Makrut Lime: The Fragrant and Flavourful Citrus

What is makrut lime?

Also known as kaffir lime, makrut lime (Citrus hystrix) is a citrus species native to Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The fragrant leaves are a key ingredient in Thai cuisines, such as tom yum soup and green curry. The rind is typically used in marinades, dressings and salads. Makrut lime is also popular in Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In addition to its widespread culinary use, makrut lime has been employed in traditional medicine to treat coughs, period pain, foot odour, wound healing, as well as skin and hair care. Makrut lime shows promise in the medical field for its antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties as well as antioxidant activity.

How does makrut lime get its citrus cent?

The leaves contain secretory cavities known as ‘schizogenous secretory cavities, leaf pellucid glands, or pellucid dots‘. These glandular cavities produce, store and release the essential oils responsible for the fresh lemony scent of makrut lime. Secretory cells produce volatile compounds, and the subcuticular space stores them. A cuticle surrounds the secretory cells to protect them and prevent essential oils from being released until they are damaged or disturbed.

The essential oil within the pellucid dots performs a number of functions, including defence against herbivory, protection against pathogenic organisms, insect repellent and attracting pollinators.

Pellucid dots are visible on citrus leaves in bright light. Here is a makrut lime leaf placed in front of a torch, which clearly shows the yellow pellucid dots.

Pellucid spots

Local names for makrut lime:

  • Thailand: Makrūd (มะกรูด)
  • Indonesia: Jeruk purut
  • India: Kaafir laim (काफ़िर लाइम)
  • Malay: Limau purut

Related: Sudachi citrus

At a glance

Family: Rutaceae
Botanical name: Citrus hystrix DC
Common names: Makrut lime, Kaffir lime, Leech lime, Thai lime, Mauritius papeda, Mauritius bitter orange, Kieffer lime, Limau purut, Combavas, Wild lime, Kabuyaw, La chanh
Lifespan: Evergreen tree
Mature height: 3 – 4 metres
Flower colour: White
Leaf colour: Green
Native to: India, South East Asia, Southern China, Malaysia and Thailand
Soil: Free-draining
Humidity: High
Propagation: Cuttings
Care level: Easy

What does makrut lime look like?

Makrut lime leaves

Makrut lime is a perennial which reaches a mature height of 2 – 3 metres.

The bright green compound (double-lobed) reduced-form leaves are alternately arranged in an oval shape and constricted in the middle of the leaf. Kaffir lime leaves contain a complex mixture of volatile essential oils which contribute to the characteristic aroma when the leaves or bruised or cut.

Makrut lime fruit

The subglobose-shaped fruit has a thick and wrinkled surface, which starts out dark green, maturing to a pale yellow/green. Makrut lime fruit is smaller than a typical lime, ranging from 4 – 6 cm long. The flesh is acidic, and sour, with a bitter aftertaste, which makes it unsuitable for eating raw. However, the rind and juice have a number of culinary and therapeutic applications.

The botanical name ‘hystrix‘ is named after a genus of porcupines and relates to the spiny thorns on the branches of makrut lime trees.

How to grow makrut lime

Makrut lime
My homegrown makrut lime

Makrut is an easy-to-grow and rewarding citrus. It is happy in pots or in the ground and is an essential ingredient in Asian cooking. The leaves can be harvested year-round. Due to the difficulty finding makrut leaves and fruit, this is one variety of citrus I highly recommend for the home gardener.

While all citrus trees can be grown successfully in pots, potted citrus trees produce significantly less fruit than those grown in the ground. The limited space and nutrients available in a pot can impact the tree’s ability to develop a strong root system and produce an abundant crop. One horticulturist described it as follows ‘you can get twenty lemons on a citrus in a pot, or 200 from a citrus in the ground‘. Of course, it should be noted it takes approximately 10 years for a citrus tree to reach maturity.

