Vegan Caramelized Lemon Turmeric Sauce (Using Lemon Peels!)


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(Note: this post was originally published on May 23, 2021. It has since been updated with a few tweaks.)

A Very Lemony Turmeric Sauce

Please allow me to introduce you to the most magical, flavor-packed sauce I've created. Yes it's a bold statement, but well-deserved. This vegan lemon sauce uses a very non-traditional ingredient... can you guess what it is?

This sauce needs a warning label that says "For true lemon lovers only" because it packs a serious tart punch. All that bright flavor comes from an ingredient that usually goes in the trash (or compost): the peel of the lemon! So in addition to being astoundingly delicious, this lemon peel recipe also helps you use something that typically gets wasted.

Lemon peels are packed with flavor, but they're so strong, tart, and bitter that they can be difficult to use. Thankfully there's a secret trick to taming the lemon peel: it needs to be caramelized. When cooked, especially in the presence of a dash of olive oil, the peel mellows to become delightfully golden, fragrant, more delicate, and more complex. It's still a very strong flavor, which is why it excels in a sauce or spread, but the transformation is magical. I adore this powerful lemon + turmeric sauce and I think you will too.

Small bowl of vegan lemon sauce made from lemon peels

How to Use Lemon Peels

Lemon peels are a wonderful, flavor-packed ingredient but they usually get wasted. Although you can add them as a flavoring agent to water or make candied lemon peel, this vegan lemon sauce is my absolute favorite way to use them.

First, you'll finely dice the lemon peel and cook it in some olive oil. As it cooks, you'll smell the most amazing combination of citrus and caramelizing sugar. Keep a very close eye on it and stir frequently, since the sugars in the lemon will want to burn. The pieces of peel cook down and become beautifully browned; they're tart, bitter, toasty, and sweet all at the same time.

After that, the rest of this lemon peel recipe is easy. You'll just combine the caramelized lemon peels with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, turmeric, and salt, then blend it all into a delightfully decadent and creamy sauce.

Whole Lemon vs. Leftover Lemon Peels

As written, this recipe calls for a whole lemon (i.e., the peel and the juice). However, if you're like me, you always have lemon peels leftover after using the juice for some other application. If that's the case, no problem. Just follow the same recipe, swapping in additional apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice. This is a great way to minimize waste and turn those excess lemon peels into something magical. You can easily double or triple the recipe if you have a few lemon peels to use.

Lemon turmeric sauce drizzled over a green bean dish

This Lemon + Turmeric Sauce Belongs on EVERYTHING

What can you do with this vegan lemon sauce? The options are endless. We love it drizzled on top of grilled or roasted veggies. It works beautifully as a salad dressing base, with some additional components like mustard or extra spices mixed in. It's dynamite when stirred into still-warm whole grains like farro or wheatberries. Generally speaking, it goes beautifully with any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flavor profiles.

If you're looking for a specific way to make this golden turmeric sauce really shine, drizzle it on top of farro and sauteed green beans, as shown above. Finish it with sumac, fresh mint, and blueberries for a wonderful, versatile spring meal or side dish. You can also use it in this Cauliflower and Farro Salad with Caramelized Lemon Turmeric Sauce (see the photo below), which I designed specifically to feature this lemon peel recipe.

By the way, if you love turmeric sauces, you'll also want to check out my famous Turmeric Tahini Drizzle. You can make it in just a few minutes with three pantry staples.

Vegan lemon turmeric sauce drizzled over a cauliflower salad

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here's what you'll need for this lemon peel recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Whole lemon. You'll use both the lemon and the juice. However, see the notes above if you want to make this lemon peel recipe using leftover peels instead of a whole lemon.
  • Robustly-flavored olive oil. There are so few ingredients in this sauce that each one is important. I like to use a really robust olive oil for this recipe.
  • Apple cider vinegar. I think Champagne vinegar would also work nicely, or possibly even white balsamic. Make sure you use a vinegar that is very light in color so that the sauce stays a brilliant yellow.
  • Maple syrup
  • Turmeric. If you're new to turmeric, I suggest starting with only 1 tsp, blending the sauce, and seeing what you think. Turmeric has a fabulous flavor but it can be an acquired taste.
  • Salt

Lemon and turmeric sauce made from lemon peels, shown next to a serving platter of green beans

Closing Thoughts

How many lemon peels do you waste each week? For me, it's at least several. Instead of wasting them, make this lemon peel recipe (or a double-batch!) and stash it away for any time you need a flavor boost. It will keep fine in the fridge for a week or the freezer for several months, and it's a flavor powerhouse that you can use in many different ways.

Thanks to its multi-dimensional flavors, this turmeric sauce can really transcend seasons. The lemon makes it feel right for spring and summer, but the caramelized and bitter notes make it feel right for fall and winter too. Because lemon is used in so many different cuisines, this sauce is at home on virtually any meal.

I have a feeling this vegan lemon sauce will pretty much always be in my fridge now. What about you?

Close-up of vibrant yellow vegan lemon sauce

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Ginger Bee's Knees

Spring Asparagus Salad with Raw and Grilled Greens

Loaded Lemon Hummus

Nourishing Pasta Primavera

Healthy Fig, Pistachio, and Lemon Truffles

Vegan Caramelized Lemon Turmeric Sauce (Using Lemon Peels!)

This versatile vegan lemon sauce has sweet, tart, bitter, and caramelized flavors and makes use of a very unique ingredient: the whole lemon peel. You'll want to put it on everything!



  • Whole lemon
  • 2-4 tbsp robustly-flavored olive oil
  • 0.25 c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 1-3 tsp turmeric
  • 0.25 tsp salt


  1. Cut the lemon in half and juice it, then set the juice aside.
  2. Remove the seeds from the lemon and discard. Then dice the lemon peel up into very small, even pieces.
  3. Put the diced lemon peel and 2 tbsp olive oil into a sauce pan. Working over medium heat, cook the lemon peel until it is golden in color and softened, about 10-15 minutes. Keep a very close eye on it and stir frequently since the sugars in the lemon peel will want to burn. Don't let any parts of the lemon peel burn otherwise it will impart a bitter flavor and brown color to the sauce. Add more oil if needed to keep the lemon peel thoroughly moistened.
  4. When the lemon peel is evenly but lightly caramelized, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  5. Add the caramelized lemon peel and any residual oil in the pan to a high-power blender. Add the juice of the lemon, the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, turmeric, and salt. Blend until you have a thick, smooth texture.
  6. Taste it! This is important since lemons can vary greatly in their size and acidity. Add more maple syrup until you're happy with the balance of sweetness and acidity. You can also add more turmeric if you want its flavor to be more pronounced. Re-blend after any additions.
  7. Assess the thickness of your sauce. If it seems too thick to drizzle, add a dash of water and re-blend.
  8. Store the sauce in a sealed container. It will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for several months. If it thickens as it sits, just stir in a dash of water before use.

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Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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