It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. While in the midst of following a recipe, you discover that you’ve run out of something really darn important. For example, when a recipe calls for orange juice, you may find yourself totally juice-less. Rather than having to start from scratch and waste the progress and time you already spent, perhaps it would just be easier to use something else in place of orange juice. But is it possible to replace something as unique and nutritious as OJ? And if so, what could you use?
What can you substitute for orange juice in a recipe? It mostly depends on what part the orange juice plays in a recipe. If it the recipe needs only the acidity, then other acidic juices can be used, such as lemon, lime and pomegranate. But if it needs it for flavor, then fresh oranges, orange extract, or Meyer lemon juice may be used.
There are actually quite a few different things you can try to use in place of orange juice in a recipe. They each have pros and cons, and some work better than others for specific types of recipes. Be sure to read on to learn the details.
What is orange juice used for in recipes?
Orange juice has a unique flavor profile. It adds the zing of fresh citrus and the bite of acid. It also brings some moisture, and can even add fiber if you’re using the kind of OJ with pulp. Orange juice is often used to sweeten recipes for both drinks and solid foods, too.
Because it has so many uses in recipes, it’s important to know what role your OJ is supposed to play. Choosing a proper substitute depends on it.
What can you use in place of orange juice for the flavor?
Some recipes want orange juice because of the tasty, unique, zingy flavor it has. Citrus brings a freshness and excitement to many recipes, and the acidic flavor can brighten, too. The sweetness of orange juice is hard to beat, and many recipes call for it just for that flavor.
If your recipe calls for orange juice because of any of these flavors, you might try these instead:
- Orange juice concentrate. This is probably the closest thing you’re going to get to actual OJ. Just remember to add water back into the concentrate, or it might change the texture of the resulting dish.
- Orange extract. This will probably give you the second most accurate flavor profile, as orange extract is usually made form actual oranges. If you’re using orange extract, you may need to add a little more water or other liquid to make up for the missing juice.
- Orange zest. This may give a more accurate flavor, like the extract, but zest tends to have a much stronger flavor than juice and sometimes even extracts. Start adding it a little bit at a time and taste test as you go along. As with the other non-juice suggestions, you may need to add water or other liquids to keep the consistency correct.
- Tangerine juice. Tangerines are commonly confused with the average orange, possibly because they have a slightly similar appearance and come from the same family. However, while they may taste almost the same, they are still different fruits. Since they’re pretty close to oranges, though, they may make a nice replacement for OJ. The upside of using tangerine juice in place of orange juice in a recipe is that you won’t need to add any extra liquid like some of the other suggestions.
- Meyer lemon juice. Unlike your average lemon, these hybrid lemons have a sweeter, more floral flavor than their bitter cousins. Their sweet floral nature might make them a good substitute for OJ in a recipe. The downside is that they may be harder to find, depending on where you live.
- Sweetened red or pink grapefruit. Grapefruits are quite a bit more bitter than oranges, and seem to be an acquired taste. I don’t recommend using this method if you don’t like the taste of grapefruit, because you’ll probably still be able to taste it. If you like grapefruit, however, you may find the new flavor exciting.
What can you use in place of orange juice for the acidity?
Acid is an important part of cooking, baking, and making juices and other drinks. It adds a flavor, but it also comes with a side of science. Acid plays an important role in causing certain reactions in recipes. Without it, the recipes fall flat.
If your recipe calls for orange juice because of the acidity, you might try these instead:
- Orange juice concentrate. Again. Really, this is going to be the closest thing in both flavor and acidity to OJ, as it is just OJ without the water. Just remember to add the water back in!
- Citric acid. It doesn’t taste like anything, but it can definitely add the missing acidity. As an added bonus, it can also be used for a wide variety of purposes. Adding just a bit of citric acid to many other dishes and drinks can give it the kick it’s been missing.
- Lemon juice. Lemon juice has a pretty low pH level, which makes it a good candidate for acidic OJ substitutions. Something to keep in mind, though, is that there’s a possibility it can transfer its flavor to whatever you add it to. It is also more tart than OJ is, so add small amounts at a time.
- Lime juice. Much like lemon juice, the low pH of lime juice would also make for a good acidic substitute. But also, much like lemon juice, there’s the possibility that it could transfer its flavor to whatever you put it in. Lime juice has more tartness than OJ as well, so you should add small amounts at a time.
- Vinegar. I have to admit, I personally think vinegar is gross. Regardless of my feelings toward it, it can still sometimes be used in place of OJ when you just need something acidic. Ideally, you would want to go with a sweeter, possibly more floral type of vinegar, and use it very sparingly. Vinegar has a problem of overpowering things sometimes. So choosing something like apple cider vinegar might be a better option than white vinegar.
What can you use in place of orange juice for both the taste and acidity?
Oranges have a pretty specific taste special to themselves. There really isn’t anything like them. So, finding something that has both the acidic content and citric, orangey flavor profile can be a tad bit tricky. We can get close, at least. If your recipe calls for orange juice for both the flavor and acidity, then you might try these instead:
- Sweetened lime or lemon juice. When using lemon or lime juice in place of OJ, you may want to sweeten it first. Oranges have a natural sweetness to them that limes and lemons just don’t have.
- Sweetened pineapple juice. Same as the lemon and lime juice, pineapples are not as sweet as oranges are, so sweetening it may help. These come with a decidedly tropical taste profile, so use pineapple juice with care if you don’t want to change the flavor too much.
- Tangerine juice. These little fruits are a close option to get both the acid and unique flavor of oranges. They can be a little more bitter than regular oranges, so be sure to check the sweetness and add sugar if you need to.
- Apple cider. It won’t taste like oranges (because it’s apple), but apple cider might be a good substitution because of its fruity and bright flavor and acidity.
