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Brighten up any dish with this zippy lemon pepper seasoning recipe that uses just four ingredients. It's the most versatile all-purpose spice blend for fish, chicken, pasta, eggs, and vegetables. This easy homemade version contains no unwanted ingredients and will store in your pantry for up to a year!
We love lemon pepper but finding it at the grocery store can sometimes be a challenge, so we make our own! If you haven't ventured into making your own seasonings at home, this is a great easy recipe to start with. This homemade lemon pepper seasoning also tastes better, contains no unwanted ingredients, and will liven up any pantry.
With just four ingredients, (lemon zest, garlic, black peppercorns, and sea salt) it adds a fresh citrusy kick with endless applications. It's a versatile all-purpose seasoning that will transform your favorite fish and seafood recipes, chicken, eggs, pasta, or simple roasted vegetables. Sprinkle it over dips or stir into sauces when you want a bit more zing. You can't go wrong.
We love making our own flavorful blends of spices and have no shortage of homemade seasoning blend recipes for you to choose from. Try making lemon pepper today then choose another flavor to make tomorrow!
What is lemon pepper?
Lemon pepper seasoning is a simple combination of granulated lemon zest and black peppercorns. It's made by baking the lemon zest at a low temperature and coarsely grinding it together with black peppercorns. Some store-bought variations may include other ingredients such as sugar, onion, garlic, additional lemon flavor, cayenne pepper, or other spices.
You only need a few ingredients to make this delicious all-purpose seasoning at home:
- Lemons – You need a lot of zest, so you'll need about 8-10 of them.
- Garlic – Gives this spice mix a delicious, savory flavor.
- Black peppercorns – Adds their zesty, peppery kick.
- Sea salt – Salt is a flavor enhancer and brings everything together. If you prefer not to use it, you can omit it.
How to make the best lemon pepper seasoning at home
You won't regret the little bit of effort it takes to make this homemade seasoning. Most of the cooking time is hands-off because the oven does all the work. Follow these few easy steps for the best tasting lemon pepper seasoning:
- While the oven preheats, zest all the lemons making sure to only peel off the yellow zest (not the white pith).
- Now finely chop the zest so it cooks more quickly and evenly.
- Bake the zest and garlic together at a low temperature until everything is dried then allow it to cool completely.
- Next, add the dried zest and garlic to your blender or spice grinder with the peppercorns and blend it until it's coarsely ground.
- Find a small bowl and mix the lemon, garlic, and peppercorns together with the salt. That's it! Store your homemade lemon pepper seasoning in an air-tight container in your pantry for up to a year.
Tips for making lemon pepper seasoning
Making this spice blend at home is easy but here are a few tricks for the perfect lemon pepper seasoning:
- Use a peeler over a zester, microplane – this will help you get the most zest from the lemons.
- Avoid using a pairing knife, if possible – a knife will cut much of the bitter pith, which you'll then have to cut away from the zest.
- Opt for organic lemons – conventional citrus fruit has wax applied to prolong its shelf life and sometimes it contains less-than-desirable ingredients. Using organic lemons will avoid this and give you the freshest and best-tasting zest for this flavorful blend.
- Wash your lemons – this may seem obvious but make sure to wash your lemons and rub them dry with a tea towel to remove any residue.
- Use fresh, whole peppercorns – like with all cooking, the fresher your ingredients, the better they will taste. Try not to use the peppercorns that have been hiding at the back of your spice cabinet for a few years. Fresh whole peppercorns give this mix a wonderful peppery taste.
Ways to use lemon pepper seasoning
There are so many wonderful ways to use lemon pepper. Here are some ways we love to cook and season with it:
- It's the perfect seasoning for fish. Make our lemon pepper fish recipe or try it sprinkled over our perfect poached fish.
- Make our delicious lemon pepper chicken.
- We love it over eggs like spinach and eggs with mushrooms or lazy deviled eggs
- Adds great flavor to garlic herb carrot fries or parmesan rosemary shoestring fries.
- Add brightness to dips by topping your favorite dips like easy hummus or roasted beet hummus.
- Make these lemon pepper croutons.
We also just love to keep it at the table like regular salt and pepper and use it when we want a fresh citrusy kick.
How to store lemon pepper seasoning
This homemade lemon pepper seasoning is a delightful, versatile addition to any pantry. Baking the lemon and garlic at a low temperature dries it out and preserves it, so you can store this spice blend for up to a year – technically, it will be safe to eat nearly indefinitely. But the flavor will be best if you use it within a year. Just make sure it's stored in an air-tight jar or container at room temperature, and ideally someplace dark.
What kind of sea salt should I use?
We recommend any coarsely ground sea salt.
Can I use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic?
In a pinch but it will taste a little bit different. If you're using garlic powder or granules, stir them in with the salt.
Can I use ground pepper?
You could try ground pepper in a pinch but grinding the fresh peppercorns together with the lemon gives it the distinctly coarse texture and bold taste.
Can I use the zested lemons?
Yes! Zested lemons will last for 6-8 weeks in your fridge. The pith will harden and the juice inside will stay fresh.
What to make with zested lemons
After making lemon pepper seasoning, you'll have 8-10 zested lemons to use. Luckily, they last for a long time in your fridge. Try juicing them to use in one of these lemon recipes:
- 8-10 lemons (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the zest off of the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Make sure not to peel the white pith under the zest.8-10 lemons
- Chop the lemon zest into small pieces – this helps it to dry faster in the oven.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the chopped lemon zest and minced garlic on top in a thin layer. Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours, or until the zest and garlic are completely dry.1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- Let the dried lemon zest cool for a few minutes then use the parchment paper to pour it into your blender or spice grinder. Add the peppercorns and blend until coarsely ground.2 tablespoons peppercorns
- Transfer the ground lemon zest and pepper to a bowl and mix in the salt, if using. Store your lemon pepper in a jar in your pantry for up to a year.1 tablespoon sea salt
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
If you love making homemade spice blends like we do, make sure to check out all of our spice blend recipes!