Most candied citrus zest is made with the very outer layer of the fruit’s skin, leaving almost all of the white pith behind, and it is primarily used as a garnish, adding a kick of acidic sweetness to whatever it tops. This candied grapefruit zest, on the other hand, is meant to be eaten alone. For that reason part of the pith is left on, resulting in a chewier, more substantial version.

Game plan: After draining the zest in step 4, save the grapefruit-flavored syrup to add a twist to your favorite cocktail, or as a substitute for standard simple syrup in lemonade.

Other citrus fruits can be used in this recipe, from oranges to lemons.

This recipe was featured as part of our DIY Holiday Gifts Advent Calendar.

  • Yield: About 3 cups
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 2 hrs 10 mins 
  • Active: 20 mins 

Ingredients (3)

  • 3 medium grapefruits, washed
  • 6 cups water, plus more for blanching
  • 8 cups granulated sugar


  1. Cut 1/2 inch off the top and bottom of one of the grapefruits. Place grapefruit cut side down on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, slice downward, following the curve of the grapefruit, to remove the peel and about 1/2 of the pith (white portion) in large pieces. Slice peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Repeat with remaining grapefruits.
  2. Blanch strips by placing in a large saucepan, covering with about 3 inches of cold water, and placing over high heat. As soon as the mixture boils, remove from heat, drain off water, and repeat process 3 more times.
  3. After strips have been blanched the fourth and final time, drain and set aside. Add 6 cups of the water and 6 cups of the sugar to a large saucepan and stir until sugar is moistened. Add strips and bring mixture to a boil over high heat.
  4. Boil, stirring occasionally, until syrup is thick, surface of liquid is covered with large, opaque bubbles, and zest is completely translucent (the strips will look like gummy worms), about 40 minutes. Pour mixture through a strainer set over a large heatproof bowl; reserve syrup for another use and set zest aside to cool slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Place the remaining 2 cups sugar in a medium bowl and, working in small batches, toss warm strips in sugar. Coat zest thoroughly, then place in a single layer on a rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes. Once dry, place zest in a tightly covered container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.