Growing up, my parents had a small lime tree in our backyard, so it wasn’t until college that I experienced my first lime shortage. I had just gotten back from a run, exhausted and ready to dive face-first into some baked potatoes and guac (a highly underrated combination). But as I was making the guacamole, I realized my kitchen was void of any limes, which are essential for keeping it fresh and green. Okay, no worries, I told myself, I’ll use a lemon! But as I opened my fridge, the half of a lemon I thought I had saved was nowhere to be seen, and I was faced with the sad reality that I had neither lime nor lemon.

Since I had no idea there were other things I could substitute for lime juice, I proceeded to eat my sub-par guacamole and watched it gradually turn brown over the next few hours. To save you from a lime catastrophe like mine, here are five substitutes for lime juice you can use in a pinch.

1. Lemon Juice

Ellie Yamanaka

Lemon juice is my go-to substitute for lime juice since it's the most similar in flavor and acidity. You can substitute it 1:1 in practically any recipe that calls for lime juice, even margaritas! (Although, if you’re planning on making a key lime pie and substituting lemons, you should probably switch to a lemon meringue pie. Just saying.) 

2. Other Citrus Fruit Juice

juice, citrus, tangerine, grapefruit, lemon
Amelia Hitchens

If you don’t have lemons, you could also try using freshly squeezed juice of another citrus fruit, such as orange or grapefruit. However, these are sweeter and less acidic than limes, so they'll function differently depending on the recipe. If you're making a recipe that calls for sugar, such as a salad dressing or a marinade, cut back on the sugar at first and add more to taste depending on how sweet the citrus fruit juice makes the mixture. 

3. Vinegar

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Gabriella Paul

If acidity is what you're using lime juice for, vinegar makes an excellent substitute. Any type of vinegar can be used, such as apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, etc. However, keep in mind that vinegar is usually more potent and doesn’t have the subtle sweetness of limes, so I recommend starting with a 1:2 substitute of vinegar to lime juice and adjusting to your taste. Vinegar can make a good substitute for lime juice in recipes such as ceviche, salad dressing, salsa, and guacamole.

4. Citrus Zest

Ellie Yamanaka

Sometimes citrus zest (preferably from limes, lemons, or oranges) can be substituted for lime juice, depending on the function the lime juice is playing in your recipe. If the lime juice is purely for flavor, a 1:2 substitute of zest to juice can be used since citrus zest is very concentrated in flavor. For example, zest can be used as a substitute in baked goods that use lime for flavor (not for the acidity!) and in cooking such as cilantro lime rice.

5. White Wine

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Jocelyn Hsu

White wine may work in some recipes, though it's less acidic than lime juice and obviously produces a different flavor. A 1:1 substitute can be used for recipes such as dressings and marinades. I would use this substitute as a last resort, if you don’t have other citrus fruits or vinegar.

With all these options available, there's no need to freak out the next time you run out of limes. As with most ingredients in cooking, there’s at least one substitute that you likely have in your kitchen. Opt for lemons if you have them, but basically any acidic ingredient or citrus fruit can mimic the function of lime juice in cooking.