to Candy Citrus Peels in 8 Steps

Candying citrus peels is not the simplest kitchen activity—you’ll need an afternoon to put the peels through the triple-boiling process so that they become properly soft.

To candy citrus peels follow this step-by-step guide:

  1. Peel your citrus. It’s best to do this with your hands and not a tool like a vegetable peeler so that you can keep the rind intact.
  2. Run a sharp knife along the inside of the peel to remove most of the white fibrous layer (called pith) so that you don’t have any strings of pith dangling from your final candied peels. However, don’t worry about removing all of the white pith; it will become soft and sweet during the candying process.
  3. Cut peels into equally sized strips. You can do either wide strips or thin strips—the most common candied peels are about ¼ inch wide.
  4. Place the strips of peel in a saucepan with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and continue to cook at a low-heat boil for 5 minutes. Drain, then return peels to the pan.
  5. Repeat the boiling process twice more, with fresh water each time.
  6. Pour 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar into the saucepan and stir on medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  7. Add the peels to the sugar water mixture and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until peels are translucent.
  8. Take the peels out of the sugar water mixture and drain on a wire rack or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, allowing them to cool fully before consuming or storing.

Candied citrus peels should be stored in an airtight container in a dry place, either in the fridge or at room temperature. They will keep for up to one month.

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8 Ways to Use Candied Citrus Peels

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James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Dominique Ansel teaches his essential techniques for making delicious pastries and desserts in his first-ever online class.

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Candied citrus peels are a part of plenty of baked treats, many of them served around the holidays.

  1. Plain. While candied orange slices are a common holiday treat, candied citrus peels are a popular holiday snack on their own, eaten either plain, coated in white sugar, or dipped in milk chocolate or dark chocolate.
  2. Fruitcake. Fruitcakes (popular around the holidays) call for candied and dried fruits to be mixed into the batter before the cake is baked. Fruitcake is one of the most famous uses of candied fruit, and recipes often include candied citrus peel, as well.
  3. Cookies. Candied citrus peels are a great addition to cookies, like gingerbread or sugar cookies, giving them a tangy citrus bite.
  4. Tarts and other pastries. French bakeries are well-known for their use of candied peels, especially used as a garnish atop tarts and other pastries.
  5. Cupcakes and muffins. Chopped candied peel can be mixed into cupcake or muffin batter before baking, or placed atop as a zesty garnish.
  6. Plum pudding. Plum pudding is a traditional English treat made with candied fruit and candied peel, often served around Christmas.
  7. Fudge. Candied peels are a great addition to homemade fudge to give it more texture and zest.
  8. Ice cream. Chopped candied citrus peels can be sprinkled atop ice cream, especially chocolate or vanilla, to bring a citrusy flavor to the dessert.

Want to Become a Better Home Chef?

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Want to learn more about the culinary arts? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master chefs including Dominique Ansel, Massimo Bottura, Chef Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.

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