What are lime leaves and how to use them in the kitchen?

Have you ever thought of using lime leaves to enhance the flavor of your preparations? See how you can take advantage of them in your kitchen.

Last update: April 24, 2022

For those passionate about citrus flavor and aroma, we bring you a star ingredient of Thai cuisine, lime leaves. They are also known as “lime leaf”. kaffir», «lemon leaf», «papeda», «combava», «bai makrut “, among others.

Its plant is native to tropical Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition, it is present in the Malay archipelago. It is believed that from there it spread to the rest of the continents. Specifically, it is used to season different dishes, from soups, through salads and even fried foods.

Its aroma becomes so intense that one or two leaves are enough to give that secret touch to dishes. Besides, stands out for its nutritional composition. Do you want to know more about it? Next, we detail its properties and its uses in the kitchen.

Origin of lime leaves

The scientific name of the plant that gives rise to lime leaves is Citrus hystrix. It belongs to the genus Citrus (Rutaceae) which comes from the Greek word kedrossince the smell of its leaves and its fruits is reminiscent of that of the cedar.

These plants are characterized by an intense fragrance given off by the oil glands. They contain a large amount of oil, in addition to other bioactive compounds.

In general, all species of this genus have the ability to combine with others. Thus, several grafts result. Anyway, the Citrus hystrix Along with four others, they are considered “parent species” of innumerable varieties.

The tree is small in size, with an average height of two meters, although it can reach up to ten. Its fruits are characterized by having a spherical or pear-shaped shape, in addition to an unpleasantly rough and thin-thick crust.

The pulp is juicy, greenish yellow. Meanwhile, its taste is acid, bitter and with a characteristic aroma. The leaves, in particular, are deep and dark green, although the young ones are lighter in color. Given its appearance, it is often used for ornamental purposes.

Lime leaves stand out for their aromatic effect and their ability to enhance flavours.


Active components of lime leaves

The plants of Citrus They are characterized by having a strong and penetrating aroma that does not go unnoticed. This aroma is given by the presence of “essential oils”, which are very volatile substances.

Currently, the cosmetic, agri-food and pharmaceutical industries use them as aromatizers, flavoring agents and active ingredients. To be more exact, it is a complex mixture, as they are made up of more than 100 molecules, including alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, terpenoids and phenylpropanoids.

in the lime leaves oils such as citrinelal predominate in 66.5% and Z-isocitral with 40.39%. Alcohol-type compounds occupy a second place in proportion.

Some pharmaceutical research experts have found that the essential oils of lime leaves have a high antioxidant capacity when compared to other essential oils of this type.

They also discovered other bioactive compounds such as farnesal, sinensal and neryl propanoate. The latter are responsible for a more intense aroma for culinary use.

Medicinal properties of lime leaves

Bearing in mind that the fruits and leaves of the species Citrus They are a source of essential oils, they have been studied to be applied in different industries. For example, in the pharmaceutical branch, cosmetics, food or perfumery.

As Stampella and other researchers point out, At a medicinal level, 3 lime leaves are used in infusion for the following purposes:

  • As a tranquilizer.
  • To take care of the health of the heart.
  • Against diabetes.
  • To lower blood pressure.

In the latter case, the maceration is applied with crushed leaves in cold water. The cooking of the leaves also gives good results, about 4 or 5 in 1 liter of water. Let it cool and drink as water during the day.

Most of the health disorders treated with citrus fruits are flu and febrile, respiratory, digestive and circulatory processes. However, this counts for any citrus fruit and is not specific to lime leaves.

How to use them in the kitchen?

Lime leaves have a wide application in the kitchen. They are used fresh, frozen, whole, chopped or crushed to form a spice mixture with other ingredients. As a final dressing, it is preferable to use it raw and finely chopped. However, the central rib of the blade must be removed.

As the leaf is somewhat thick, it is added whole and fresh to stews, soups, sauces, chutneys, dressings or in spicy curries. In any case, it is better to use it dry and ground for these preparations. Homemade marinades and sauces also go great with lime leaves.

On a commercial level, the most practical way to use it is dry. when dehydrated, its oils are concentrated, so when uncovered they invade the entire environment with their aroma.

A small amount of dried leaf, whole or ground, is enough for dressing. When used in excess it can overshadow any other spice. Therefore, you must be careful with the amount you are going to use.

One or two leaves will be enough to combine them with vegetables, fish, meat, seafood, desserts and sweets, especially those that integrate fruit as the main ingredient. It will always give a touch of freshness.

Lime leaves are used in the preparation of sweet and savory dishes.


Is it a valuable ingredient for the kitchen?

Of course yes. The lime leaf with its distinctive aroma and flavor can exalt the sensory properties of any preparation that seeks to conquer the palate. At the same time, you can prepare it as an infusion to calm anxiety or to lower blood pressure. However, more studies are required in this area of ​​medicine.

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