Culinary Terms K-L


Kaffir Lime

A citrus fruit; the medium-sized fruit has a knobby dark green skin; the leaves look like a figure eight, with two leaves joined together base to tip; the sharply aromatic, citrus-flavored leaves and the fruit’s rind are used as flavorings in Thai cuisine, and the leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine.

Kahlua (kah-LOO-ah)

A dark brown, coffee-flavored Mexican liqueur.

Kaiser Roll

A large, round yeast roll with a crisp crust, used for making sandwiches or served as a breakfast roll; also known as a hard roll or Vienna roll.

Kalamata (kahl-uh-MAH-tuh)

A large blue-black olive native to Greece; usually packed in olive oil or vinegar and slit to better absorb the marinade.


A member of the cabbage family with curly leaves arranged in a loose bunch; the leaf colors, which depend on the variety, range from pale to deep green tinged with lavender, blue or purple to white shaded with pink, purple or green; although all are edible, the green varieties are better for cooking, and the more colorful varieties are better used for garnish.

Kebab (kah-BEHB)

Minced meat or cubes of meat on a skewer, usually marinated before cooking and typically grilled.


A spicy sauce or condiment; it is usually made with the juice of cooked fruits or vegetables such as tomatoes, walnuts and mangos as well as vinegar, sugar and spices; the name may be derived from the Chinese ke-tsiap, which means brine of pickled fish.


1. A large metal pot with a lid and a wire loop handle, usually made of iron.
2. An imprecisely used term for a teakettle.

Key Lime

A small lime with a greenish-yellow skin and a very tart flavor; also known as the Mexican lime, West Indies lime and true lime.

Key Lime Pie

A cream pie made with tart Key limes, usually in a graham cracker- or cookie-crumb crust and topped with whipped cream.


A goat slaughtered when approximately 6 months old; the lean flesh has a tender texture and delicate flavor similar to that of lamb.

Kidney Bean

A medium-sized, kidney-shaped bean with a dark red skin, cream-colored firm flesh, and bland flavor; available fresh, dried and canned; also known as red kidney bean.

Kielbasa (kihl-BAH-sah)

1. A general term used for most Polish sausages.
2. A Polish sausage made from pork flavored with garlic; smoked, usually precooked, and sold in medium to large links; also known as Polish sausage.

King Crab

A variety of very large crab found off Alaska that can grow to 10 lb.; it has an average market weight of 7 lb., a flesh that is white with red edges, and a sweet flavor and coarse texture; also known as Alaskan king crab.

Kirsch (kersch)

A clear cherry brandy; double distilled from small semisweet cherries gathered in Germany’s Black Forest, France’s Vosges region and areas of Switzerland; it has a characteristic bitter almond flavor that comes from the oils derived from the cherries’ crushed stones; also known as Kirschwasser in Germany.

Kitchen Shears

A pair of strong scissors used to cut fish, poultry, meat and produce, crack nuts and remove packaging materials such as bottle caps; sometimes it has tabs to be used as a screwdriver or lever.

Kiwi (KEE-wee)

A small, barrel-shaped fruit native to New Zealand; it has a greenish-brown skin covered with fuzz, a brilliant green flesh that becomes yellower toward the center, many small, edible black seeds, and a sweet-tart flavor; named for the flightless bird of New Zealand; also known as the Chinese gooseberry.

Knackwurst (KNAAK-voost)

A plump German sausage made from beef and pork and seasoned with garlic; the casing makes a cracking sound at first bite; also known as Knockwurst.


1. To work a dough by hand or in a mixer to distribute ingredients and develop gluten.
2. To press, rub or squeeze with the hands.


A sharp-edged instrument used to cut or spread food; it generally consists of a blade and handle.

Kobe Beef (KOH-bay)

Beef from cattle raised in Kobe, Japan; the cattle, massaged with sake and fed a diet that includes large amounts of beer, produce meat that is tender and full flavored.

