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The 9 Best Limoncello Substitutes

In this article, I’ll discuss some of the best substitutes for Limoncello, an Italian liqueur. Additionally, I’ll talk about what Limoncello is made of, what it tastes like, and its alcohol content.

The best Limoncello substitutes for desserts and cocktails are lemon products (zest, juice, extract, & syrup), lime zest, and orange zest. Kitron, Curaçao, Mitro, and Meloncello are suitable substitutes if you’re looking for a digestif. 

Substitutes for Limoncello

Since its invention almost 100 years ago in Sicily, Limoncello has gained remarkable popularity worldwide. Because of this, various new and old recipes rely on this liqueur to provide a refreshing twist. Since Limoncello is produced from lemon zest, there are numerous substitutes to choose from; let’s talk about them.

1. Lemon or Lime Zest

Lemon zest removed with a cheese grater

Given that we know that lemon zest is the main ingredient in Limoncello, it only makes sense that I put this here as the first alternative. You can use the zest for desserts and cocktails but may have to adjust the quantity according to the recipe’s requirements and your palate. 

While lemon zest is an effective alternative, you must ensure that you do not add the pith when zesting a lemon. The pith is the white part between the peel and the pulp, and it has a bitter taste that will overcome your dessert or cocktail. 

It helps to procure organic lemons free of any pesticides. If you cannot find organic lemons, wash the lemons thoroughly with water before zesting them to remove any inorganic material. You can use the peel for desserts, and various cocktails call for lemon zest as a garnish.

Using Lime Zest

If you find yourself in a situation where you have limes instead of lemons and desperately want your recipe to work, you should consider zesting limes. Be careful not to zest the pith with the outer layer of the lime; it will give your recipe a bitter taste. Lime has a thinner outer layer, so ensure that you only get the green part. 

Lime zest can be used as a substitute for Limoncello in desserts and cocktails. It is comparatively less acidic, so it works great with dairy products. Again, I must reiterate that adjusting the quantity according to your recipe is essential for a good blend of flavor. 

2. Lemon Juice


Lemon juice is another excellent substitute for Limoncello. You can use it in desserts and cocktails, which delivers a more potent flavor to the dish or drink, whatever you’re making. Lemon juice gives the perfect kick to a dessert, but you might want to follow some instructions to keep any used dairy from curdling due to the high acidity of the juice. 

When used in cocktails, lemon juice provides a smoothness to the taste of alcohol. It makes the drink more manageable for your taste buds. Plenty of cocktails and beverages rely on citrus juice to deliver a certain lightness and freshness to the drink. 

3. Lemon Extract

Bottle of lemon extract laying across a cut up fresh lemon

Lemon extract comes from lemon zest by extracting enriched essential oils within the peel. It can be used in desserts and cocktails and has a tangy flavor rather than a sour one like lemon juice. Lemon extract has a longer shelf life since the zest is soaked in alcohol

Lemon extract has a more powerful burst of flavor. Therefore, it pays to know the difference between all the lemon products and how much to use. For instance, you would use less lemon extract compared to lemon zest.

Related 15 Best Substitutes For Alcoholic Beverages in Recipes.

4. Lemon Syrup

Bottles with homemade lemon syrup

This type of lemon product is made out of lemon juice, sugar, and a small amount of lemon zest. You can even make it yourself if you have about 40 minutes to spare. The syrup delivers a sweet taste with a kick of freshness and excitement and is a perfect non-alcoholic substitute for


Numerous brands make and sell lemon syrup. You might experience a slight hint of difference between brands since each product uses a different method of preparation. However, the overall effect of the product stays the same across brands.

5. Orange Zest

A women's hands extracting zest from orange peel with a cheese grater

This type of citrus zest is known for its sweetness and mildly bitter taste which can complement your recipe and bring it together with an aroma of oranges. Because of the difference in flavor profile, it’s vital to know how much to use. 

Zesting an orange is similar to other citrus products discussed above. Ensuring that you only zest the outer layer of the peel and not the pith will provide the flavor you’re after. Remember that the final product’s color may differ depending on the type ofcitrus zest you use. 