Makrut lime is the exception to this as it is primarily grown for its leaves and not the fruit. Terracotta pots are ideal for makrut, their porous nature means that excess water is absorbed by the pot. My makrut lime grows in a pot on a sunny north-facing deck (Sydney). At the current time of mid-autumn, it has currently has 4-5 mature fruit on it. I harvest makrut lime leaves at least once a week when I prepare a Thai green or red curry. There is so much pleasure gleaned from stepping outside and picking my own fresh makrut lime leaves. When adding to a curry, wash the leaf in cold water, and slice it into thin strips. As a rule, I use makrut lime in a similar way to a bay leaf, it is added to a meal to impart its flavour, but not eaten.

SunFull sun (at least 6-8 hours a day)
SoilFree draining, pH of 5.5-6.5
WateringRegular watering, deep watering once or twice a week, water less in winter
FertiliserUse an all-purpose liquid fertiliser once a month during the active growing period for makrut limes in pots and twice a year for trees in the ground
ZonesTemperate and tropical climate (USDA zones 9-11, tropical and humid climate)
Frost tolerantNot frost tolerant, bring inside during winter if you live in an area with frost
Pests and diseasesSusceptible to citrus leaf miner, aphids, and other pests; can be affected by citrus greening disease
Container growingYes, choose a pot that is at least 40 cm wide
Flowering and fruitingFlowers in late summer followed by green, dimpled fruit in autumn. Remove immature fruit for the first two to three years to allow the tree to focus its energy on growth.
PruningMakrut trees are grafted onto rootstock and it is not uncommon for rootstock suckers to develop under the graft (the site where the citrus cutting attaches). Prune suckers
back, as they can take over the entire tree and compete for nutrients.

All citrus trees are shallow-rooted and do not like plants growing around the roots, therefore it is important to keep the area clear of weeds. A 5 cm layer of mulch will keep weeds down and help to retain moisture during the warmer months. My preferred mulch is sugarcane.

What does makrut lime smell and taste like?

The leaves and fruit of makrut lime are rich in aromatic essential oils including limonene, a terpene compound that is responsible for the citrusy aroma. While the leaves are most commonly used, makrut tart fruit is also edible and can be used to flavour cooked dishes.

Makrut lime fruit is sour and tart, with a bitter edge that differentiates it from other limes. The zest or rind of the fruit imparts a strong, aromatic flavour that is less sweet than other citrus fruits but provides a deeper, more complex taste.

The leaves, when used in cooking, offer a subtle citrusy, herbal and slightly grassy aroma that complements and adds depth to a wide range of dishes, particularly those found in Southeast Asian cuisines such as Thai and Indonesian recipes.

Culinary uses
Thai curry

The leaves of makrut lime impart flavour in Thai, Lao and Cambodian curries, soups and salads. The highly acidic fruit is also edible but has a sour taste, which makes it unpalatable when consumed raw. Its juice and zest are used to add flavour to cooked dishes. Makrut is a major ingredient in Cambodian kroeung, a curry paste,  Laab Gai, a Thai minced chicken salad, tom kha gai, tom yum soup as well as green and red curries.

In Thailand, makrut lime leaves are used in green and red curry, hor mok, tom yum, sticky rice, and stir-fries. The juice of the lime can be used to replace lemons in recipes.

  • Makrut liqueurs
  • Curry pastes
  • Simple syrup
  • Flavoured gin or vodka
  • Makrutcello (a makrut lime version of the better-known limoncello)
  • Tea
  • Makrut butter
  • Marmalade (fruit)
  • Jelly (fruit)
  • Candied (fruit or leaves)
  • Pickled (fruit)
  • The highly aromatic zest adds flavour to vegetables and fish
  • The dried rind can be ground and used as a spice
  • As a herb or in marinades for seafood and chicken dishes

Makrut leaves can be used fresh or dried Remove the central vein, and roll the leaf into a cigar shape, and finely slice it into strips. Add to your favourite Asian recipes.

