Limes Are Crazy Expensive Right Now: 16 Ways to Replace Them

by Amanda Meadows on 23 May 2014 1 comment

If you haven't heard about it on the news, you've experienced it in the grocery store: The Great Lime Crisis of 2014. Limes are either crazily marked-up or the bin is completely empty. A confluence of factors is the blame: a widely spread tree disease, erratic weather patterns, and extortion in lime growing parts of the world are among the reasons.

If you're used to relying on the trusty lime to brighten up your spring and summer drinks, sauces, salads, and meat entrees, this might be a good time to diversify your acid game in the kitchen. Here are 16 fun ways to replace limes in your repertoire.

1. Bottled Lime Juice

While nothing beats the satisfying squeeze of a fresh lime, bottled lime juice is fine for cooking, especially now when the real thing costs an arm and a leg. Look for the bottled stuff, not the dreaded lime-shaped green plastic grenade.

2. Preserved Lemons

The especially bright, sweet acidity of preserved lemons adds loads of flavor to meat dishes, especially chicken and lamb. Step out of your comfort zone and make an exotic dinner entree! You can find these at middle eastern shops or even make them yourself.

3. Infused Vinegar

Vinegar is really one of the most versatile kitchen staples. Simply buy your favorite white, balsamic, apple cider, or other kind of vinegar, along with any herbs, spices, or seeds you want to use, and steep them overnight for a fresh and exciting base for salad dressings, sauces, and more.

4. White Wine

It's the season for white wine, and there are tons of grape selections available. Try using a chardonnay or pinot grigio in lieu of lime juice in your recipe and find that while it lends acidity, it also provides lots of subtle flavor notes along with it.

5. Grapefruit

The grapefruit is definitely not as handy and small as the trusty lime, I get it. But you get so much more juice per unit that it is so worth it. The tart and bitter personality of the grapefruit is a fun way to bring unexpected citrus flavor to punches, cocktails, salad dressings, and desserts.

6. Black Lime

Another staple in middle eastern dishes, the black lime (or loomi or limu Omani, or dried lime) is a lime that has been boiled with salt, then sun dried until it turns black. It is then ground and used like a spice in soups, sauces, and seasonings. Try it in lieu of your usual lime and seasoning mixture on fish and poultry.

7. Rhubarb

True, this would be a great time for key lime pie, but let's use the reliably tangy and tasty rhubarb instead for a treat that goes well with any other fruit. For your spring pie, try rhubarb-cherry, or rhubarb-strawberry, or rhubarb-apple… the list goes on!

8. Santol

A tropical fruit grown in southeast asia? You know it's going to be flavorful and interesting however you use it. Forget limes by having a Filipino or Thai night, using a santol bowl for a prawn curry, or making a spicy-sweet pork curry.

9. Radish

A root vegetable? How can that be useful in place of limes? Here's now: Use radishes for their stellar role in salads and alongside mexican dishes. The satisfying crunch and ensuing savory, peppery bite on the tongue will help you forget that your taco is missing a squeeze of lime.

10. Chili Salt

A winning combination: Salt and capsaicin (the hot stuff found in chilies and peppers) will add layers of acidity, heat, and summery flavor to whatever you're making –– even cocktails and candies! It's also easy to make at home.

11. Soursop

The seemingly magical soursop is native to Central America and parts of Southeast Asia and used to make nectar, candies, sorbets, and flavorings. Sound familiar to you? Get to a supermercado near you to try out this versatile sweet and sour fruit.

12. Buttermilk

The reason why buttermilk is so tart and sour is because of its high acidity. Try replacing the citric acid in limes with a creamy substitute. While too much citric acid can lead to heartburn, buttermilk is a natural probiotic that will help settle your stomach!

13. Sour Mix

A bartender's friend, sour mix is a great way to add a fun lime-like flavor to drinks and desserts without having to shell out for a bushel of limes (if you can even find them). Head to BevMo and stock up!

14. Loquat

The dependable loquat grows on evergreen shrubs or trees that may be growing right now on the street in front of your house (read: free!). It's sweet, tart, and highly acidic, which make it a great replacement for limes in candies, preserves, confections, and salads. Plus, loquats are high in vitamin A and potassium!

15. Lemongrass

Lemongrass has a really delicious citrus flavor that is used in all kinds of that can grow almost anywhere –– a full garden or a window sill. Use lemongrass as a cooking herb, a tea, or a garnish for any kind of dish for which you would normally use lime zest, and enjoy!

16. Fruit Shrubs

I couldn't finish without another cocktail suggestion! A shrub is a wonderful elixir of all the important aspects of a good drink: sugar, fruit, and acid. Replace margaritas by using your favorite seasonal fruit, sugar, and vinegar to make a shrub for delicious drinks that will seriously impress company.

Have you been bitten by the sharp cost of limes lately? What are you substituting with?

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Kerrie Peacock

I had not heard of the Great lime crisis but good to know. I don't use limes that much anyways.