What Are The Best Substitutes For Kaffir Lime Leaves?

When the kitchen becomes your small world, one of your hobbies will include experimenting with random recipes you find on the internet or books every day. From appetizers to desserts, you just can’t get your hands off your kitchen counter. You feel like a food alchemist who would untiringly try one ingredient after another.

Though food experimentation became an addicting activity, there would always be times when you get frustrated. You might encounter a recipe which requires a particular ingredient that’s as rare as a diamond to find, like Kaffir Leaves for example.

Though you have no choice but to say goodbye to the recipes with Kaffir leaves before, now there are known substitutes which you could use.


What Are Kaffir Leaves?

Originated from the Makrut lime plant, Kaffir lime plant is a shrub that is most commonly found in Southeast Asia. Asian markets destined in the U.S. sell frozen or dry leaves of the Kaffir shrub. 

  • In case you need to choose between frozen or fresh, it is more recommendable to buy the new ones if you are lucky enough to see one.
  • In case that you have bought too much fresh Kaffir leaves, you can always keep them in the fridge and would still be okay for six months.
  • Although fresh leaves are the best, you can have the frozen ones. After all, new ones are not always available in the market for everyone. You better be flexible in cooking.

The word “Kaffir” is primarily Arabic, so be cautious of saying it while you are on a Thai marketplace; you might be misunderstood. Time goes by, words change. You might observe that Kaffir leaves are not that well-known in the market. This is not because they are about to be extinct from the market, but the name changed to K-leaves. Some Thai recipes stick to the old name; some use Makrut, and most often, K-leaves as well.

Fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves Stores

Both dried and frozen Kaffir leaves can be found in any Asian markets, specifically the Thai-specialty-oriented ones. If you are lucky, you might find some real fresh Kaffir leaves.

  • If you found some fresh leaves, stock them in the freezer immediately if you don’t want to use them yet. Make sure to wash and dry them thoroughly before storing in a freezer-safe plastic bag. They will last long – up to six months.

The leaves and the zest of Kaffir are used for cooking. As opposed to lime, Kaffir’s fruits are small, dark-green and difficult to find beyond the land of Thailand.

Though online shopping is now a trend nowadays, it also has a downside which you should be aware of. It is not guaranteed that your orders will be delivered fresh and on time. Delayed deliveries might cause the leaves to rot or wither. 

  • Though there are some online stores which have gathered authentic positive reviews, it is still important to be careful before paying for anything. Just be smart when you buy online.

What Are The Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes?

Though Kaffir lime leaves are exotic Thai ingredients, the notion that there is no available substitute for it is a total myth. There are conflicting views whether ordinary lime leaves can be a substitute for fresh Kaffir leaves. However, it was observed that Kaffir resembles a pine and citrus scent that smells like lemon verbena than lime.

If you find it hard to look for Kaffir lime leaves in the market, here are few kitchen-saving alternatives which you could use:

  • Lime zest is the most primary substitute for the exotic Thai leaves. Aside from its known health benefits, lime captures the fresh scent and citrus sour flavor of Kaffir.
  • Generally, a Kaffir leaf is equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons of lime zest. Both will end up good as your ingredient.
  • You can also use the lime zest as a garnish, marinade, in cookies, teas, or salad.

Via Backyard Fruit

  • Otherwise known as Tahiti, Persians limes are easy to find in grocery stores.
  • They are primarily cultivated in Mexico, and the natives earn money from them as exports.
  • It is usually seedless therefore removes the hassle of a nitty gritty seed hunting during cooking.

  • Two is better than one. Why not combine two citrusy flavors to substitute one? Try one teaspoon of lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, and then adjust to your taste.
  • They provide a sweet and savory flavor for your dishes!

A Sample Of Recipe

In this recipe, you can apply what you’ve learned by substituting the Kaffir leaves with those three alternatives.

Try this Thai version of a concentrated juicy beef curry.


  • 1/2 lb. beef.
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
  • One tablespoon fish sauce.
  • Two thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaves.
  • One tablespoon of sugar.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of red curry paste.


  1. Get a pan and preheat it to medium-high heat. Pour the half of the coconut milk then add the curry paste. Break and mix them thoroughly. To ensure that they won’t get burned or too thick, keep on stirring the mixture.
  2. Gradually lower the heat. Continuously simmer until the red oil emerges.
  3. Place the beef on the pan then mix the meat with the curry paste.
  4. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and the remaining coconut milk.
  5. Let it cook until the beef becomes tender and the sauce becomes thickened. You can add water if the meat seems to be non-tender yet. But make sure to keep it from being soupy.
  6. Use the sliced Kaffir lime leaves as a garnish on top. Serve while hot!

In case that Kaffir lime leaves are out of stock, don’t worry, because these three substitutes got your back! You now have unlimited opportunities to experiment any recipe that contain Kaffir lime leaves.

Give us a zing on what you think or feel about our article. Drop by your comments, suggestions, stories, and suggestions that you have in mind!