Makrut lime recipes

Thai Green Curry
Ingredients:

  • 500 g chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2-3 tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 makrut lime leaves, torn
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (e.g., bell peppers, zucchini, bamboo
    shoots)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup Thai basil leaves

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add green curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Stir in half of the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add chicken pieces and cook until mostly cooked through, about 5
    minutes.
  3. Add remaining coconut milk, chicken stock, makrut lime leaves, and mixed vegetables. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and the chicken is fully cooked.
  4. Stir in fish sauce, sugar, and Thai basil. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Serve over steamed jasmine rice.
Tom Kha Gai
Ingredients:

  • 500 g chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 makrut lime leaves, torn
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, smashed and cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 2.5 cm piece galangal, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish
  • Thai bird’s eye chillies, sliced (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Combine coconut milk, chicken stock, makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal in a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle
    simmer over medium heat.
  2. Add chicken and mushrooms, and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Adjust seasonings to taste. If desired, add sliced chillies for extra heat.
  4. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot.
Makrut Lime and Lemongrass Chicken
Ingredients:

  • 750 g lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, outer layers removed and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2.5 cm piece ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp honey or brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine the finely chopped makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, vegetable oil, and honey or
    brown sugar in a large bowl. Mix well to create the marinade.
  2. Add the chicken thighs to the marinade, ensuring they are fully coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to
    overnight for better flavour infusion.
  3. Preheat your grill or broiler on medium-high heat. If using a grill, oil the grates to prevent sticking. If using a broiler, line
    a baking sheet with aluminium foil for easy cleanup.
  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting excess drip off. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  5. Grill or broil the chicken for 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) and the chicken is
    cooked through.
  6. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy with steamed jasmine rice or a side of your choice.
Makrut Lime Fried Rice
Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cold cooked jasmine rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp or chicken
  • 2-3 makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • Optional: 1-2 Thai bird’s eye chillies, chopped, for added heat

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion, and stir-fry until fragrant and softened, about
    2-3 minutes.
  2. Add carrots, peas, and bell pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add cooked shrimp or chicken and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add cold-cooked rice, breaking up any clumps with a spatula. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, ensuring rice is heated through.
  5. Stir in thinly sliced makrut lime leaves, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. If using chillies, add them at this point. Mix well and
    cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Garnish with chopped green onions and serve hot.
Thai Fish Cakes
Ingredients:

  • 500 g white fish fillets (cod, haddock, barramundi, or tilapia),
    roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 2-3 makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green beans, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Sweet chilli sauce, for dipping
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro leaves), for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Combine the chopped fish, red curry paste, makrut lime leaves, beaten egg, fish sauce, and sugar in a food processor and pulse
    until well combined and smooth, but not overly processed.
  2. Transfer the fish mixture to a bowl and fold in the finely chopped green beans.
  3. Shape the mixture into small patties (about 5 cm in diameter) using your hands or a spoon. You should get around 12-15 fish cakes.
  4. Heat about 1.25 cm of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the fish cakes
    in batches, frying for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Be cautious not to overcrowd the skillet.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish cakes from the skillet and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
  6. Serve the Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce for dipping, and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.
Makrut Lime Leaf Coconut Rice
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 4-5 makrut lime leaves, torn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1 tbsp sugar

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the jasmine rice in a fine-mesh strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. This helps to remove excess starch and
    prevents the rice from becoming too sticky.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the rinsed jasmine rice, coconut milk, water, torn makrut lime leaves, salt, and sugar (if
    using). Stir well to ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed.
  3. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Cook the rice for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Be sure not to lift the lid during the
    the cooking process, as it is important to keep the steam inside for even cooking.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes to allow the rice to steam
    and become fluffy.
  6. Remove the lid and gently fluff the rice with a fork to separate the grains. Discard the makrut lime leaves.
Beef Rendang
Ingredients:

  • 1 kg beef chuck, cut into 2.5 cm cubes
  • 2 cans (400 ml each) of coconut milk
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, torn
  • 1 turmeric leaf (optional)
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Spice Paste:

  • 8 shallots
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 5 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water
  • 3 fresh red chillies
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger
  • 2.5 cm piece galangal (or additional ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the spice paste: In a food processor or blender, combine the shallots, garlic, dried and fresh red chillies, ginger, galangal,
    and ground turmeric. Process until you get a smooth paste.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the spice paste, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the oil starts to separate from the paste (about 5-7 minutes).
  3. Add the beef cubes to the pot, and cook until they are browned on all sides.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, turmeric leaf (if using), tamarind paste, palm sugar, salt, ground coriander, and ground cumin. Mix well to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer gently, uncovered, for about 2-3 hours. Stir
    occasionally to prevent sticking. The rendang is done when the beef is tender, and the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or sugar if necessary.
  7. Remove the lemongrass and lime leaves before serving.
Laab Gai (Thai Chicken Salad)
Ingredients:

