We love to grow more unusual herbs and plants, but sometimes it can seem a little daunting to look at how to actually use them and Kaffir Limes is no exception.
Kaffir limes, Citrus Hystrix have many uses, the leaves are used in cooking, crushed or added whole and the peel and zest are used to make chutneys and pickles. Used in curries, stews, cheesecakes, curds, and even salads.
The flesh of kaffir limes is really far too bitter to make it palatable but there are other uses!
What To Cook With Kaffir Limes
I am going to say, be bold with your cooking and add kaffir lime.
There are a lot of dishes you can use with kaffir limes and their leaves in but traditionally you are looking for recipes from their native countries. Thai dishes work really well with both leaves and peel or zest added. Any dish that has ginger, lemongrass or chillies in works very well – Mexican especially!
First let’s look at how to prepare the peel and leaves as it is not as simple as with lemons or limes.
How To Eat Kaffir Limes
Kaffir limes and their leaves are not the same as limes and cannot be treated in a similar way.
Technically you can eat kaffir lime leaves raw, they will not poison you or cause you any ill effect. However you wouldn’t as the leaves are sharp and unpleasant before cooking. Also you can eat the kaffir limes, but again they are unpleasantly bitter and unappetizing, although perfectly harmless.
You can cook with kaffir lime leaves as you would do a bay leaf. Snap it a little and pop into your cooking to gently infuse the food, then remove before eating the finished dish. For a more intense flavor you can use a pestle and mortar to bash the leaves about and then add to a sachet d’epices.
The flesh of kaffir limes is inedible due to the bitter taste. The peel and zest have a citrus kick, used in pickles and pastes or as a final garnish. With a mortar and pestle you can turn the peel and zest into a paste quite quickly then added to curries and stews.
How To Store Kaffir Lime Leaves
If you grow your own kaffir lime trees then leave on the plant until you are ready to use, but you will still have a dormant period when harvesting can be detrimental to your plants health.
You can store fresh kaffir lime leaves in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for 1 week, or freeze whole for 1 year. By using the kaffir limes peel in pickles and chutneys you can store in an airtight container for around one year.
Let’s look at a few classic recipes to get started and then sort of free style your cooking from there.
Vegetarian Recipes With Kaffir Limes
Some of these recipes are also vegan as Thai cooking uses a lot of coconut milk rather than dairy.
- Thai coconut curry with kaffir lime leaves and butternut squash. This is a great recipe as it showcases a few spices that we love to grow at home. Not just the kaffir lime leaves but also cardamom and turmeric. A real winter warmer that if you wanted to you could grate some kaffir lime zest on to when you serve, just for that extra little citrus zing.
- Thai rice bowl with kaffir lime cream sauce. This recipe is a little different than many others as it includes a sliced kaffir lime leaf. Instructions for removing the center of the leaf mean that you can then thinly slice kaffir lime leaves and eat them. It also includes the peel of a kaffir lime and works very well as a result, but you can hold back a little of the peel from the sauce and then add as a last minute garnish to just give it a little bit of a varied flavor profile.
- Naarthangai Oorugai Kaffir Lime Pickle. In Tamil a citrus fruit that has been pressure cooked with salt ready to use in a pickle is often called naarthangai. This is very much a loose translation but here you use the whole fruit and chop into cubes that can then be pickled and create an extremely versatile condiment. If stored in a clean airitight container your pickle becomes a great way to store kaffir lime for around a year.
Family Weeknight Favorites
- Kaffir Lime Chicken Breast, this recipe works well with pork as well. It combines kaffir lime leaves with lemongrass and turmeric, a real recipe for success. Great for Barbeque season or as a Winter warmer.
- Vietnamese Chicken With Ginger & Kaffir Lime Leaves. I will say that the fresh ginger can make this a hot dish, but also adding a few chopped fresh chillies works very well! The kaffir lime cuts through the initial heat and adds a great depth of flavor with a citrus zing.
- Spicy Thai Red Curry With Kaffir Leaves. A relatively quick weeknight meal with some real depth of flavor. Make this dish with fish, chicken, pork or even strips of beef.
Kaffir Lime Leaves Dessert Recipes
- Makrut Lime Leaf Cake With Lemon & Lime Icing this recipe relies on steeping the kaffir lime leaves in butter for 1 hour. This can be a great way to infuse and imbue the citrus flavor into dishes, just be careful not to leave any of the makrut leaves in the butter but also not to burn the butter as this turns it bitter and unpleasant.
- Coconut and Kaffir Lime Custard Pie is another one of those instant hit recipes. Coconut goes so well with kaffir lime and they act together to cut through the silkiness of the custard pie. You will steep the leaves and remove them before pulling the other ingredients together, it gives a hint but adding the zest of a kaffir lime to the mix helps an awful lot to really lift this family favorite.
- Kaffir Lime Curd this is a great way to use the juice of your kaffir limes. I know I said you wouldn’t because they are too bitter, but when mixed with 3/4 cup of sugar they are redeemed! A lovely recipe and great for a brunch of toasted sourdough! If you find it too bitter even with the sugar, try mixing the juice with lemon and still using the same quantity overall.
- Kaffir Lime Macaroons you are using that coconut and kaffir lime combination again to great effect here. If you like to arrive at a dinner party with a little gift for the host you really can’t go wrong with these. Just be aware that the juice will hold on to it’s bitterness but it is lightened in the cooking process, meaning you have quite a mature citrus flavor.
- Mango and Kaffir Lime Baked Cheesecake this recipe works very well for a dinner party in the garden. You will have the richness of the baked cheesecake but with the use of the zest, leaves and even juice of kaffir limes it really lightens up a lot! The sweetness of the mango is wonderful but we also grow our own persimmon so you can make an Autumnal / Fall version substituting the mango for persimmon.
What Next & Further Reading
- Growing Kaffir Lime Trees From Seeds Or Cuttings
- Substitutes For Kaffir Lime Makrut In Popular Recipes
- Curry Leaves & Bay Leaves Important Differences & Uses