Everything You Need to Know About Kaffir Limes

Kaffir limes, also called Makrut limes, are famous citrus across the globe. Primarily popular in the tropical Southeast Asian region, kaffir limes are used in various cuisines throughout the countries here. It is one integral ingredient for Thai curries and has been one for centuries. Southern Chinese traditions also consider Makrut a popular component for their medicinal purposes. The popularity of this citrus spread through traders to other continents. Today, kaffir limes are available all around the world. Let’s have a look at everything you should know about these!

Kaffir Lime. A controversial citrus?

a juice made out of lime

Even though this fruit is known for its pungent smell, strong acidic taste, and health benefits, a far more talk-of-the-town is its name. The word “kaffir” in Arabic means disbelievers and infidels. Hence, according to religious affinities, the naming is considered offensive. Researcher David Karp suggests the name incepted from Indian Muslims, who called the fruit Kaffir, implying the fruit came from the Buddhists in Southeast Asia.

According to food author Garrett McCord, Kaffirs were considered dirty and ugly: less than humans. The fruit itself has a rough and bulgy appearance in contrast to a smooth one, indicating that the name was disrespectful to specific races.

In Africa, using this word can have legal consequences as well. It has a connotation with a racial slur.

Where can you use it?

Tom yum kung thai hot spicy soup shrimp with picture of kaffir lime

K-limes have multiple uses. The following are a few for you to try!

Try Some Makrut Lime Cuisines

Not only is the lime itself used, but the leaves of the tree are also an occasional ingredient in Thai curries. The zesty flavor of the juice is perfect for seasoning gravy dishes like curries or soup. We recommend using fewer amounts of it for seasoning as it may become overpowering otherwise. Instead of squeezing the juice out, the fruit is put in gravies as a whole to let the flavors diffuse themselves. A mixture of crushed leaves and zest are also a popular combination-ingredient in Thai dishes, especially in the famous Tom Yum soup. You may utilize the rind of kaffir limes for various pastes or sauces like Thai Lao curry. Lastly, this fruit is also useful for people with a sweet tooth; crystallized juice makes deliciously candied fruit!

Add Kaffir Limes To Your Beauty Care Routines

You may use this well-rounded fruit to make beautiful face masks. With its anti-oxidative and vitamin benefits, the leaves are a prized ingredient and well-advertised on various herbal beauty products such as exfoliators or face wash. Due to the natural glow k-lime provides, it is widely present in anti-aging products.

Additionally, it is also an integral constitution of herbal shampoos and hair masks for hair treatments. The vegetable oil extracted from the leaves has a strong, pungent smell. It may be useful for making perfumes as well.

Use it as Traditional Medicine

The history of k-lime is full of medicinal use. It was a coveted ingredient in ancient Chinese herbal remedies. It is an ideal natural supplement for treating digestive tract problems: it has alkaloids, citronella, nerol, and limonene.

A glass of diluted juice can also help with inflammation, easing the pain of ailments such as migraine or arthritis. Essential oils from the peel of Makrut are used in aromatherapy to reduce stress. You may also use its oils to massage the body to release any physical stress.

Kaffir limes are also used as a hair toner to prevent hair loss. The juice kills head lice. The fruit is also great as a natural dental hygiene product. Utilizing toothpaste with kaffir lime extract or just gargling with dilute lime water can reduce the chances of gingivitis.

Insect bites in Indonesia, Thailand, or the Philippines can be fatal. You can prevent these bug bites by applying a balm or lotion containing kaffir lime essence: the citronella present is a bug repellent. Similarly, extracts from the rind of k-limes are also useful in manufacturing insecticides.

How To Plant & Maintain Kaffir Limes

kaffir limes.

Kaffir lime is a small tree of around 3-4 meters in height. The leaves are distinctly ‘double’ to the family of limes, and the fruit is about 1.5-2 inches wide. The fruit ripens from green to yellow in the late winter season to early spring.

After knowing about the numerous benefits of k-limes, you might be wondering about its gardening tips and tricks. Have a look at how to plant makrut limes below!

Seeding: To plant this tree, all you need to do is grab some seeds and plant them in moist and well-fertilized soil. We recommend sowing seeds in summers. If planting in a pot, place it under direct sunlight. The soil should be well-drained. Since K-limes are cold-sensitive, bring the pot indoors during winters to prevent frosting. They are well suited for temperatures above 16 degrees Celsius (60 F).

Fertilization: Fertilize the soil four times a year with a well suited and organic fertilizer. Hand weed around the base of the plant to avoid damaging the roots slightly above the ground. Since a citrus fruit needs to establish first before becoming suitable for consumption, remove all fruit from the makrut lime tree for the first two years. After that, any fruit grown on the plant is consumable once ripe.

Temperature: K-limes prefer a tropical climate. It is the reason they are found abundantly in Southeast Asia. Make sure to place your plant under direct sunlight at 16-degree Celsius or above temperature for optimum growth.

Soil: Like all citruses, makrut lime needs a thoroughly composted, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil. The soil should be moist at all times to keep up with the needs of the tree. Although this tree is not fussy over its maintenance, we recommend watering it once a day.

Pruning: An essential component for kaffir limes well growth is it’s pruning. Pruning the tree while it is still young ensures better maturation, making the plant more branched and fleshy. To prune, remove any anomalous branches spurting away from the main one of the tree. Try shaping it in a manner to encourage vertical growth as opposed to horizontal. It will create an upright tree, bushy at the top and clear around the bottom. Remove all small emerging shoots below the graft union. The graft union is a bulgy scar visible just above the roots on the stem. Additionally, you may remove any dead, weak stalks, or shoots to help the tree prioritize its growth and development.


K-limes are considered one of the most exotic lines around the world. On the internet, their leaves get sold for nearly $30 an ounce! This citrus fruit comes with many benefits, even if you do not plan to consume or ingest it. With its strong taste and pungent smell, it is a must-try for any citrus lover out there.