Lemon Pepper Seasoning

What is Lemon Pepper Seasoning?

Lemon pepper seasoning is a popular spice blend that combines the flavors of dried lemon zest and cracked black pepper. It is commonly used to add a tangy and zesty taste to various dishes. The seasoning typically consists of two ingredients – dried lemon zest and black pepper. You can also add salt, and additional herbs and spices like garlic powder, onion powder, or dried thyme.

Lemon pepper seasoning is versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. It pairs well with chicken, fish, seafood, and vegetables. It can be sprinkled directly onto food before or after cooking, or used as a marinade ingredient. The bright citrus flavor of lemon combined with the spiciness of black pepper creates a refreshing and mildly spicy taste.

You can find lemon pepper seasoning in most grocery stores, typically in the spice or seasoning aisle. However, it is also possible to make your own by combining dried lemon zest or lemon peel with freshly cracked black pepper and any additional desired herbs or spices. I have included my favorite recipe further down in this article for making lemon pepper seasoning.

History & background

The exact origin and history of lemon pepper seasoning are not well-documented. However, both lemons and black peppercorns originated in India, so it’s not hard to believe that they could have been first blended together there. It is also believed to have been created in the United States, particularly in the mid-20th century.

The seasoning gained popularity as a convenient way to add zesty and tangy flavors to dishes. It combines the bright, citrusy taste of lemons with the pungent and spicy notes of black pepper. The combination of these flavors adds depth and complexity to various foods.

The seasoning became especially popular in American cuisine, particularly in the southern and southwestern regions, where it was used to enhance the flavors of seafood, chicken, and vegetables. It quickly spread across the country and became a staple in many kitchens.

Initially, lemon pepper seasoning was primarily available as a pre-packaged blend sold in supermarkets. However, with the rise of home cooking and culinary experimentation, many people began creating their own variations of the seasoning by combining dried lemon zest, black pepper, and other complementary spices.

Today, the seasoning is widely available in both commercial and homemade forms. It continues to be a popular choice for adding a burst of citrusy and peppery flavor to a variety of dishes, including grilled or roasted meats, stir-fries, salads, and sauces.

It’s worth noting that while lemon pepper seasoning typically contains dried lemon zest or granulated lemon peel, there are also variations that use artificial flavorings or additives to mimic the lemony taste. It’s also a good idea to check the ingredient list if you have specific dietary restrictions or preferences.

What form does it come in?

Lemon pepper seasoning is typically available in two forms: pre-packaged blends and homemade variations.

  1. Pre-Packaged Blends: Lemon pepper seasoning can be found in most grocery stores and supermarkets. It is commonly sold in small bottles or shaker containers in the spice or seasoning aisle. The pre-packaged blends usually consist of a mixture of dried lemon zest or granulated lemon peel, black pepper, salt, and sometimes additional spices or herbs. They are convenient and ready to use, requiring no additional preparation.
  2. Homemade Variations: Many people prefer to make their own lemon pepper seasoning at home, allowing for customization and control over the ingredients. Homemade variations often involve combining dried lemon zest or lemon peel with freshly cracked black pepper, salt, and any desired additional herbs or spices. Making your own lemon pepper seasoning gives you the flexibility to adjust the flavor and intensity according to your preferences.

Both forms of lemon pepper seasoning provide the same basic combination of lemony and peppery flavors. The choice between pre-packaged blends and homemade versions ultimately depends on personal preference, convenience, and the desire for customization.

Lemon Pepper by McCormicks

Lemon Pepper Seasoning by McCormicks.

Perfect with poultry and seafood.
Use as a seasoning for pastas, couscous and rice.

28 ounce airtight container – store in a cool dark space.

How to make your own Lemon pepper Seasoning

Can you make your own Lemon Pepper Seasoning? Yes, of course you can. And here’s my favorite simple recipe for you to try:


  • 2 tablespoons dried lemon zest (or zest of 2 fresh lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)


  1. If you’re using fresh lemons, start by zesting them. Spread the zest on a paper towel and let it dry completely. Alternatively, you can use store-bought dried lemon zest.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the dried lemon zest, freshly cracked black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried thyme (if using).
  3. Stir all the ingredients together until well combined.
  4. Taste the seasoning and adjust the salt according to your preference. You can add more or less salt depending on your taste buds.
  5. Transfer the lemon pepper seasoning to an airtight container or spice jar.

There you go – you have your own homemade lemon pepper seasoning. I love pairing it with chicken, and also sprinkling it over couscous, or chips. And the best bit is you can store it in a cool, dry place for up to several months. Enjoy!

Is Lemon Pepper Seasoning good for you?

Lemon pepper seasoning, like many other spice blends, can be a flavorful addition to your dishes, but its health benefits or potential drawbacks depend on various factors:

  1. Lemon zest, which is a common ingredient in lemon pepper seasoning, contains essential oils and compounds that provide a burst of citrus flavor. Lemons are a good source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and collagen production. However, the amount of lemon zest in the seasoning is typically small, so the nutritional impact may be minimal.
  2. Black pepper, a primary component of lemon pepper seasoning, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. It contains piperine, which is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, black pepper has been associated with improved digestion and nutrient absorption. However, the quantities used in seasoning blends are usually small, so the health benefits may not be significant.
  3. Commercial lemon pepper seasoning blends often contain salt as one of the ingredients. Excessive sodium consumption can be problematic for individuals with certain health conditions like high blood pressure. If you are watching your sodium intake, it’s important to check the nutritional information and opt for low-sodium or salt-free versions, or consider making your own seasoning blend without added salt.

It’s worth noting that the overall impact on health will depend on how lemon pepper seasoning is used and the context of your overall diet. Using it in moderation as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to have significant negative health effects. As always, it’s important to consider individual dietary needs, preferences, and any specific health conditions when incorporating seasonings into your meals.

