When it’s this easy and delicious to make your own sprinkles, I’d have it no other way. This zero waste recipe uses citrus peel, which would otherwise be tossed in the trash. Peels get sliced and simmered in a sweet syrup until soft and chewy, then tossed in sugar for crunch. These sprinkles are so pretty and sparkly! They keep for months, so once you make them, you’ll look for more reasons to bust them out and celebrate.
I always feel bad throwing food in the trash. This winter, we went a little crazy with the peak-season oranges, lemons, and limes, meaning we have thrown out a LOT of peels. Even though we don’t eat citrus peels, I still feel guilty tossing them.
So I set out on a quest to figure out how to upcycle our citrus peels. I got creative and made a recipe to turn them into sprinkles rather than landfill. If you want to learn how to buy, store and eat citrus, check out how here.
Things to know about store-bought sprinkles
Typical store-bought sprinkles have unhealthy ingredients like corn starch, palm oil and artificial coloring (Walmart).
- Corn itself is nutritionally empty. The way it’s farmed depletes the nutrients in our soil, and fertilizer runoff causes mass dead zones in waterways (NPR).
- Palm oil is not only high in saturated fat, and the industry is highly destructive to the environment. It’s known for mass deforestation, heavy carbon emissions, and the displacement of indigenous people and animals (Smithsonian). There are sustainable palm operations out there, but they are far and few between.
- Artificial food coloring has been shown to poorly affect children’s behavior (NIH).
Now, that’s not the say that sprinkles are the cause of all our world’s problems. They’re not something many of us eat that frequently at all. But If you’re cutting out processed foods altogether, or are trying to spend your money in ethical ways, now you know!
How pretty do these homemade sprinkles look on top of swirly frosting? Each sprinkle is a little different in size and shape, making them a fun addition to your average cake decor.
To test my homemade sprinkles, I made Minimalist Baker’s Best Vegan Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and did it up. Highly recommend both recipes. The cupcakes were amazingly moist and decadent, and the vanilla buttercream… well, it’s buttercream… Welcome into my belly!
It takes about 2 minutes to peel your citrus and add the peels to a saucepan with sugar and water. Cool them on a wire rack, toss in sparkly sugar, and slice into sprinkle-sized pieced. They keep for several months in the fridge or cupboard, so make enough to have them on hand whenever your life simply requires more sprinkles.
If you liked this recipe, rate it and leave a review below! Also, pin it to Pinterest by clicking the Pin button in any of the images or at the top of the post.
Easy Homemade Citrus Sprinkles
- Vegetable peeler
- Knife and cutting board
- 3-4 pieces organic citrus, such as orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup, divided
- Use a peeler to peel the outer layer of peel off the citrus, leaving the white pith intact with the fruit. Reserve the fruit for eating!NOTE: If you want a crunchy sprinkle, use the method above. If you want a chewy sprinkle, peel the citrus as you would if you were eating it by hand (removing the whole peel).
- Slice the peels lengthwise into quarter-inch-wide ribbons, if desired. I skipped this step… Less work!
- Place the peels in a saucepan and add enough water to cover. Boil for 15-25 minutes. This is to remove any slight bitter flavor that may be present. Drain and rinse.
- Add 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar to saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. About 5 minutes.
- Add peels to saucepan and boil over medium heat for 15-30 minutes, or until the liquid becomes thick like syrup and the peels are easily pierced with a fork.
- In the meantime, line a sheet pan with parchment and place a wire rack on top.
- Remove the saucepan from heat. Remove the peels from the syrup, letting any excess syrup drip off into the pan, and place them on the wire rack. This is easiest done with tongs. Be careful, as the syrup is HOT.
- Once cooled, toss peels in remaining sugar one piece at a time until fully coated.
- Let the peels sit out to dry for up to 3 days. The longer they sit out, the crispier they will be.
- Once dry, thinly slice the peels into sprinkle-like strips and store in an airtight container in the fridge or dark cupboard for several months