  • 500 g ground chicken
  • 3 tbsp uncooked jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-2 Thai bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped (adjust to your
    desired spice level)
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped or julienned
  • Lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Toast the uncooked jasmine rice in a dry pan over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Allow it to cool, then grind it using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder until it reaches a coarse powder consistency. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, cook the ground chicken over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces with a spatula as it cooks. Cook
    until the chicken is fully cooked through and any liquid has evaporated.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chopped chillies. Pour this mixture over the cooked chicken, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the toasted rice powder, red onion, green onions, mint leaves, coriander leaves, and finely chopped makrut lime leaves to
    the chicken. Toss everything together until well combined.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more lime juice, fish sauce, or sugar as needed.
Tom Yum Soup
Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2.5 cm pieces and smashed
  • 5-6 makrut lime leaves, torn
  • 2.5 cm piece of galangal, thinly sliced
  • 350 g prawns, peeled and deveined (or substitute chicken, tofu,
    or mushrooms)
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced (or substitute straw mushrooms or
    button mushrooms)
  • 2-3 Thai bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped (adjust to your
    desired spice level)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (or substitute soy sauce for a vegetarian
    version)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1. Bring the chicken or vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add the lemongrass, torn makrut lime leaves, and sliced galangal. Lower the heat and let the broth simmer for 5-10 minutes
    to infuse the flavours.
  3. Add the shrimp (or chicken, tofu, or mushrooms) and the sliced oyster mushrooms to the pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the
    shrimp is cooked through and turns pink. If using chicken, cook for 6-8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Stir in the chopped chillies, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with more lime juice, fish
    sauce, or sugar as needed.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro leaves.
Makrut Lime Sorbet
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup makrut lime leaves, torn or roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (about 4-5 limes)
  • 1 tbsp makrut lime zest (from 4-5 makrut limes)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, and the mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Add the torn or roughly chopped makrut lime leaves to the saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup steep for 30-45 minutes, allowing the makrut lime flavour to infuse.
  3. After the syrup has steeped, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl or container, discarding the makrut lime leaves. Stir in the lime juice, makrut lime zest, and salt. Mix well to combine.
  4. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until it is thoroughly chilled (at least 4 hours or overnight).
  5. Once the mixture is chilled, pour it into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet should have a smooth, soft-serve consistency when done churning.
  6. Transfer the churned sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until it reaches your desired firmness.
  7. When you’re ready to serve the sorbet, remove it from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly.

 

How to store makrut lime leaves

Store unused makrut leaves in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or frozen for up to six months. Dried makrut lime leaves can be stored for up to 12 months.

Drying makrut leaves

Always thoroughly wash the leaves in cold water to remove dust and debris. Thoroughly dry with paper towels.

  • Air dry: Lay the leaves out in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper and store in a cool, well-ventilated area, such as a pantry. It should take 14 days for the leaves to dry.
  • Dehydrator: Arrange leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator tray and place in the dehydrator. It takes between 2 – 3 hours for the leaves to dry.
  • Oven: Preheat oven to 90°C (200°F). Place the leaves in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake until dry, which should take 2 – 3 hours.

Store dried makrut lime leaves in an airtight container and out of bright light for up to 12 months.

Health benefits

Makrut leaves contain citronellal, α-pinene, ß-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, trans-ocimene, γ-terpinene, terpinolene, copaene, camphene, limonene, copene, linalool, ß-cubebene, isopulegol, caryophyllene, citronellyl acetate, citronellyl propionate citronellol, nerolidol, isopulegol, caryophyllene, and δ-cadinene. One study found the main chemical compounds in oils extracted from the peel contained DLimonene, 3Carene, and γTerpinene. [1]

Antimicrobial properties: C. hystrix essential oil (CHEO) contains limonene, citronellal, linalool, β-Pinene: β-Pinene, terpinen-4-ol and coumarins that have antimicrobial properties. Makrut lime leaf extract can reduce the sticky biofilm which forms on teeth by inhibiting the Streptococcus mutans bacterium and may reduce plaque formation and gum disease. One study found 27 chemical compositions acted against a broad range of pathogenic bacteria in the family Micrococcaceae, Streptococcaceae, Listeriaceae, Morganellaceae, Vibrionaceae, Flavobacteriaceae, Xanthomonadaceae and Moraxellaceae.

