Makrut lime leaves are one of the most important ingredients in Thai and other Southeast Asian dishes. They are probably one of the most fragrant herbs and a great addition to soups, curries, and stir-fries from Thailand and Southeast Asia. On one side, the thick leaves are dark green and shiny; on the other, they are light green and porous. You can buy them fresh, frozen, or dried.
What are Makrut Lime Leaves?
Makrut limes (Citrus hystrix) are different from regular limes because their skin is bumpy, and they have a very bitter taste. In Thailand, makrut limes are not eaten. Instead, they are mostly used to make cleaning products. The leaves, on the other hand, smell wonderful and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are in the shape of an hourglass, and each stem has two leaves at the end.
You can buy fresh, frozen, or dried Makrut lime leaves. The rib must be taken off before it can be cut or used whole in a dish. This can be done with your hands or a knife. Makrut lime leaves cost about twice as much as fresh bay leaves.
Makrut lime leaves are found in Southeast Asia. They can be used fresh, dried, or even frozen. The leaves are very tough and have a strong, fresh citrus smell. You can store fresh leaves in the fridge for a few days, but if you wait too long, they will turn brown. If you don’t use the leaves immediately, put them in a sealed bag and put them in the freezer, lay them out to dry, and then put them in an airtight spice jar away from heat and light.
What are Makrut Lime Leaves Uses?
Bay leaves are like what makrut lime leaves are in Asia. They can be added whole to Thai curries, soups, and stir-fries and then taken out before eating. They can also be cut into very thin slices and added to spice pastes or used as a topping in various recipes. Makrut lime leaves are often used in fish dishes, soups, sauces, and curries. They are mostly used in Thai cooking, but you can also find them in Laotian, Cambodian, and Indonesian food. The leaves can be used whole or thinly sliced to add flavor. Like bay leaves, they are usually taken out of the dish before eating.
How to Cook with Makrut Lime Leaves?
There isn’t much you need to do to add makrut lime leaves to recipes. (Note that the joined leaves are still counted as two leaves.) If the leaf is still attached to the stem, also called a rib or vein, fold the leaf in half, grab the tip of the stem, and pull it down so it comes away from the leaf. The only thing that’s left is a whole leaf with no rib. Use as is or cut with a clean pair of scissors into very thin, sliver-like pieces. You can also use a paring knife to cut the rib, but the leaf will be in two pieces.
Dried lime leaves don’t smell or taste as good as fresh or frozen lime leaves. Lime leaves that have been frozen can be used immediately or quickly rinsed under hot water to soften them and bring out their scent. Before using dried leaves in a recipe, they should be crushed or ground, or they can be rehydrated. If the dried makrut lime leaves don’t smell fragrant, which can happen because of how they were dried, you should add more.
What do they Taste Like?
The smell and flavor of makrut lime leaves are both very strong. The taste is bright, fresh, and citrusy, with more lime than lemon but not as sharp as fruits from the West. Makrut limes have a unique flavor among citrus fruits. They have an intensely sour, citrusy freshness, like a lime, but much stronger. Markets have a flavor that is more bitter and very aromatic. Some people who like makrut limes say they taste like soap.
Makrut Lime Leaves Recipes
Lime leaves are an important part of many Thai recipes, like fried rice. The unique flavor makrut lime leaves add to a dish can’t be replaced by anything else. If a recipe calls for makrut lime leaves and you can’t find them or don’t want to use them, don’t use another ingredient instead.
- Thai Lime Leaf Chicken Stir-Fry
- Thai Lime Leaf Green Curry
- Thai Steamed Mussels
Where to Buy Makrut Lime Leaves?
Makrut lime leaves can be bought fresh, frozen, or dried at Thai or Vietnamese grocery stores (some Chinese food stores carry them too). The leaves can be found in Asian grocery stores with the other fresh herbs, in the freezer section, or with the dried herbs. Some of the bigger grocery stores in the United States and Canada are also starting to sell lime leaves.
