27 Extraordinary Fruit & Vegetable Peel Uses

My wife and I love to cook. And when we cook, we tend to use a lot of fresh vegetables. So I wondered what are some of the other vegetable peel uses we could be using the peels and scraps from our fruits and veggies for?

So I decided to do a little bit of tasty research. Here’s what I found out.

There are dozens of uses for fruit and vegetable peels. You can make cleaning products, facial scrubs, homemade stock, and natural dyes. But you can also whiten teeth, get rid of dark circles under eyes and so much more!

So let’s examine all the fruit and vegetable peel uses and answer all the top questions about fruit and veggie peels.

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

So what are the . . .

27 Extraordinary Fruit and Vegetable Peel Uses You Probably Don’t Know?

1.Use orange or lemon peel to help whiten teeth

Citrus naturally contains acid and citric acid is great for helping to brighten and whiten teeth!

Just rub the rind (the inside) directly on your teeth for 1 minute and then rinse with water. Alternately you can grind or finely shave lemon peel and mix with baking soda and water for a natural whitening paste.

Do be mindful to avoid rinsing with lemon juice which can overload teeth with citric acid and cause teeth to lose calcium.

2. Cucumber peels to get rid of ants

Ants HATE cucumbers.

So peel a cucumber and wipe any areas where ants are visible with the cut side of the peel. The smell of the cucumber will deter ants.

Then take your natural pest control one step further and place the cucumber peels by any place where you see ants entering the house; a crack, window, door, etc.

3. Turn apple, potato, sweet potato, and many other veggie peels into chips using an air fryer or food dehydrator

Fresh fruit or veggie chips are a great and healthy snack.

Whether it’s apple, potato, sweet potato, you can use a food dehydrator or an air fryer to turn what would otherwise be waste into a tasty and nutritious snack.

4. Grind lemon or orange peel for a spice rub

Lemon is a great compliment to fish and orange can go great with chicken or pork. So take your old lemon or orange peels and either dehydrate them with a food dehydrator or place on a baking sheet in the oven at 270°.

Once the peels are dry and brittle use a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee grinder and grind the peel into a fine powder.

You can leave as is, or create custom spice blends by adding salt and pepper. Store in old empty spice jars, zip lock bags or small Tupperware.

5. Use lemon peel to clean your coffee pot

Coffee pots build up residue from hard water and other impurities in the water.

Remove the filter and fill the carafe with water. Pour the water into the coffee maker. Take lemon peels and place them in the empty carafe.

Turn the coffee maker on. As the hot water fills the carafe, the lemon peels will naturally release their citric acid which naturally cleans and is naturally antibacterial.

Once it’s done, fish the peels out and run the water through the coffee maker again. Then rinse twice with plain water.

6. Wipe your plant leaves with a banana peel for an instant shine

Who doesn’t love shiny plant leaves?

But misting and spraying plant leaves actually promotes mold growth. Instead, take a banana peel from a freshly peeled banana and with the flesh side, wipe down the leaves of each leaf.

7. Use avocado peels (using the inside) for a facial scrub

Avocado peels are a natural exfoliant.

Using the inside of the peel (a little bit of leftover avocado flesh helps too), gently rub the skin.

It’s especially useful for rosacea and other types of dry skin. The avocado provides Vitamin C, A, B6, and some fatty acids too in every rub.

8. Lemon peel for helping remove hard water stains in pots and pans

Place lemon peels in your pots and pans. Fill with water and bring to a boil on the stove.

Let the water boil for about 5 minutes, pour out the water and scrub the stains away (carefully as the pot will be hot).

Burned on stains? Add a little baking soda to the water (in addition to the lemon) to help get rid of the scorched food stuck to the bottom of the pans.

9. Making natural food colors or dyes

Kids love bright colors. But you know what they don’t need to be eating too much of? Yup, artificial colors.

At one time, our country had over 80 approved artificial colors.  Today, thanks to government regulation, we’re down to 7.