For more accurate flavors, try adding orange zest, extract, or orange concentrate to any of these substitutions if you feel like experimenting. Just be sure to add things a tiny bit at a time so you don’t overpower the other flavors.
What else can you use to substitute orange juice?
These next few suggestions aren’t as common as the previous ones, but still may work. All depending on the recipe type, of course.
- Orange simple syrup. It’s not the healthiest option, and may not fit into every kind of recipe, but it does have a nice orange flavor. It would probably be best to use for sweeter recipes, but I definitely cannot stop you if you want to add it to your chicken salad.
- Orange or fruity flavored liquor. Obviously, you shouldn’t use this method if you abstain from drinking, unless you plan on using it in a recipe where the alcohol gets heated to the point of evaporation.
- Any other tart fruits. Using tart fruits like pears, peaches, and plums may not be as common as using apples, but they still have a tang to them that may work.
- Any tart berries. Berries that lean more on the tart side might also be used in place of orange juice. Some berries like this can include: raspberries, green grapes, and cranberries.
- Limetta (sweet lemon). Sweet lemons are, as their name implies, sweet, which makes them kind of close to oranges. Unfortunately, they aren’t very common and might be hard to find, depending on where you live.
- Pomegranate juice. It doesn’t really taste like oranges by itself, but adding it to some recipes can sometimes be even better than OJ.
The best substitutes for orange juice in baking and cooking recipes
While these won’t work for every single cooking or baking recipe out there, these substitutions will work best for the more solid cooking or baking recipes.
- Vinegar. This is mainly when the OJ is used for the acid content. Try apple cider vinegar.
- Orange juice concentrate. This is for flavor as well as acid content for chemical reactions.
- Cream of Tartar. This is another one used mainly for the acid content and the chemical reactions it brings.
- White wine, or other fruity liquors. These work best in recipes that don’t call for more than a splash of OJ.
- Buttermilk. While not fruity, buttermilk is a good acidic substitute for creamy, milky, thick, or solid recipes.
- Flavorless and unsweetened yogurt.
Something to keep in mind about replacing things in baking recipes is that baking tends to be more exact. If your recipe needs the acidity of orange juice to activate something, like baking soda, then you need to add an acidic ingredient. If you don’t, then you run the risk of ruining the balance.
The best substitutes for orange juice in liquid recipes
Liquid recipes, like smoothies, tend to be a tad more forgiving than baking recipes, which might make it easier to find a substitute that works well and tastes great.
- Fruit juices, such as apple, pineapple, pomegranate, etc.
- Berry juices, such as raspberry, blueberry, tart cherries, etc.
Orange juice concentrate vs. orange juice extract
Maybe after reading that I suggested to use orange juice concentrate and orange extract as replacements, you not only wondered why, but what the difference between the two could be.
Orange juice concentrate is typically made by juicing oranges and removing almost all of the liquid from the juice, then freezing. By removing almost all of the liquids and then freezing, the orange juice concentrate lasts much longer than normal OJ. It is also, as the name implies, much more concentrated than your typical OJ. If you wanted to use it to drink, you would have to add back the lost water first, or else you would be punched in the face with orange-y sludge.
Orange extract is typically made by soaking the peels of an orange in alcohol for a few weeks to a month or so, then removing the peels. I 100% don’t recommend drinking it straight up, as you will most likely get horribly ill. Not to mention it’s very concentrated and would taste yucky. However, adding small amounts of it to recipes is encouraged, because it is tasty when used properly.
Unlike orange juice concentrate, orange extract has none of the health benefits or nutrients that oranges provide.
What are the best substitutes for orange juice?
When life takes away your orange juice, you make substitutions. We’ve gone through quite a few different types of methods to choose from, but you may have another question… What is the best substitute over all for orange juice?
If we’re talking about straight up drinking, there really isn’t any substitute for orange juice. It has a unique and lovely flavor that just can’t be replicated. You can enjoy all kinds of other juices, of course, but OJ can’t really be replaced.
My advice? Keep fresh oranges on hand at all times and you can make your own OJ whenever you want. Not only is that awesome for drinking, but you’ll have it for all your recipes too!
The most common substitutes for orange juice are lemon, lime, apple, and pineapple juice. Sometimes you can use orange extract as well to keep the orange flavor. But for some recipes you may also need to add something acidic as well, such as pineapple juice or citric acid. For all of these substitutions, it’s best to add little bits at a time, tasting in between to ensure you find the perfect balance. Perhaps by using one of these methods, you’ll find an even better combination!
What can you substitute for orange zest? Lemon and lime zest are most likely going to be the closest substitutes for orange zest. The closest substitutes are probably going to be other types of zest, but if you don’t have any zest at all, then you might also try: orange extract, lemon juice or extract, lime juice or extract, or sometimes pineapple juice.
What can you substitute for orange juice if you’re allergic? Finding substitutes for things when you’re allergic is tricky, as everyone can react differently. If you’re only allergic to oranges, then you should avoid any of the substitutes that involve real oranges, or even oranges in any way, like orange extract and orange zest. If you’re allergic to citrus, then you need to avoid a lot more on this list, such as juices and extracts of oranges, limes, lemons, and more. Always do some research before using anything you’re unsure of. Citrus fruits have a unique profile not easily substituted for.
Can you use orange oil in a recipe? Orange oil is typically used as an ingredient in cleaners, for adding scent to things like candles, and used topically like in lotions. Some kinds can even be toxic when ingested. Some people claim to add small amounts of “edible, food-grade” orange oil to their foods, but it absolutely has to be a pure and unadulterated food-grade oil. Typically, a high-quality, organic, cold-pressed kind. Always carefully check to be sure you have the right kind.