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Kaffir lime

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Citrus x hystrix
Citrus hystrix on sale
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. hystrix
Binomial name
Citrus x hystrix

The Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix DC., Rutaceae), also known as kieffer lime, makrut, or magrood, is a citrus fruit native to Indonesia. It is widely grown worldwide as a backyard shrub. People usually grow it for its fruit, the lime. The leaves are used for cooking. Vegetable oil obtained from the leaves is used to make perfumes.

The plant

The plant is a very thorny bush with aromatic leaves. The oil obtained from the rind of the fruit can be used as an insecticide. The plant is well-suited to being grown in a container. The green lime fruits are different from other limes because of their bumpy and rough exterior. They are also quite small, about 4 centimetres wide. The leaves are shaped like an hourglass. The leaves, and the leaf-shaped stem are widely used in the cuisine of Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.

Citrus x hystrix leaves are also popular in Cambodia, but less so in Vietnam. Malay, Burmese and Indonesian (especially, Balinese and Javanese; see also Indonesian bay leaf) cuisines use them sporadically with chicken and fish.

The leaves can be used fresh or dried, and can be stored frozen.

Although the most common product of the Citrus x hystrix tree is its leaves (which give a sharp Lime/neroli flavour to Cambodian base paste known as "Krueng", Thai dishes such as tom yum, and to Indonesian food such as sayur assam - literally sour vegetables), the juice and rinds of the small, dark green gnarled fruit (known as jeruk obat - literally medicine citrus) are used in traditional Indonesian medicine.

As for the zest, it is widely used in creole cuisine and to impart flavor to "arranged" rums in the Réunion island and Madagascar.

Other names

Other names for Citrus x hystrix:


The Oxford Companion to Food (ISBN 0-19-211579-0) recommends that the name kaffir lime should be avoided in favor of makrut lime because Kaffir is an offensive term in certain cultures, and also has no clear reason for being attached to this plant. However, kaffir lime appears to be much more common.

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