England’s University of Southampton conducted an extensive study on the correlation between the consumption of artificial colors (such as what you regularly find in mac n’ cheese, MnM’s or snacks like Cheetos) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

They found conclusively that consumption of artificial colors led to “a significant increase in ADHD-type behavior, including impulsive behavior and loss of concentration”.

If healthy eating is a concern with your kids, check out more tips about Healthy Eating for Kids over at my sister website Middle Class Dad.

So when it makes sense, use the peels from onion, beets, red cabbage, orange, or lemon to make all-natural dyes you can use from everything from baked goods to jello to Easter egg dyes. Check out some excellent recipes over at Popsugar.

10. Use potato skins to get rid of dark circles under your eyes

Peel your potatoes and chill the slices in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or a freezer for 10 minutes.

Lay flat on a bed or the floor and place the chilled slices over your eyes and keep eyes closed for 10 minutes.

This can help reduce dark circles and puffiness under the eyes.

11. Keep brown sugar soft with orange peels

We’ve all had the experience of trying to use some brown sugar only to find it’s hard as a rock.

Keep brown sugar fresh by pouring it into a Tupperware container or other airtight container. Before sealing, place 1 or 2 pieces of orange peel in with the sugar and close.

In 2-3 hours, the brown sugar will be good as new!

12. Make vegetable stock with almost any vegetable peels or skins

There’s nothing quite like fresh, homemade stock or broth. Canned broth often contains sugars, starches and other chemicals designed to keep it shelf stable or to artificially enhance the flavor.

So take the peels from garlic cloves, onions, potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables and bring to a boil in a large pot of water.

Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the solids and transfer to a large heat-proof container and store in the fridge or freeze.

For a richer flavor, start by sautéing the veggie scraps in olive oil for 5 minutes before transferring to the pot with water.

13. Make tea with apple, orange or lemon peels

Add some black or green tea bags to a pot of water. Then throw in the peels from oranges, lemons, and/or apples. A cinnamon stick would be a great addition too.

Bring the pot to a boil and allow to simmer about 5 minutes and then steep about another 5 minutes once you remove from the heat.

Discard the solids and serve.

14. Use apple, lemon, cucumber and/or orange peels in pitchers of water

You see it at spas everywhere, but if you have a large vessel or pitcher, placing lemon, apple, orange, or cucumber peels in with the water is a great way to add some flavor and another great vegetable peel use.

15. Save lemon, orange, cucumber or apple peels for a martini garnish

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice cocktail every now and then?

Garnish that martini with a twisted piece of lemon or orange peel or go for apple for that next apple martini!

16. Make fritters from potato, carrot, or other root veggie peels

Fritters are a southern food staple. Make up your own using those potato and/or carrot peels or the outer layer of onions.

Chop the peels finely and mix about 2 1/2 cups with 1/4 cup flour, 2 eggs and whatever spices sound good with your veggie mix (maybe salt, pepper & garlic powder).

Scoop into small balls and pan fry in a skillet of hot oil, turning after a minute or 2.

17. Make your own potpourri with orange peels

Nothing makes a house smell better than potpourri.

Unfortunately, a lot of store-bought potpourris is laden with chemicals and artificial scents that can actually aggravate allergies.

Take the peels of oranges and lemons and allow to dry naturally over a few days in a window sill. Combine in a bowl with any combination of dried flowers, pinecones, seed pods.

Add a couple of cinnamon sticks and a handful of cloves and 1 or 2 pods of nutmeg (or just a pinch of ground nutmeg).

To enhance the scent, add a few drops of orange essential oil from a grocery store.

18. Make mulled wine with orange and/or lemon peels

Mulled wine is simply wine that has been gently heated with additional ingredients, the end result of which is probably in the same family as sangria.

In a large pot on the stove, add 2 bottles of wine and the peels from a couple of oranges or lemons. You can add almost anything to that, including:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 Vanilla bean pod
  • 1 cup brandy or port

For a sweeter wine, add up to 1/2 cup of sugar or honey and bring to a simmer; no rolling boil. After a few minutes remove from heat and allow to steep. The longer you steep the stronger the flavor.