Flavor profile of Lemon Pepper Seasoning

Lemon pepper seasoning offers a distinct flavor profile that combines tangy citrus notes with the spiciness of black pepper.

Obvisouly, lemon is the primary flavor component in the seasoning. It provides a bright and tangy citrus taste that adds a refreshing and zesty element to dishes. The lemon flavor is typically derived from dried lemon zest or granulated lemon peel, which contributes a concentrated lemony essence.

The second prominent flavor in the seasoning comes from black pepper. Black pepper adds a mild to moderate spiciness and a subtle heat to the blend. It balances out the citrus flavor and adds depth and complexity to the overall taste.

Depending on the specific brand or homemade recipe, lemon pepper seasoning may also include additional spices or herbs to enhance the flavor profile. Common additions include garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, or other complementary herbs and spices. These additions can contribute subtle savory, earthy, or aromatic undertones to the seasoning blend.

Overall, lemon pepper seasoning offers a harmonious combination of tangy, citrusy, and zesty flavors from the lemon component, along with a peppery kick from black pepper. The specific proportions of lemon, pepper, and any additional ingredients may vary, allowing for variations in intensity and complexity. It is generally appreciated for its ability to add brightness and a touch of spice to a wide range of dishes.

Cooking with Black Pepper

Lemon pepper seasoning is a versatile spice blend that can be used in a variety of ways to enhance the flavor of your dishes.

The seasoning works particularly well with chicken, fish, and seafood. Before cooking, sprinkle the seasoning generously over the meat or seafood, ensuring it is evenly coated. You can then grill, bake, sauté, or roast the protein for a tangy and peppery flavor.

Lemon pepper seasoning can be a delicious addition to roasted or grilled vegetables. Toss your favorite vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle the seasoning over them. Roast in the oven or cook on the grill until tender and slightly charred for a vibrant and flavorful side dish.

Add a pinch of the seasoning to pasta dishes, couscous or salads for an extra burst of flavor. It can be sprinkled on top of pasta salads, mixed into dressings, or used to season vegetable salads for added zestiness.

Incorporate the seasoning into marinades and sauces to infuse your dishes with its citrusy and peppery taste. Combine the seasoning with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and other herbs to create a flavorful marinade for chicken, fish, or shrimp. You can also stir it into sauces like aioli or mayonnaise to elevate the taste.

Sprinkle the seasoning on popcorn, roasted nuts, or homemade potato chips for a unique twist. The tangy and spicy flavors can add a delightful kick to your favorite snack foods.

Common uses

In addition to traditional culinary applications, lemon pepper seasoning can be used in various creative ways to add a burst of flavor to your dishes.

  1. Seasoned Butter: Mix the seasoning into softened butter to create a savory and tangy compound butter. This flavored butter can be spread on bread, melted over grilled or roasted meats, or used as a finishing touch on steamed vegetables for an extra layer of flavor.
  2. Salad Dressings and Dips: Incorporate the seasoning into homemade salad dressings or dips for a zesty twist. It can be added to vinaigrettes, creamy dressings, or yogurt-based dips like tzatziki for a citrusy kick.
  3. Roasted Potatoes: Toss quartered or diced potatoes with olive oil and the seasoning, then roast them in the oven until golden and crispy. The seasoning will add a tangy and peppery flavor that pairs well with the natural sweetness of the potatoes.
  4. Grains and Rice: Add a sprinkle of the seasoning to cooked grains like quinoa, couscous, or rice for a vibrant flavor boost. It can elevate the taste of simple side dishes and turn them into delicious accompaniments for your main course.
  5. Popcorn Seasoning: Sprinkle the seasoning over freshly popped popcorn for a unique and tasty snack. The combination of zesty lemon and peppery spice can provide a refreshing twist to the classic popcorn experience.
  6. Homemade Seasoned Salt: Mix the seasoning with salt to create a homemade seasoned salt blend. This versatile seasoning can be used to season meats, vegetables, or even sprinkled on top of freshly baked bread or roasted nuts.

Remember to adjust the quantity of lemon pepper seasoning according to your taste preferences and the specific dish you’re preparing. Feel free to experiment and get creative with how you incorporate this flavorful blend into your recipes!

Other alternatives

If you don’t have lemon pepper seasoning on hand or prefer to use alternatives, there are a few options you can consider to achieve a similar flavor profile:

  1. Lemon Zest and Black Pepper: Create your own lemon pepper seasoning by combining freshly grated lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper. Use a fine grater to zest a lemon, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Mix the zest with an equal amount of freshly ground black pepper. Adjust the quantities based on your taste preferences.
  2. Lemon Juice and Black Pepper: If you don’t have lemon zest available, you can use freshly squeezed lemon juice as a substitute. Squeeze some lemon juice over your dish, and then sprinkle it with freshly ground black pepper. This combination will provide the tanginess and spiciness that lemon pepper seasoning offers.
  3. Lemon Seasoning Blends: Look for alternative lemon-based seasoning blends that may be available in your local grocery store. These blends often contain a mixture of dried lemon peel or lemon powder along with other herbs and spices. While they may not have the exact flavor profile of lemon pepper seasoning, they can still provide a tangy and citrusy taste to your dishes.
  4. Citrus Zest and Other Spices: If you’re open to experimenting, you can try combining other citrus zest, such as orange or lime, with black pepper and other complementary spices like garlic powder, onion powder, or dried herbs. This can create a unique seasoning blend that adds a citrusy and spicy flavor to your recipes.

While these alternatives may not replicate the exact flavor of lemon pepper seasoning, they can still add a tangy and peppery element to your dishes.

Have a look at our substitutes section for ideas on what you can use in place of black pepper.