Can You Freeze Lemons? Yes, Let Me Show You How!

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Wondering if you can freeze lemons? The good news is that you can! Let me share with you my failsafe guide to freezing lemons. For added bonus points, this technique works well on other citrus fruits such as oranges and limes.

I hate food waste. Did you know that 17% of the food available to consumers – in shops, households, and restaurants – goes directly into the bin? It’s a shocking statistic, particularly because cutting food waste can help beat climate change. Therefore I’m always aiming to further reduce the amount of food I waste.

I’ve already made big strides with this, and I now also compost food waste. However, undoubtedly there is still more that I could do to help reduce what I’m sending to compost. I always think that composting should be the last resort. 

Citrus fruit, in particular, can be hard to compost so it’s a good idea to use as much of it up as possible. With this guide, you can use pretty much all of the lemon with very little waste. 

How To Freeze Lemons

bowl of lemon read to go in the deep freeze

The good news is that when it comes to citrus fruit, such as lemons, you can freeze the zest and juice. What’s more, the best part is that you can freeze individual slices.

Isn’t that pretty revolutionary?! As an occasional gin drinker, the idea of always having a slice of lemon or lime to hand to garnish an impromptu gin is pretty good!

It’s not just that though. Quite often when I’m cooking or baking, the recipe calls for the zest of a lemon or the juice of half a lime. What used to happen to me would be that the rest of the lemon or lime would sit going off in the fridge.

Now this wastage is no more. Any leftover lemon goes straight into the freezer for another day’s cooking, baking, or to be used in beverages.

The only part of a lemon I’m now disposing of is the pith. This composts much more effectively than when I was composting lemon peel. Let me show you how!

The Zest

zesting citrus fruit

I’ve found freezing lemon zest to be a really good way to reduce food waste. Particularly so when a recipe calls for the juice of a lemon but not the zest.

To freeze the zest all I do is grate the lemon skin with a small grater. I then pop a teaspoon of zest into an ice-cube tray. Next, I then add a few drops of lemon juice to the zest. 

Freezing lemons in this manner means that it’s really easy to pop out one portion of zest when you need it. What’s more, the addition of the juice keeps the zest nice and hydrated. No more dried-up zest!

Once frozen, you can remove the cubes from the tray. You can then store the zest cubes in a container or a bag in the freezer, to help free up your ice-cube tray for more food waste reduction action!

I have tried a few methods of freezing lemon zest, and this is definitely the best way. 

Some people say to just add the zest to a small tub in the freezer, but you then have to chisel off some zest when you need to use it. Portioning the zest before you freeze is much more convenient as it helps avoid this need for chiselling!

The Juice

juicing citrus fruit

My preferred method for freezing lemon juice is again, the ice-cube tray method.

If your recipe calls for the juice of half a lemon, then simply squeeze the juice out of the redundant half. Then pour the leftover juice into ice-cube tray compartments, before placing the tray in the freezer. 

For easy portioning, one ice cube is equal to about two teaspoons of lemon juice. Two ice cubes are roughly half a lemon.

freezing lemon juice

Now I don’t have to buy those little plastic lemons/limes full of juice and I’m not wasting any lemons! Win!

Again, once frozen, you can pop the cubes of lemon juice in a tub or bag and keep them in the freezer. This means you don’t have to buy multiple ice cube trays!

Don’t forget to zest your lemon skins too!

The Slices

sliced limes ready to go in the deep freeze

Got half a lemon or lime leftover from cooking?

Well, another way to freeze lemons or limes is to cut them into thin slices. Next, place them in a Tupperware container, and then pop them in the freezer.

To maximise storage space, you can add additional layers of lemon slices. Just make sure you add a layer of greaseproof paper between each layer so that your lemons don’t stick to each other.

It’s a really handy way to freeze citrus fruits. It means I’ve always got a slice for drinks, such as tea, or hot water and lemon. Or for my boozy elderflower cordial!

How Long Can You Store Lemons In the Freezer For?

Frozen lemon juice, slices, and zest can be stored in the freezer for around six to eight months.

It’s good practice to label your tubs or bags with what your items are and the date on which you froze them. This helps eliminate food waste further, as you aren’t left scratching your head trying to remember what something is or how long it’s been at the back of your freezer!

Can You Freeze A Whole Lemon?

limes on a blue plate

You might be wondering if you can just skip all of these steps and just freeze a whole lemon.

Technically speaking, then yes you can freeze whole lemons. I just personally prefer not to. This is because when you defrost the lemon it goes all soft and squidgy. 

A defrosted lemon is perfectly fine for squeezing juice from. However, you do lose the ability to zest the lemon or cut it into slices. I’d rather zest the lemon first and then save the juice, or slice before freezing for beverages. However, it’s your call – you do whatever works best for you.

And that’s my ultimate guide to freezing lemons (and other citrus fruits!). Never let another lemon go to waste in the back of your fridge again!

Check out the rest of my food waste tips for more handy advice! I’ve got tons of posts, including advice on freezing oat milk and freezing canned coconut milk.

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Image of whole and sliced lemons with a blue text box that says cut food waste with the ultimate guide to freezing lemons

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  1. Thank you for showing me how to preserve lemons. My husband bought a huge bag of lemons for me to make lemon juice with. I use three full lemons and pulverise in my food processor with 200g of sugar. Strain the juice out of the resulting mash and make up to 1.5litres with water. Now I can keep the glut of lemons ready to use in my freezer.

  2. After making lemoncello from my oh so fruitful tree, i was left with a lot of naked lemons. Left them in a plastic bag in the fridge (not freezer) for days for lack of time. To my surprise, they kept very well, and eventually i sliced and froze them . My point being that it was very easy slicing without the peel. Kibbutz Diana.

  3. Can I cut my lemons and limes ready for making marmalade and then freeze them for use in smaller batches later on when I have time.

  4. Thanks for the tip on freezing citrus slices to pop into drinks and such. Great idea! Found your site when I was checking online whether you can freeze whole oranges. Just bought some Sevilles on sale for a very special recipe, but i won’t have time to make it for awhile. Worried they’d go bad on me, so I appreciated that advice, too!

    I have an idea for you about using the rinds if you’re into baking. I do the juicing as you do. Then the half-lemons get nested into each other, frozen and added to a bag in the freezer. (There is nothing easier than grating half-citrus rinds for zest while they’re still frozen.) The ones that don’t get turned into zest end up as candied rind. I usually do a candying session in the fall. You can eat the candied rind as is, but the orange is so special dipped in chocolate. I also chop it up for use in Christmas baking. My favourite recipe for candying rind is from Chef Peter Greweling’s book Chocolates and Confections, where he calls it “citrus confit.” If you Google his name with that term, some bloggers have published the recipe at least in part.

    I don’t usually need to juice oranges because I eat them before they go off, and the empty half-rinds go in the freezer for later candying. But I have juiced them and frozen the result when cleaning out the fridge before going on holiday. I keep lime juice in the freezer as well for use in Mexican cooking, Vietnamese pho soup, etc., but the rinds tend to be too bitter for the kind of cooking and baking I do. However, I understand there are uses for dried limes in Middle Eastern cooking. Might have to try that some day! And many people actually dry citrus rinds of all kinds to make powdered zest!

  5. Does anyone wash the lemons or limes with washing up liquid to get rid of that horrible tang from the mineral oil that so often covers them? Try it – you get a purer taste of lemons or limes then.

  6. Hi. Thanks for such a great idea!
    Our fridge is not the automatic defrost kind.. So my concern is, wouldn’t the frozen lemon pieces or juice do bad while the fridge is defrosting or while it is switched off for cleaning or during a lengthy power cut?

  7. Hi there.. great ideas! I have been cutting lemons and limes in about 8 wedges, then cut them in half (or more depending on the size of the fruit) and then place about 2 pieces in each of the cubes, fill with water and freeze. I then have ice cubes for iced tea, cocktails, punch etc. It’s a quick way to have lemons or limes in drinks.

  8. Hi all, I have been using defrosted whole limes for awhile now, I find that limes do freeze well whole
    But they take ages to defrost and you have to use them fast, so many thanks for the slice first
    then freeze method. I will be doing this in the future.
    Sandie Smith U.K.

    1. I’ve never tried freezing a whole one, so I don’t know how well it would stand up to freezing, but I’d imagine it would be quite mushy when you defrost it. I’d cut it into slices – the frozen slices are great in drinks! Otherwise save the juice and zest.

      1. I freeze them whole and grate off the zest while the lemon is still frozen. It’s cold on the hands, but works fine. Then you can either thaw the rest of the lemon to juice, or just keep grating for marmalade or whatever you’re making.

  9. I love all the ideas to use the whole fruits. I didn’t freeze fruits before but love them now that I do. I haven’t used the pith yet but glad to have the info.
    Your directions of freezing were clear and concise. Thanks for that. I don’t like having to spend hours going thru page after page to find the part I need for what I am working on today.
    Thanks again.

  10. Using leftover lemon and lime rinds in the garbage disposal is a great way to deodorize this apparatus, which so often can give off an odor.

  11. It never occurred to me that you could freeze the sliced fruit. The slices would be great in the summer to replace ice. When you said you threw the pith away, it reminded me that I had heard you could use the dried pith as part of a colon cleanse. A quick search showed you can also use it for homemade pectin. So, that could be one less wasted item for you.

    I admire your waste nothing attitude.


  12. This is fab! I bake a lot and have use for the zest but not the juice, so eventually this bald lemon sits and rots on the side until I compost it. You can bet the following day my DD wants pancakes and lemon juice :D I must get back into the habit of using lemon juice for cleaning too; it smells so uplifting…