how to freeze lemons

Freezing Lemons, Oranges & Limes

Hello!  Today I’m sharing my ultimate guide to freezing lemons, oranges and limes, as part of Zero Waste Week.

For Zero Waste Week I’m aiming to further reduce the amount of food I waste.  I’ve already made strides with this, but undoubtedly there is still more that I could do.  Citrus fruit can be hard to compost so it’s a good idea to use up as much of it up as possible: with this guide you can use pretty much all of the lemon up with very little waste.

You can freeze the zest and juice of citrus fruits, and, the best part, freeze individual slices of citrus fruit.  Isn’t that pretty revolutionary?!  As a keen gin drinker the idea of always having a slice of lime to hand is pretty good!  There’s so many times when I’ve gone to have a cheeky glass of gin and tonic of an evening and not had a slice of lime!

how to freeze lemons

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.  In that case then the rest of the lemon or lime sits going off in the fridge.  Now this wastage is no more – any leftover parts go straight in the freezer for another day’s cooking.

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.  So, in honour of Zero Waste Week I’ve created the ultimate guide to freezing lemons, oranges and limes.  Enjoy!

How To Freeze Lemons

freezing lemons

How to Freeze Lemon Zest

freezing lemons

I’ve found freezing lemon zest to be really good 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, and then pop the zest into an ice-cube tray.  I then add a few drops of lemon juice to the zest.  Freezing lemons in this manner means it’s really easy to pop out one portion of zest when I need it, and the juice keeps the zest nice and hydrated.

 I’ve tried a few methods of freezing lemon zest – 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 it helps avoid this need for chiseling!

How to Freeze Lemon Juice

freeze lemon zest

freezing lemon juice

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, say, then simply squeeze the juice out the other half and pour it into ice-cube tray compartments.  One ice-cube is equal to about two teaspoons of lemon juice.  Two ice-cubes are roughly half a lemon.

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

Don’t forget to zest your lemon skins too!

How to Freeze Lemon Slices

freezing limes

Got half a lemon or lime left over from cooking?  Another way to freeze lemons or limes is to cut them into thin slices, place in a Tupperware container, and then pop in the freezer.  You can add additional layers of slices – just make sure you add a layer of grease proof paper between each layer of citrus slices.

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

Notes on Freezing Whole Lemons

You can freeze whole lemons, but I personally prefer not to.  When you defrost the lemon it goes all squidgy.  It’s perfectly fine for squeezing juice from but you lose the ability to zest it or cut it into slices.  I’d rather zest the lemon first and then save the juice, or slice before freezing, but it’s your call!

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

Check out the rest of my food waste tips for more handy advice!

how to freeze lemons and limes


  1. 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…

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *