☞ Pro Tip:
Always keep in mind that substituting an ingredient must be kept as a last resort, unless you're actually looking to experiment with flavors. Substitutes cannot precisely match the consistency and flavor of the original ingredient, especially while baking.
Orange zest, or any citrus family fruit for that matter, imparts character to any dish that it is added to. It is usually added to achieve a certain level of lightness or to make use of its acidic properties.
To begin with, you must understand the role played by orange zest (fragrance, acidity, or both) in the dish of your choice. This will help you zero in on the right substitute.
5 FAIL-SAFE ALTERNATIVES FOR ORANGE ZEST
Citrus Fruit Zest
Other citrus fruits like lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, and clementine can easily replace orange in a dish. Use the peel from these fruits to create zest, and use it in the exact proportion as the original. Using these fruit peels are the closest you can get to the orange zest flavor.
We're obviously referring to juices of fruit belonging to the citrus family. In fact, if you happen to run out of orange zest, and have a carton of orange juice in your fridge, you ought to rejoice. Remember, the juice may lack the tiny hint of bitterness which comes from the peel, but at least you'll get the flavoring right. Juices lack the punch of a peel, so double the amount of juice to replace the peel.
Concentrates, as the name tells you, are powerful and packed with flavor, which is why one needs to add them sparingly. Use ¾ of orange or lemon concentrate for 1 part of zest. Remember, these cooking concentrates are different from cocktail mixes―the latter contain added sugar, which if used, will alter the taste of your dish.
If you're using the orange zest to lend an acidic element to your dish, you can use vinegar (balsamic or apple cider) as a replacement. However, remember that vinegar has a flavor and fragrance that is very distinct when compared to orange zest. Thus, this may not be a suitable addition to sweet-flavored dishes. In case you're simply looking to impart acidity, use ½ a teaspoon of vinegar for every teaspoon of orange zest.
AND A FEW UNCONVENTIONAL ONES
Food adventurers are perpetually on the lookout for unconventional methods and techniques of cooking, and their inherent knowledge gives them a fair idea of substitutes and their proportions. In this section, we've listed some off-the-beaten-track substitutes for orange zest―experiment with these wisely.