What are Makrut Lime Leaves?


with Stephanie Bullen
Chief Flavor Advisor
July 24, 2014
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Tags: curry lime makrut
What are Makrut Lime Leaves?

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s Romeo asked more than 400 years ago. It’s a question that has likely been asked since the beginning of modern language. And it’s a question that we recently had to ask ourselves as well.

Makrut Lime Leaves

What Are Makrut Lime Leaves?

If you are a long time customer, you’ve likely seen and tasted our premium lime leaves. These aromatic leaves add a distinctive lime flavor to some of our favorite handcrafted spice blends like Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning, Barrier Reef Caribbean Style Seasoning, Red Thai Curry, and Thai Green Curry. For nearly ten years we have sold these as Kaffir lime leaves, which is their common industry name and a name widely used in grocery stores and restaurants.

As an industry leader in fresh ground spices and handcrafted seasonings, and as a company that truly cares about our customers, we have chosen to rename this product to makrut lime leaves. Makrut (pronounced mah-krut) is the Thai word used to describe the bumpy-skinned lime that bears the leaves we have come to love. We have a unique opportunity to act as a catalyst for positive change and wanted to share the reasoning for our decision.

It has come to our attention that in certain areas of the world, the word 'Kaffir' is a racial slur. It’s rarely used as an isolated insult but rather as a tool of oppression. We feel strongly that using this word, with such an inflammatory and derogatory meaning, is unacceptable. To upset even one customer by using this word in a product name was never our intention and is cause for change.

In South Africa and other countries, this plant is known as k-lime. The Oxford Companion to Food 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. Current campaigns are striving to change the widespread use of ‘Kaffir’ in the food industry.

Makrut Lime Sea Salt

While we consistently strive to educate our customers about herbs, spices, and their uses, in the interactive environment of our stores, sometimes it’s our customers who educate us. People from different backgrounds, cultures, and even different generations share their personal experiences with food and cooking every day in our shops across the country. It is in the spirit of this cross-cultural education that we have decided to make this product name change and why we take this issue very seriously.


Same Product, New Name

The fragrant lime you have come to know and love is the same high-quality product we have always carried, just by a different name. You will now find these products available in our stores as makrut lime leaves and makrut lime powder. And we have just added a brand new product to this line: Makrut Lime Sea Salt. For years, customers have requested a lime salt and we are very excited to deliver this double infused salt, which packs a flavor punch!

We’ve heard some great ideas for using our new Makrut Lime Sea Salt: sprinkling it on watermelon, rimming a margarita glass, seasoning grilled fish, and adding chili powder for a chili lime salt. Try it to add a citrusy zip to Mango Urfa Salsa or as a finishing salt on Chia Tequila Shortbread. We’d love to hear your recipes for this perfect-for-summer finishing salt!

If you have any recipe ideas, email them to [email protected]

Comments on this Article

(guest), on August 29, 2014

very interesting article. Does your business sell whole sale spices-I am a farmers market vendor and have sold spices for three years quite successfully in an area where there are few spice shops. are there franchise opportunities available while remaining at a Farmer's Market location.? I want to expand my business but not sure how or in what direction at present. I have about 70 spices/blends-teas and lavender... I am at the oldest Farmers Market in our state (since 1982) and we have a strong customer base.thank you Nina

sbullen (registered user) on August 29, 2014

Hi Nina, Thanks for the nice comment and interest. Our wholesale program liaison is Rob and can be contacted at [email protected] Further information about our franchise opportunities can be found at http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/franchise-opportunities-intro.html
Best, Stephanie

(guest), on September 18, 2014

Good save us from political correctness.

(guest), on September 18, 2014

Here is a link to an explanation of the word Kaffir, for those who are interested in knowing why the word is objectionable. I did not know why exactly, and perhaps there are others out there who also don't know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_(racial_term)

sbullen (registered user) on September 18, 2014

Thanks for sharing Leigh!

(guest), on September 18, 2014

It is truely a sad state of affairs that you have to worry about being politically correct about the name of lime leaves.

(guest), on September 18, 2014

I am surprised at Bob and "guest." ...and saddened by your flip remarks. We can all benefit from being sensitive, even for words that we don't know are offensive.

(guest), on September 18, 2014

How about trigro instead of trigger? or that little insect, the chigro instead of a chigger? I generally avoid people and businesses that try oh so hard to be politically correct.

(guest), on September 18, 2014


(guest), on September 18, 2014

I think that when a person or a company discovers that it is being unwittingly insensitive or racist that they are to be lauded when they attempt to change their actions for the better. The fact that some people will complain about you being "politically correct" just goes to show that it IS important. I appreciate this small change and I will continue to support you with my business. Those that have never known racial oppression clearly cannot understand how every little step in the right direction helps. That understanding and empathy are good things. Thank you.

(guest), on May 30, 2015

Brazil nuts. As a white boy growing up in the American Deep South in the '50s and '60s, I heard them called something else, "n----- toes." That is obviously odious to anyone today. It's a good thing that Savory Spice Shops, upon discovering the racist origin of another common food name, elects to change it for themselves. Food is what we all have in common. Our language, should we choose to be universal rather than churlish, should reflect the same.

(guest), on January 07, 2017

I got a jar of Makrut Lime Powder as part of your Brew Meister set this Christmas. While entering it into the inventory of my brewing program, I wanted to learn more about the spice and came to this page. Not only did I learn more about the spice, but I was reminded that an unfortunate number of us knee-jerk a reaction to perceived "political correctness" when the *proper* response should be to acknowledge that the term "kaffir" is as offensive as "nigger" and move on. Being polite and sensitive is a virtue. Thanks to Savory Spice for recognizing this.

(guest), on August 03, 2017

I've never heard this before, so thanks for the helpful information, and thanks for taking this stance in helping to change the common usage to a term that's respectful to all.

(guest), on March 20, 2020

I’m Jewish and even though I’m not a practicing Jew I’m highly sensitive to words and our common ignorance about their origin and use. I’m highly aware of offensive
words for any culture, race, gender, age and mentally or physically challenged individuals.
It’s not just about being sensitive - it is also about being educated and informed.
Well- done Savory Spice Shop.
I’m now a client because I respect your moral values. I’m sure it is the same in the products you carry.

(guest), on October 26, 2020

Hello! US Citrus has partnered with USDA to be certified to provide Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Leaves to the US consumer -all grown on our own Texas groves. https://uscitrus.com/collections/makrut-lime-leaves We’ve also teamed up with Treaty Oak Distilleries, and they use our Markrut Limes to distill their Waterloo line of gins, which are incredible! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWnneTfqqtY YouTubeYouTube | US Citrus The Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Quest: Citrus Treasure Deep in the Heart of Texas

(guest), on June 28, 2021

The use of the word kaffir to refer to that particular lime predates its use as an epithet and has no connection to it whatsoever except as a homonym. I would probably avoid using it in South Africa or in the presence of someone who would be directly offended by it but anywhere else in the world - no problem. With thousands of languages in the world it is inevitable that some similar sounding words will have offensive connotations in different languages. Linguistic ignorance is not an excuse for taking offense when none is intended. https://slate.com/culture/2014/07/kaffir-lime-racist-murky-origins-suggest-a-racial-slur-might-be-responsible-for-the-fruits-name.html As it happens, the very earliest written instance of kaffir lime yet to be uncovered suggests that the word’s origins have nothing to do with the South African slur.* As the Oxford English Dictionary points out, Scottish botanist H.F. Macmillan used the term in his 1910 Handbook of Tropical Gardening and Planting to refer to a lime found in Sri Lanka, the home of the ethnic group that refer to themselves proudly as the Kaffirs. Macmillan lived there for 30 years, and it was there that he wrote his botanical handbook. It is difficult to say how he, and the other people he heard using the term kaffir lime, understood the connotation of the word, but it seems at least possible that the name began innocuously. Given that the earliest evidence of the lime’s name comes from Sri Lanka, lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower told me, “It seems very likely that it comes from that particular strand.”

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