Kolacky; Kolachke (koh-LAH-chee)

A small, sweet, flaky Polish pastry made with either a yeast dough or cream cheese dough, filled with poppy seeds, jam, nuts or crushed fruit.

Kombu; Konbu (KOME-boo)

Dark brown to grayish-black kelp that is sun-dried and folded into sheets; it is used in Japanese cuisine as a flavoring, stock base and for sushi.


1. The Jewish dietary laws, as found in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and subsequent interpretations; these laws (1) identify kosher foods and ingredients and (2) define basic dietary principles; also known as kashrus.
2. A menu or labeling term indicating that the product has been prepared or processed in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.
3. A food prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

Kosher Foods

Those who keep kosher can only eat (1) meat from animals with split hooves and that chew their cud (cattle, goats and some game; no hogs); (2) poultry that is not a bird of prey; (3) fish with gills and scales (no shellfish); (4) dairy products, provided the animal from which the milk comes is kosher; and (5) all fruits, vegetables and grains, provided animal fat is not used in processing.

Kosher Salt

Purified coarse rock salt; approved for use on kosher meats.


1. A multilayered Christmas pastry filled with fruit or nuts; it is flat, wide and very flaky.
2. A buttery, lemon-flavored Christmas cookie.

K’sra (k’shrah)

A Moroccan round loaf bread made with a sourdough-type starter and a mix of whole wheat, barley and unbleached flours and garnished with caraway seeds.

Kuchen (koo-chen)

Yiddish for something baked and used to describe a yeast dough pastry studded with nuts and raisins and topped with streusel.


A small ovoid to spherical citrus fruit with a soft, thin, golden orange rind, and orange flesh with small seeds, and a tart flavor; the entire fruit is eaten fresh or used for preserves and pickles.


1. A disaccharide occurring naturally in mammalian milk; it is the least sweet of the natural sugars, and many people cannot tolerate it in varying quantities; during digestion it is hydrolyzed into its component single sugars; glucose and galactose; also known as milk sugar.
2. A food additive used as a surface-finishing agent in processed foods such as baked goods.
3. Subject to FDA regulations, a filler in pharmaceutical products.

La Cuite (lah kweet)

A thick, dark sugar syrup cooked until just before it burns and turns bitter; it is used in the American South as a candy, a topping for bread or in baked goods.


1. To move portions of a food using a ladle.
2. A utensil with a cuplike bowl and a long hooked or pierced handle and available in various sizes (the capacity is often stamped on the handle); used to pour sauces and liquids and to push sauces and other foods through a sieve.


A flat, finger-shaped cookie made from a light, sponge cake batter; used as a petit four or to line a pan or mold for desserts.


The meat of a sheep slaughtered when less than 1 year old; it is generally tender and has a mild flavor; also known as a yearling.

Lamb Chop

A fabricated cut of the lamb primal rack; it usually contains one rib (called a single chop) or two ribs (a double chop) and the flavorful, tender rib eye muscle.

Lambrusco (lam-BROOS-co)

1. A red wine grape grown in Italy.
2. A lightly sparkling and somewhat sweet red wine made from this grape through the Charmat process; a dry version is also available.


The technique of layering fat and dough through a process of rolling and folding; this procedure is used to make puff pastry, croissant dough and Danish pastry dough.

Langoustine (lahn-goo-STEEN)

1. A variety of small lobster found in the North Atlantic; it has a yellowish-pink shell, no claws, and a lean white flesh with a sweet flavor.
2. French for prawn.


1. To insert long, thin strips of fat into a dry cut of meat to increase its moistness and tenderness after cooking; also known as interlard.
2. Rendered, clarified and purified pork fat; used as an ingredient and cooking medium; it is very rich.


Diced, blanched, fried bacon.

Lasagna (luh-ZAHN-yuh)

1. Wide, flat Italian pasta sheets with ruffled or smooth edges.
2. An Italian dish made with boiled lasagna layered with cheese (usually ricotta and mozzarella) and meats and/or vegetables and topped with a tomato, meat and/or bechamel and baked.