When buying fresh makrut lime leaves, look for dark green leaves with shiny and dull sides. The leaves should not be brown or yellow. The smell should be very strong and clear. Fresh leaves are sold in bulk or loosely in a plastic bag. They are called “double leaves.” In sealed pouches, you can buy dried and frozen makrut lime leaves. Ground dried makrut lime leaves are also sold in bags and canisters that can be closed again.
Home gardens can have makrut lime plants. The tree can be planted outside in warm climates, but in colder parts of the U.S., it should be grown in a pot that can be brought inside before the first frost. The makrut lime tree needs to be in full sun, fed regularly, and given just the right amount of water (the roots should be on the dry side). Between May and October, you can pick the fruit.
Makrut lime leaves can be kept for a week at room temperature in a plastic bag with a zip-top or a glass jar. Please put them in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh for longer. In the fridge, they will stay fresh for up to a year, and in the freezer, they will last longer. You can also hang the leaves upside down in a dry, dark, and warm room to dry them. Dried leaves can last for up to three years.
Substitutes for Makrut Lime Leaves
Makrut lime leaves are an important part of Thai food and are often used in other dishes from Southeast Asia. You can buy the ingredient fresh, frozen, or dried. It has a strong smell. The lime leaves, prized for their strong citrus taste, are used in cooking, not the fruit itself. Makrut limes (Citrus hystrix), on the other hand, are so bitter that they are mostly used as a scent in cleaning products.
1. Bay Leaves
You can do that if you want to use bay leaves instead of makrut lime leaves in savory dishes. You don’t eat bay leaves; they are used to add flavor to a dish and then thrown away before it is served. Because of this, they work best as a substitute in soups, sauces, and rice dishes where they can be used whole and are easy to take out.
Bay leaves don’t have the citrusy taste of makrut leaves, but they make recipes more interesting. A bay leaf tastes like pine, with a bit of mint and pepper. The smell of fresh bay leaves is the strongest, but dried bay leaves work just as well, as long as they haven’t been sitting in your spice cabinet for years. Spiceography says that if you can’t find makrut lime leaves, combine bay leaves with lemon or lime zest. This will give your dish some of the citrusy flavors you’re looking for.
2. Lime Zest
If you need a lime ingredient but don’t have it, you can use another lime ingredient instead. In this case, that would be lime zest. (You can use Persian limes, which you usually find in stores.) culinary legend says that adding lime zest to a dish gives it a bright, citrusy flavor similar to makrut lime leaves.
Instead of just using lime zest, you can use lemon zest and lime zest for a more complex citrus taste. You can use a Microplane grater, a paring knife, a vegetable peeler, or a citrus zester to get the zest off of a whole lime. Each tool makes zest in different sizes, so you should choose your method based on what you’re making. Zest that is fine is easier to “melt” into doughs and liquids, while bigger zest is great for toppings. No matter what you use, remember to leave the bitter white pith behind when you zest limes. Culinary tradition says you should use 112 teaspoons of fresh lime zest for each makrut leaf your recipe calls for.
3. Lime Juice
When you can’t find makrut leaves, you can use lime juice as a good and easy substitute. In addition to giving your dish a citrusy taste, lime juice will add a bright acidity note to help balance it out. Spruce Eats says that when you can, it’s best to use freshly squeezed lime juice instead of the kind that comes in a bottle because the flavor is stronger and more true. One lime about the size of a medium apple from the grocery store will give you one to three tablespoons of juice. Roll the limes first, like you would a lemon, to make it easier to get the juice out of them.
A culinary tradition that you sis should use 112 teaspoons of fresh lime zest for each makrut lime leaf that your recipe calls for. Instead of just using lime zest, you can use lemon zest and lime zest for a more complex citrus taste.
Since lime leaves are dry and lime juice is, well, liquid, this may not work in every recipe. It’s a good choice for making Thai curry paste, soups, or stews with a lot of liquid. Lime juice can also be used instead of makrut lime leaves in marinades. As for how much lime juice to use, add a teaspoon at a time until you like the taste, making sure that the extra liquid doesn’t change the consistency of your recipe.