19. Of course, it goes without saying that all veggie and fruit peels make for GREAT compost

Making your own compost is a great thing to do with all your fruit and veggie waste if you have your own garden.

Turning food scraps into compost is as much art as it is science. Take the guesswork out of it with the high-rated composter on Amazon, the Envirocycle The Cutest Composter in The World.

The Envirocycle has almost perfect reviews and hundreds of them. It also has free shipping, BPA-free, and no assembly required!

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20. Use orange peels to make a citrus-based cleaner

We’ve all seen and used stuff like Citrisolve, so we know the cleaning power of citric acid.

While you can, of course, buy it, why not use those peels to make your own?

In a large mason jar, stuff it full of orange and/or lemon peels. Top off with white vinegar. Write a date on the jar and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Strain the peels and dilute 1 to 1 with plain water. For easy cleaning, use a clean, empty spray bottle and pour the mixture into the spray bottle.

21. Use a lemon peel to shine up copper pots which tarnish easily

Anyone who has ever used copper pots in the kitchen knows how badly they tarnish.

To remove tarnish simply scrub the copper with the inside side of a lemon peel. For really tough tarnish, sprinkle a tiny bit of baking soda of the peel.

22. Use a banana peel to shine your shoes

Just like you can use a banana peel to shine the leaves of plants, a banana peel actually gives a great shoe shine too!

Using the flesh side of the peel, simply rub on leather dress shoes. For even greater shine, give a quick buff with a dry towel after.

23. Zest lemons and oranges and freeze for later use

LOTS of recipes call for orange and lemon zest.

The problem is if we use one to zest and aren’t using the rest of the orange or lemon at the moment, they can go bad fairly quickly, even in the fridge.

So at a time when you ARE using lemon or orange as a whole, go ahead and zest all the skin into a bowl. Place the zest in a small Tupperware container or small ziplock bag and place in the freezer for when you need it.

24. Add lemon peel to bottles of olive oil for infused oils

Infused oils are a great way to take your recipes and just give them that little extra edge.

While you can infuse olive oil with almost anything (sprigs of rosemary, garlic cloves, chile flakes, etc, lemon or orange peels go great too.

Simply place the peels into the bottle of oil and allow to be completely submerged.

As with ANY infused oil, we want the peels (or other items) to be completely submerged in the oil to avoid mold. If you pour the oil below the level of the peels, either top off with more oil, or go ahead and remove the peels.

To enhance the flavor even more, gently heat the oil and peels in a pot on the stove and then pour back in the bottle (either with or without the peels).

25. Pour a little baking soda on a grease spill and scrub with lemon peels

Greasy messes are part of kitchen life.

While some dish liquids are decent at grease, baking soda and a lemon peel make a great combination for cleaning the grease. Then just wipe clean with a sponge.

26. Pour sugar or salt onto the soft side of a banana peel and use as a face scrub

Let’s face it. We aren’t getting any younger!

But you can use the inside side of a banana peel to give yourself a facial and maybe take years off your looks (or not).

You can mix some sea salt or sugar on the flesh side of the banana peel and gently rub on your skin to exfoliate and moisturize.

27. Pour a little salt on a lemon half or peel and scrub to remove soap scum and water stains in the bath

The bathroom is notorious for soap scum, rings around tubs, and hard water stains.

Just as we did with other messes, you can use lemon peel and a little salt or baking soda to scrub away soap scum and other bathroom stains.

Can vegetable peels be recycled?

The short answer is no if you’re talking about traditional curbside recycling that typically picks up paper, plastic, and glass. Food waste would not go into that mix.

If you have curbside compost pickup, which more and more cities are offering, food waste can definitely go into that.

Do be mindful that food waste will attract rodents and bugs, so you may find it’s not worth the hassle to compost food scraps curbside.

You may decide you would rather just save curbside service for lawn waste or soiled paper products like pizza boxes. But anything that was once alive can definitely be composted.

Is vegetable skin healthy?

The short answer here is yes.

Most vegetables often contain more nutrients in the skin and peel than they do in the flesh of the vegetable.