Late Harvest

1. A wine (usually from California) made from very ripe grapes or ones affected by the noble rot; generally a sweet white wine made from Johannisberg Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc grapes.
2. The benchmark of a labeling system for such wines based on the grape sugar content: Late Harvest, Select Late Harvest and Special Select Late Harvest.


Strips of pastry dough arranged in a crisscross pattern, usually laid on top of a pie or tart.

Lattice Cutter

1. A plastic or metal stencil used to cut a diamond-shaped lattice pattern into rolled-out dough.
2. A rolling cutter with a 6-in. wide axle holding several notched cutting wheels; used to cut a uniform lattice pattern in rolled-out dough; also known as lattice dough roller.


An herb with spikes of aromatic purple flowers and gray-green leaves, principally used for the strong fragrance of its essential oils; the flowers have a sweet, lemony flavor and are also used fresh in Middle Eastern and French cuisines or crystallized and used as a garnish, especially for baked goods.

Lavender Honey

A thick, deep golden-colored honey with a strong, perfumed flavor; principally made from lavender blossoms in France’s Provence region.

Layer Cake

Any cake with two or more layers of cake product joined with an icing or filling; the layers may be baked separately or as one large layer that is sliced horizontally into thinner layers after baking.

Leading Sauces

Also known as mother sauces, the foundation for the entire classic repertoire of hot sauces; the five leading sauces (bechamel, veloute, espagnole (also known as brown), tomato and hollandaise) are distinguished by the liquids and thickeners used to make them; they can be seasoned and garnished to create a wide variety of small or compound sauces.


A food-labeling term approved by the FDA to describe meat, poultry, game, fish or shellfish that contains less than 10 g. of fat, less than 4 g. of saturated fat and less than 95 mg. of cholesterol per serving or per 100 g.


1. To increase the volume of a dough or batter by adding air or other gas.
2. A leavening agent.

Leavening Agent

1. A substance used to leaven a dough or batter; it may be natural (air or steam) , chemical (baking powder or baking soda) or biological (yeast).
2. A type of food additive used to produce or stimulate production of carbon dioxide in baked goods to impart a light texture.


A natural emulsifier found in egg yolks.


A member of the lily family; it has a thick, cylindrical, white stalk with a slightly bulbous root end and many flat, dull dark green leaves; the tender white stalk has a flavor that is sweeter and stronger than that of a scallion but milder than that of an onion and is used in salads and as a flavoring.


A large group of plants that have double-seamed pods containing a single row of seeds; depending on the variety, the seeds, the pod and seeds together or the dried seeds are eaten.


A citrus fruit with a bright yellow skin, an ovoid shape with a bulge at the blossom end, a juicy yellow flesh and a very tart, distinctive flavor.

Lemon Curd

A soft, thick custard made from lemon juice, sugar, eggs and butter; used to fill tarts and cakes and as a spread for sweet breads and scones.


A tropical grass with long, greenish stalks and serrated leaves; the white to pale green inner stalks have a strong lemonlike flavor and aroma and are used fresh in Southeast Asian cuisines; also known as citronella grass.

Lemon Grater

A grater with a flat or slightly convex grating surface with fine teeth; used to remove the zest from citrus fruit.

Lemon Oil

The oil obtained from the lemon; it is used as a flavoring agent, especially in reconstituted lemon juice.

Lemon Verbena

An herb with light green pointed leaves and white or lilac blossoms; it has a strong lemonlike flavor and aroma and is used in tisanes and desserts; also known as verbana.


The small flat seeds of a variety of legumes; sold shelled, dried or cooked.

Lettuce, Head

A general name for any lettuce with leaves that grow in a moderately loose to dense rosette; the two principal categories of head lettuce are butterhead and crisp head.