6. Kitron

Citron fruit on a tree

Kitron is a liqueur produced on the island of Naxos, Greece. Although it qualifies as a substitute for Limoncello if you’re looking for an alternative digestif, it does not contain lemon zest. Kitron is made from the leaves and fruits of the citron tree. It highly resembles a lemon tree and has been grown on the island for over three centuries. It offers a slightly different taste than Limoncello but is just as refreshing and delicious. 

Kitron comes in three different variants with different colors and alcohol content. This allows you to choose the variant that best fits your recipe and palate. 

  • Yellow: yellow Kitron offers the highest alcohol content, around 40 percent, which makes it a stronger competitor with a bitter taste.
  • Clear: the transparent version of this liqueur offers a medium strength in alcohol content, around 35 percent.
  • Green: with green Kitron, you get the lowest alcohol content, around 30 percent. This variety offers a sweet, pleasant taste.

Kitron is ultimately made from a citron tree which falls in the citrus family and can easily be used in place of Limoncello. It comes in three different versions to choose from, which makes this liqueur a winner in my books. One thing to keep in mind is that Kitron is quite an exclusive liqueur; therefore, you might have to look a few places before you find it.

7. Curacao Liqueur

Curacao liqueur

Curaçao is a Dutch Caribbean island where a species of bitter orange called Laraha grows. Although the fruit from this tree is quite bitter, the peel has fantastic aromatic qualities. The liqueur gets its name from the island since Laraha, the main ingredient, grows there. 

You can use this liqueur as an alternative to Limoncello in cocktails and desserts. The taste, however, is different from Limoncello since Laraha is an excessively bitter citrus fruit. 

8. Mitro Liqueur

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Mitro liqueur in a glass

Mitro is an Italian liqueur that isn’t quite well known, but it’s a legitimate substitute for Limoncello. It is made from the berries and leaves that grow on the Myrtle plant, an ingenious shrub on the island of Sardinia.

Mitro comes in two colors depending on the color of the berries used to make the liqueur. The black and white variants offer the same properties. The taste of the liqueur is just the right amount of bitter without being too sweet.  

9. Meloncello

A glass of meloncello

Meloncello is another Italian liqueur that is also a digestif. It offers a sweet taste since it is made from melons and delivers just the right hit of alcohol. This is an excellent liqueur to have during the summer and is usually served cold. It won’t offer the same taste profile as Limoncello, but it will serve the purpose of a digestif.

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What Is Limoncello Made Of?

The principal ingredients in Limoncello are lemon zest, water, rectified spirit, and sugar. All of these ingredients are mixed together to develop this world-class Italian liqueur. The most traditional Limoncello is made with Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento lemons. 

The local produce of lemons is used as the main ingredient. Femminello St. Teresa lemons are used to make this amazingly crafted liqueur. The local produce is known for its unique characteristic. These lemon zests are rich in lemon oil, giving Limoncello its unique taste and quality. 

Back in the day, Limoncello was only produced in Italy, where it was first crafted. However, many alternatives are available in the market today. You can also buy a Limoncello substitute made outside Italy, such as Kitron from Greece.

People making limoncello at home
People making homemade limoncello

What Does Limoncello Taste Like? 

Limoncello tastes lemony, bright, and fresh. Since Limoncello is primarily made from lemon zest, it has an exploding citrus flavor, which is quite refreshing. It also contains sugar which gives it a sweet taste and makes drinking it a pleasing experience. 

Different brands might offer slightly different tastes and flavors, but the overall experience is the same. Limoncello not only tastes great but also has plenty of health benefits. It helps with relieving stress, builds immunity, and aids in digestion. 

Besides a moderate sweetness and a zesty kick, Limoncello also delivers an alcoholic taste to the palate. Alcohol gives this liqueur its potency, which qualifies it as a liqueur.

What Is the Alcohol Content in Limoncello?

The average bottle of Limoncello has 28 to 32 percent alcohol by volume. However, anyone can produce their own homemade Limoncello and adjust the alcohol percentage by selecting a liquor with high or low alcohol content.

For more, don’t miss 15 Best Substitutes For Alcoholic Beverages in Recipes.