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Kaffir Lime Leaves

The kaffir lime tree grows 3 to 5 metres tall (9 to 18 feet.)

It produces small fruit. The bumpy, wrinkled skin is green changing to yellowish-green when fully mature. It has a stubby neck. Inside, the fruit is lime-green.

The juice of these limes is not really used, except in Indonesian cooking. What's used are the zest of the peel and the very fragrant leaves from the trees. The leaves are a dark, glossy green and look like two leaves stuck together tip to tip; they are often described as being "double-lobed" or "double-leaves." Each separate leaf is about 2 inches long (5 cm.) They are harvested by hand from thorny branches.

The leaves impart both a citrus flavour and aroma. They are used a lot in Thai green curries.

You can buy kaffir lime leaves fresh, frozen or freeze-dried. Dried ones are sometimes referred to as "granules", but that just means chopped and dried in this instance.

Whole kaffir limes are also sold pickled in brine in bottles. You use the rind. Dried rind is also available, but may not be that good because the factory process often leaves the white pith on it. You're better just to use regular lime zest if you don't have a fresh kaffir lime to zest.

Cooking Tips

When zesting the limes, avoid the bitter white pith just under the skin.

In recipes, count each joined leaf as two leaves.

When used in dishes that are simmered, you can just put them in whole as you would a bay leaf. And, like a bay leaf, you're not meant to eat them. Fish out and discard before serving, or tell guests to leave them at the side of their plates. You can take a little nibble to taste it -- it won't hurt you -- but a whole leaf will have you chewing away for a while.

When using dried kaffir lime leaves, use twice as many to compensate for the loss of flavour in the drying. Rehydrate them first in warm water before using, or grind them up with a mortar and pestle.

Dried leaves can be ground to a powder, and then used as you would a spice.

The fresh leaves can be used in salads to be eaten. Used like this, they are finely shredded with the tough rib in the middle being discarded. Don't use dried or frozen leaves in a salad.


Lime zest


1 tablespoon kaffir lime zest or regular lime zest or lemon zest = 3 double-leaves = 6 leaves

1 teaspoon of kaffir lime zest = 8g = the zest from approximately 1/4 of a kaffir lime
1/3 cup dried kaffir lime leaves (assorted sizes) = 25 assorted size dried kaffir lime leaves = 2 g
12 dried leaves = 1 g = 2 teaspoons of powder, after being ground to a powder ((Source: Patricia Wells))

Storage Hints

To freeze the leaves, spread them out on a plate, freeze for a few hours, then collect, bag and freeze. The frozen ones don't look as glossy when thawed, but retain most of the flavour and the aroma.

You can freeze whole kaffir limes in freezing bags for zesting. Just take out a frozen lime, zip off as much zest as you need, rebag and refreeze. They are easier to zest, too, when frozen.

History Notes

Native to and grown in Southeast Asia.


Bearss Limes; Kaffir Lime Leaves; Key Limes; Lime Juice; Lime Squeezer; Limes; Persian Limes

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Also called:

Daun jeruk nipis; Djeruk purut; Ichang Lime; Makrut; Citrus amblycarpa, Citrus hystrix, Citrus papedia (Scientific Name); Combava, Limettier hérissé (French); Indische Zitronenblätter, Indonesische Zitronenblätter, Kaffernlimette, Kaffirlimette, Kaffirzitrone (German); Foglie a tazza (Italian)


Oulton, Randal. "Kaffir Lime Leaves." CooksInfo.com. Published 03 August 2002; revised 02 January 2006. Web. Accessed 05/20/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/kaffir-lime-leaves>.

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