Lettuce, Leaf

Any variety of lettuce whose ruffle-edged leaves are loose rather than bunched in a head and have a mild flavor; also known as looseleaf lettuce.

Liaison (lee-yeh-zon)

A mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream used to thicken and enrich sauces.


1. A feathery-leafed plant grown in Europe and Asia; its dried root and an extract taken from the root have a distinctive, sweet flavor similar to that of anise or fennel; used as a flavoring in candies, confections, baked goods and beverages.
2. A candy flavored with licorice extract, usually colored red or black.


1. A food-labeling term approved by the FDA to describe a nutritionally altered food with at least 33% fewer calories, 50% less fat or 50% less sodium than the regular or reference food.
2. A wine-tasting term for a wine that is neither full bodied nor heavy.

Lima Bean (LY-muh)

A flat, kidney-shaped bean native to Peru; it has a pale green color that becomes creamy yellow as it matures and a waxy texture; available fresh, dried, canned or frozen; the mature bean is also known as the butter bean and calico bean.


An ovoid citrus fruit with a thin, green skin; smaller than a lemon, it has a juicy, pale green pulp and a very tart flavor.


A hybrid of the lime and kumquat; a small citrus fruit with a pale yellow-green rind, a yellowish flesh and a sharp, fragrant flavor, the entire fruit is eaten or used in preserves.

Limon (lee-MON)

A citrus fruit native to Mexico and the American Southwest; similar to a lemon, it is traditionally served with tequila drinks.

Linguine (lihn-GWEE-nee)

Italian for small tongue and used to describe long, narrow, slightly flattened strands of pasta.

Liqueur (lih-kuer)

A strong sweet drink made from a distilled spirit base sweetened, flavored and sometimes colored with fruits and aromatics; it generally has a high alcohol content, is viscous and sticky and is sometimes aged; often consumed after a meal or used as an ingredient in a cocktail; also known as a cordial.


To reduce a food to a liquid in a blender or food processor.

Liquid Smoke

A basting or flavoring ingredient with an artificial smoky flavor and aroma.


1. A potable liquid containing ethyl alcohol; generally used to refer only to distilled spirits.
2. In brewing beer, the liquid at any stage of the process.
3. The liquid or juice found in oysters.


The measure for volume in the metric system; 11 equals 1000 cubic centimeters of water at 20 degrees C or 33.8 U.S. fl. oz. at 68 degrees F.

Littleneck Clam

An Atlantic hard-shell clam that is under 2 in. across the shell; the shells are tannish-gray and the chewy meat has a mild flavor; often served on the half shell.

Liverwurst (LIHV-uhr-wurst)

Any of several varieties of seasoned sausages made from pork meat and pork liver; the texture can be semifirm to soft; available smoked or cooked in links, loaves and slices.


1. A shaped mass of bread baked in one piece.
2. A shaped, usually rounded or oblong, mass of food, cooked or otherwise prepared in one piece.
3. A mass of otherwise shapeless or loosely shaped food cooked in a loaf pan.


Any of several varieties of crustaceans found in saltwater areas worldwide; generally, they have a jointed body and limbs encased in a reddish-brown to blue-black shell, a large tail, large front claws, and a firm white flesh with a rich, sweet flavor; significant varieties include the Maine lobster, Norway lobster and spiny lobster.

Lobster Thermidor (THUHR-mih-dohr)

A dish of lobster meat bound with a bechamel flavored with white wine, shallots, tarragon and mustard and returned to the shells; it is sprinkled with Parmesan and broiled or covered with a Mornay sauce and glazed under the broiler.

London Broil

A fabricated cut of the beef primal flank; it is a flank steak that is lean and somewhat tough; sometimes lean slabs of meat from the beef round and chuck primals are imprecisely called London broil.


A Cheddar-style cheese made in Wisconsin; it has an orange color and a mild flavor; available in rectangles, cylinders and half-moons.


Diamond-shaped pieces, usually of firm vegetables.