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Kaffir Lime Leaves

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Kaffir Lime Leaves are an indispensable ingredient in Indonesian cooking as well as other Southeast Asian cuisines. The leaves are usually bruised, crushed, and then added directly to foods, or you can consume them when sliced thinly.

kaffir lime leaves

Other Names for Kaffir Lime

  • Citrus hystrix (scientific name)
  • Makrut (Thai)
  • Jeruk purut (Indonesian)
  • Limau purut (Malay)

Kaffir is a derogatory term in Arabic and used as a racist term of abuse in South Africa. Sometimes, recipes will call the term “makrut” or they are simply called lime leaves or wild lime leaves. However, the term kaffir is still very common, as of this time, there is no consensus on the replacement name.

What is Kaffir Lime Leaves?

Kaffir lime leaves are the leaves from the kaffir lime plant, a shrub that is common in Southeast Asia. The fruit and leaves are used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine and its essential oil is used in perfumery. The top of the thick leaves is glossy and deep green, while the underside is porous and pale, matte green.

The leaves grow in pairs in a double leaf formation, which means two leaves grow on either side of the stem and appear to mirror each other. There is a prominent central vein and the tips of the leaves can be slightly rounded or very pointed.

What Do Kaffir Lime Leaves Taste Like?

The most noticeable thing about kaffir lime leaves is their punchy citrus aroma. Just like the fruit, the leaves have a potent citrus flavor. They are also a bit sour with floral undertones. The flavor is best compared to a combination of lime, lemon, and mandarin, and is unique to taste.

The leaves are usually bruised, crushed, and then added directly into soups, stew, and stir-fry mainly for the aroma. The leaves are not eaten and removed before serving. They can also be eaten like in Rempeyek Kacang recipe, but they must be thinly sliced because they can be quite bitter and tough to eat.

how to slice kaffir lime leaves

Where to Buy?

They are sold fresh, frozen, and dried at Thai specialty markets or other Asian markets. If you can’t find any, the fresh and dried kaffir lime leaves are also sold online on Amazon. Buy fresh when you can get them. Stock the leftover leaves in the freezer for later use. Fresh leaves are the best, but you can use frozen if you can’t find any. 

Fresh leaves will be packaged loosely in a plastic bag, or in bulk, and are sold as the “double leaves”. Dried and frozen leaves are sold in sealed pouches.

How to Choose Fresh kaffir Lime Leaves

When buying fresh kaffir lime leaves, choose the leaves that are dark green in color. They should be fresh, smooth, and slippery when held, and free from brown, yellow, or white spots. Avoid using the leaves that have dried out and are stained. Moreover, try smelling them and look for the ones with a potent aroma.

It is possible to grow the kaffir lime plant at home. If you pick the leaves directly from the tree, then pick the leaves that are at the bottom. They are more mature and will produce the best flavor and aroma.


Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you need to store them for a longer time, freeze the leaves for up to a year. Clean and dry the leaves thoroughly before placing them in a freezer-safe plastic storage bag. Make sure to keep the bag sealed once in the deep freezer to prevent frostbite.

How to Slice

The leaves must be thinly sliced because they can be quite bitter and tough to eat. Here are the steps on how to slice them:

  1. Remove the center vein with a sharp knife.
  2. Stack the leaves.
  3. Sliced the leaves horizontally for short slices.
  4. Roll the leaves and slice thinly for longer slices.

Recipe Using Kaffir Lime Leaves

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