Thus, while some fruits and vegetables are more appetizing and appealing if you peel them, you will definitely get more nutritional bang for your buck by leaving the peels on.

The peels of most vegetables also contain significantly higher quantities of antioxidants and fiber.

For example, according to the National Institutes of Health, upwards of 31% of the total amount of fiber in a vegetable is contained in the skin. In addition, with fruit, antioxidants are up to 328 times higher in the peel of the fruit than the inside of the fruit.

The fruits and vegetables with the most nutrition in the peels include:

  • Apples
  • Potatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Mango
  • Carrots

What can I do with avocado peels?

The dark green parts of an avocado where the flesh connects to the skin are where avocados nutrition explodes.

In fact, compared to the pale green parts, this has the highest amounts of carotenoids and chlorophylls, both of which help fight free radicals and cancer.

Avocado peels also have more phenols and flavonoids. Phenols and flavonoids both have a significant number of health benefits, including the degeneration of nerve endings.

However, while avocado peels may be nutritious, most of us aren’t chowing down on them anytime soon.

So what else can you do with avocado peels aside from putting them in the trash or compost?

Well for starters, when you eat an avocado, scrape as close to the skin as possible so you eat the maximum amount of those nutrients.

Some varieties of avocado like the Mexicola have skin soft enough to eat. But for most of us, the Haas avocado is what we’re used to in the stores, and that skin is tough and leathery and would not be very appetizing.

All that being said, you can use the peel as an excellent face scrub, scrubbing with the inside of the peel (where the fruit was).

Are tomato peels bad for you?

Tomato skin doesn’t digest in our stomachs, which is why you often see canned tomatoes listed as “peeled”.

That being said, tomato skins aren’t harmful or “bad for you”.

Tomato peels also have a high percentage of the carotenoids found in tomatoes as a whole.

The skin holds most of the flavonols which have been shown in studies to block bacterial growth. So in most cases, experts agree to eat the skin of tomatoes. Plus peeling them is a bit of a pain!

Is the apple skin the healthiest part?

Definitely!

According to SELFNutritionalData, a plain apple with skin contains:

  • 115% more vitamin C
  • 332% more vitamin K
  • 142% more vitamin A

Raw apples with skin even have about 20% more calcium and potassium than peeled apples.

What is found in the skin of fruits and vegetables?

The colors in fruits and vegetables are incredibly healthy for us. Most of the time, it’s the peel that contains the most color.

The color in these peels is often a concentrated source of phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are “the cancer fighters in your foods“, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Vegetable peels are also especially good ways to get your fiber. Fiber helps our overall digestion and intestinal system.

Other kinds of peels, especially apple, are high in pectin. Pectin is a soluble fiber that has been shown lower blood cholesterol, control blood sugar and help fight or prevent cancer.

In the studies, it has been noted that apples with the skin have a much greater impact on cancer cells than peeled apples. This is likely due to the high levels of antioxidants in the apple skin.

Potatoes too, have significantly more iron, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins than the peeled potatoes and like apples, are also rich in antioxidants.

So eat your veggies with the skin on!

Should you peel the skin off of a cucumber?

Personally, I leave the skin on most of the fruits and vegetables I eat, including cucumber.

For cucumber, in particular, I find that the skin holds the cucumber together better as the inside can get a little bit mushy pretty easily.

And while I overall love the flavor of cucumber I like the bite I get that almost exclusively comes from the skin of a cucumber.

Of course, it goes without saying that there’s a lot of nutritional value in the skin as well, so while you definitely can peel a cucumber if you wish, I personally think it’s completely unnecessary.

Did I cover all of the vegetable peel uses you were hoping to find?

In this post, we took a look at all the different ways you can utilize fruit and vegetable peels, scraps and bits that don’t make it into your final meal.

We don’t have to just throw this stuff in the trash or down the disposal.

Vegetable peel uses can really come in handy saving you time, and money, but also adding flavor to other dishes. So don’t see the byproduct of your cooking purely as waste. Get creative!

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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