Antioxidant properties: Makrut lime contains flavonoids, terpenoids, coumarins, phenolic acids and vitamin C which have antioxidant properties that can help neutralise free radicals and protect the body from oxidative stress-related damage.

Traditional uses: In traditional medicine, makrut lime has been used to treat dental disorders, heart disease, dizziness and indigestion. The fruits have been used in traditional Thai medicine to treat headaches and sore throats. Makrut lime juice is said to deter leeches when rubbed on the legs, hence the name ‘leech lime‘. Phytochemicals possess antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, chemopreventive, antioxidant, anticholinesterase, cardio and hepatoprotective effects.

Why is kaffir lime called makrut?

Makrut lime

Portuguese traders brought Africans to Sri Lanka between 300 – 500 years ago to work as soldiers, dock hands and slaves. The workers had their own culture and language and became known as Sri Lankan Kaffirs. The Sri Lankan Kaffirs have become assimilated into Sri Lankan society, however, numbers are dwindling.

The origins of the word ‘kaffir’ are unclear, but it is believed to be derived from the Arabic word ‘kafir’ which means ‘unbeliever’ or ‘infidel’. The term was likely introduced to South Africa by Arab traders and was later adopted by European colonisers.

The word ‘kaffir’ has been used as a racial slur against black people in South Africa since at least the 19th century. It was used by white colonisers to refer to black people in a demeaning and dehumanising way. Today, the word ‘kaffir’ is considered to be a deeply offensive and racist term. Its use is considered hate speech and is prohibited in South Africa.

Kaffir lime is still the most common name for the makrut, but the tide is slowly turning as more people become aware that kaffir is offensive to many people. In June 2021, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has announced he will now use the term ‘lime leaves’. The same year, supermarket giant Waitrose announced they will use ‘makrut lime leaves’ in place of kaffir. Unfortunately, Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths continue to use the word ‘kaffir’.

Is makrut lime the same as bergamot?

Bergamot is frequently mislabelled as makrut lime, but they are different species of citrus. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a citrus native to southern Italy and is primarily used for its essential oils.


Makrut

Bergamot
MakrutBergamot
Scientific nameMakrut Lime (Citrus hystrix)Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
OriginSoutheast AsiaItaly
Plant appearanceSmall, thorny tree with dark green,
double-lobed leaves
Small tree with dark green, oval-shaped leaves
FruitSmall, round or slightly oblong, with a bumpy, green rindSpherical or slightly pear-shaped, with a smooth yellow rind
Fruit useSauces and marinadesNot commonly used in cooking, dried rinds are used in Earl Grey tea
LeavesHourglass (compound) leavesOvate shaped leaves
Leaf useWidely used in Southeast Asian cuisine
AromaStrong, lemony, and highly aromaticFloral, fruity, and slightly spicy
Essential oil useLimited use in perfumery and aromatherapyWidely used in perfumery and flavouring Earl Grey tea
Key aromatic compoundsCitronellal, limonene, β-citronellol, and nerolLinalool, limonene, and linalyl acetate

 

Where can I buy makrut lime?

Makrut can be hard to find in supermarkets, however, specialist fruit and vegetable shops sometimes stock makrut lime leaves. Look for fresh, glossy leaves with no blemishes.

The easiest way to use makrut leaves in cooking is to grow your own. Makrut can grow outside in subtropical and tropical areas, however, in cold climates, it will need to grow in a greenhouse or indoors during the cooler months.

Grafted makrut lime trees are available from specialist nurseries such as Daleys Fruit.

References:

[1] Chemical Content Profile of Essential Oil from Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix DC.) in Tanah Datar Regency and Antibacterial Activity – Elidahanum Husni, Utari Septiana Putri, and Dachriyanus