The Bitter Truth About Kaffir Limecello

My mission statement for this blog is that “I strive to share every single interesting experience with respect to food and wine.” This also includes my failures in the kitchen, so that we can all benefit from them.

I love making homemade limoncello, because it is so much better than store-bought. After the success of substituting lemons with bergamot oranges to make bergamocello (as Earl Grey tea is made from essential oil of bergamot, you can imagine what this smells and tastes like), I thought it would be great to try limes as well. And while I was at it, why not go all the way and use kaffir limes. And so I did. I followed the recipe for limoncello, but luckily only made half a batch. This means 30 grams (1 generous oz) of kaffir lime peel, green part only, with 250 ml (1 cup) of pure alcohol and 500 ml (2 cups) of simple syrup, made from 375 ml (1 1/2 cup) of water, and 300 grams (1 1/2 cup) of sugar.

Kaffir limes have a thick uneven skin, and I painstakingly removed all the white pith (much harder to do than with lemons) to avoid a bitter flavor. This chore took me more than half an hour!

It looked very promising when I combined the alcohol with the kaffir lime peels.

But after allowing this to steep for three weeks, the color did not look as inviting. I continued as usual anyway for the sake of the experiment.

The resulting limecello was very very bitter, and lacking a lime flavor.

Perhaps it would work better with an adjusted recipe (perhaps a shorter steeping time or more sugar), but I’m not very inclined to try this again.



Busiate alla Trapanese is the local pasta dish from Trapani on Sicily. Busiate is the local pasta shape that you make by yourself, and they served with Pesto alla Trapanese. Trapani and Genova are both port towns, and interaction between the two has introduced the concept of pesto from Genova to Trapani. Pesto alla Genovese is made with basil and pine nuts, whereas the principal ingredients of pesto alla trapanese are tomatoes and almonds.


22 thoughts on “The Bitter Truth About Kaffir Limecello

  1. Thanks for the tip Stefan… I recently has a bitter run in making some cucumber basil infused vodka. But I’m making my first batch of limoncello right now and it should be ready in a couple of weeks 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmmmm…we have made limecello on several occasions and love it. It has never been bitter. Very sweet, as always, and very limey. We have not used Kaffir Limes but the small Mexican limes (not Key limes) so abundant in Texas. Our preferences in the differing cellos in 1) limoncello; 2) limecello; 3) orangecello. Given it’s summer, I need to make a batch. I think I will try the method I sent you for the limecello and do a post. 🙂 I may find some Kaffir limes and try them, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was really disappointed about this, because when I used lime zest on Thai food, kaffir lime zest is always more aromatic and fragrant than zest from regular limes. This kaffir limecello is not limey at all. It was actually a comment from you a long time ago that inspired me to try limecello.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Adam, that is a great idea. Fresh kaffir lime leaves are ridiculously expensive here, and I’m not sure the frozen ones would be as good. Would be wonderful if you could ship me some!


  3. I know they’re good, because I buy a Tanqueray gin called Rangpur, in which kaffir limes are used. It’s a fabulous gin, but I’ve never had the limes on their own. so sad 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Total ignorance here bar saying that I prefer Tanqueray gin above others come our summer and G&T time! Interesting: hmm, we’ll see whether we get around to having a try: and unless one does try – no fun, no fun at all 🙂 !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to agree with Adam.j the key to kaffir lime flavoured ingredients is the leaves. The Kaffir lime fruit is used in Thailand mainly for its slightly bitter flavour in Thai green curry paste and I note when visiting the local Thai market the leaves way outsell the fruit and in many markets you do not regularly see the fruit for sale but will always see the leaves. I must add this is an excellent blog with a real interest in food and is unusual in the way you share any small failure’s as well as many suscesses.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ken, thanks for your interesting comment. When I use kaffir lime zest in my fresh Thai curry paste, I mostly notice the aromatic fragrance, very ‘limey’. This is why I opted to use kaffir limes for my first attempt at limecello.
      Also thanks for the nice compliment.


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