Here Are 7 Ways to Beautifully Reuse Your Fruit Peels

Make them into tea, salad dressing, candy, or garnishes.

I think of Marge Simpson every time I spot a good looking fruit bowl—there was one episode when she said that “fruit is nature’s candy.” And, in fact, fruit can be turned into literal candy with a little skill and know-how.

Fruit peels and scraps can be used for a lot of things around the kitchen, allowing you to minimize kitchen waste and champion sustainability in your own home. (Plus, citrus is just plain gorgeous). We talked to Dianne Lowery, the beverage director at Brooklyn’s Macchina, about the best way to repurpose your fruit waste—from tea and salad dressing to candy and garnishes.

Make oleo saccharum

Oleo saccharum is to a bartender what a secret sauce is to a chef. It’s that element that can turn an at-home drink into something you’d get at a swanky cocktail bar. Its literal translation is “fat sucrose” and refers to the oil that is pulled out from fruit peels by curing it with sugar. The result: a sweet-sour syrup that can be added to notch up everything from plain tonic water, iced tea to a heady lemonade. “It’s simple to make,” explains Lowery. “Take peels of six oranges and two lemons and cover them fully in sugar. Muddle it gently so it releases the oils. Cover and allow it to sit at room temperature for two to three days. Scrape the sugar off the peels and at the bottom, you now have oleo saccharum.”

Turn it into sweet tea

They say you can’t compare apples to oranges but yes, you can, especially their peels. Both the fruits work flawlessly when brewed into sweet teas. Organic fruit peels can be chopped and added into bubbling hot water. Steep this for four to five minutes, strain and enjoy as tea. You can sweeten this tea with honey or sugar syrup. Add ice for a quick cold drink.

Stock up on salad dressing

Fruit peels add complex notes when mixed and matched with cold-press oils. “Simply take your lemon peels and put them in a small jar of olive oil for about a week,” says Lowery. “This is an easy way to infuse the oil with fruity notes and will allow the flavors to amplify.” Apart from salads, you can also use flavored oils to top hummus and baba ganoush for added complexity.

Macchina cocktail | Photo courtesy of Macchina

Create flavored vinegars

One of the quickest ways to flavor vinegar is by adding clean pieces of fruit rind to it. You can pick from pear, pineapple, apple, lemons, and plums. Take the fruit peel and wipe it dry, tip it into a jar of vinegar and allow it to rest there for four to five days. Once done, drain out the vinegar and discard the peels. This vinegar can then be added to salad dressings to add more depth or to flavor soups and stews.

Make fruit sugar

Fruit sugar is great for adding a festive rim to drinks. “At the end of the night, every bartender is left with a whole lot of fruit pulp and skin,” Lowery says. “I like dehydrating fruit peels in a dehydrator or you can do it in the sun, and then grind this into a fine powder. Mix the powder with equal quantities of fine sugar.”

Make tepache

Fruit leftovers are a great add-on to make fermented drinks like tepache or kombucha. Also known as pineapple beer, tepache has Mexican roots and is made by fermenting pineapple rind. To make tepache, rinse the rind of one pineapple thoroughly. Plonk it into a jar and add ½ cup piloncillo or regular sugar, one stick of cinnamon, two to three cloves, one chili and enough water to cover it. Muddle it a little bit and cover it with a muslin cloth. Cover and allow this to ferment like kombucha for two to three days at room temperature. When you see small bubbles emerge on top of the jar, strain the liquid and refrigerate the drink.

Garnishes and candy

Whether you’re looking to decorate a cake, a drink, or a smoothie bowl, dehydrated peels are useful garnish material. Besides, they can also be turned into sweet candy with little effort. “Finely slice peels of lemons, grapefruit, oranges and use it to garnish drinks,” Lowery says. “Sometimes, citrusy notes take the edge off extra fermented aromas of non-alcoholic beverages like kombucha or root beers.” You can also cook the peels in sugar syrup for 10 minutes, take it off the flame, and dust it further with cinnamon or spice sugar to make fruit peel candy.

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Sonal Ved is a Thrillist contributor and the author of Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine. She is the content lead at India Food Network and Tastemade India, and the food editor at Vogue India.