3 Easy Ways to Freeze Fresh Lemons

Did you know you can freeze fresh lemons to use later? But it’s not a matter of freezing the whole fruit; you can freeze a lemon while making it much more useful in the kitchen! Here are 3 easy ways to do that so you always have lemons ready in a pinch when a recipe calls for it.

Linda Ly
3 easy ways to freeze fresh lemons

Remember my hefty harvest of lemons from the other week? Of those 60-plus lemons, I put up over half of them in less than an hour and none of it involved a jar (well, just one jar, but not in the way you think).

The trick to preserving all those lemons in a flash? Freeze them!

Lemons are indispensable in the kitchen, but rarely do I ever use a whole lemon at once.

How many times have you wanted just a slice of lemon in your water, or found a recipe that calls for just a tablespoon of lemon juice? After a slice or a squeeze, I’m usually dismayed to find a forgotten, puckered-up lemon wedge in my fridge a week later.

But no more! No more shriveled-up half lemons in the crisper bin. No more running to the store for just one lemon. No more lemon-shaped plastic bottles of artificial lemon juice.

You can freeze your fresh lemons to use all year long with these three simple methods.

Freezing method #1: Lemon slices

Overhead shot of lemon half-slices arranged in rows on a baking tray

To freeze lemon slices that you can drop into drinks, lay them out on a cookie sheet and set them in the freezer for a few hours.

Frozen half slices of lemons arranged on a cream-colored baking tray

Once they’re frozen solid, collect them into a zip-top storage bag, where they’ll stay frozen individually (and not clumped together into a yellow iceberg if you were to freeze all the slices together in the bag).

Frozen half slices of lemons in a plastic zip-top bag next to a cream-colored baking sheet

I like to add a slice or two for a little zip to water or iced tea, or to cool down a too-hot tea.

Freezing method #2: Lemon zest

Wooden cutting board with a mound of lemon zest in the center, with peeled lemons in the background and a green Microplane zester in the foreground

To freeze lemon zest, I use a Microplane to quickly and finely grate the peel. The zest is stored in a glass jar in the freezer and one little pint jar lasts quite a long time.

Closeup of fresh lemon zest in a glass jar shot on a wooden surface

Whenever a recipe calls for that random teaspoon of zest, it’s easy to scoop out as needed.

Freezing method #3: Lemon juice

Closeup of a hand squeezing a lemon with a citrus squeezer, and into a glass measuring cup filled with lemon juice

Now that you’ve got a “naked” lemon, here’s how you can freeze that, too.

Cut your zested lemon in half or in quarters, squeeze out the juice, and pour the juice into an ice cube tray to freeze.

Overhead shot of a white ice cube tray filled with lemon juice

The frozen cubes can stay in the trays, keeping it convenient for you to pop out a cube as needed, or they can go into another zip-top bag for storage. (I usually keep a few bags of lemon slices and lemon juice cubes in the freezer at all times.)

Each lemon juice cube (about one to two tablespoons’ worth for a standard ice cube tray) is the perfect serving size to brighten up dishes or drinks. I like to melt a lemon cube or two into soups that could use a touch of acidity, or thaw a cube to use in sauces and dressings.

Bonus uses in the kitchen

Before you toss those leftover lemon rinds in the compost bin, here’s an easy way to make them go the extra mile.

Use the rinds to clean your kitchen!

You can sprinkle some coarse salt on the cut surface (fleshy side) of a lemon half to scrub a sink, butcher block, or wooden cutting board before rinsing clean with water.

Use another lemon rind to polish a stainless steel (or chrome) faucet or dish drying rack, or to remove stains from stainless steel pots, pans, and cooking utensils.

Another rind or two (or the remnants of your cleaning tasks) can then be ground in the garbage disposal to freshen the drain.

At the end of all this, you’re left with lots of lemons, a spruced-up space and a lovely smelling kitchen!

Yield: Varies

3 Ways to Freeze Fresh Lemons

Overhead shot of lemon half-slices arranged in rows on a baking tray

You can freeze a steady supply of fresh lemon slices, lemon juice and lemon zest to use all year long!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes


  • Fresh Lemons


  1. To freeze lemon slices that you can drop into drinks, lay them out on a cookie sheet and set them in the freezer for a few hours. Once they’re solid, collect them into a zip-top storage bag, where they’ll stay frozen individually (and not clumped together into a yellow iceberg if you were to freeze all the slices together in the bag).
  2. Use a Microplane to quickly and finely grate the peel.
  3. The zest is stored in a glass jar in the freezer and one little pint jar lasts quite a long time. Whenever a recipe calls for that random teaspoon of zest, it’s easy to scoop out as needed.
  4. The rest of that zested lemon is juiced and poured into an ice cube tray. 
  5. The frozen cubes then go into another zip-top bag to save space; I usually keep a few bags of lemon slices and lemon cubes in the freezer at all times.
  6. Each lemon cube (about a tablespoon’s worth) is the perfect serving size to brighten up dishes or drinks.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on February 28, 2012.

View the Web Story on how to freeze fresh lemons.


  1. Thank you for these tips, I truly appreciate them. My special problems is that I have a ponderosa lemon tree which produces a wheelbarrow full of giant lemons; 23 “ around. I actually get 1 cup of juice from one lemon. I freeze large trays of the juice make pies, cakes, muffins, etc. and still I am left with a dozen lemons. I give them to neighbors and friends but what else can I do to preserve these beautiful fruits? Any suggestions? Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the great tips. If you have a lemon tree, do yourself a favor and buy the juicer attachment for your electric mixer. Ours is on its 3rd year, and going strong. We juice over 8 gallons or juice each year and keep looking for new lemon recipes.

  3. I have a tree-full of Meyer lemons I need to pick. I want to preserve the zest, but the last time I tried with regular lemon zest after a few weeks I had unrecognizable black goo in a bag. I am thinking this time I will try putting the zest in ice trays and covering them with juice to freeze.

  4. Thank you Garden Betty! What a great post. I already freeze cubes and slices but never thought the zest would work well. Going to zest now.

  5. I rub lemon juice with sugar onto my hands eg exfoliate then wash it off. It’s amazing how beautiful and soft the skin becomes.

    1. We must have your tree’s twin – I picked 2 Doz just now, so ripe they have that almost orange color to them. One doz+ gave me almost 2qts juice.
      Oxnard Shores, CA

  6. Does the lemon zest need to be frozen in a single layer first, just as the lemon slices do? I’m thinking that if I just zest the lemon and put it into a small jar, it will become one hard lump when frozen.

    1. I usually don’t have a problem with the zest clumping together, since I don’t pack the zest tightly into a jar and I just scrape out what I need with a spoon once it’s frozen. However if that’s a concern, you can spread them out to dry slightly (at room temp or in the fridge) before storing them.

  7. I love the tips for storing an abundance of lemon parts for later use. I try to do that whenever lemons are on sale.

    Another tip for using the rind of a squeezed lemon is to rub it on your face and elbows as a fruit acid treatment. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes before wiping off with a damp cloth. My dermatologist from my teen years told me this trick, and it has kept dark spots and wrinkles at bay. I’m 60 and very happy with the results. Of course, her prescription also included consuming the juice of half a lemon in lots of water daily. That may also be part of the treatment!

  8. i have some lemons that i want to zest and juice for a specific recipe, but i know i’ll have some leftover zest and juice.
    most of the spice jars i find these days are plastic, not glass. will those work? i do have several of the plastic ones, but i’m concerned that they won’t keep the zest properly in the freezer.
    thanks so much for the tips!

    1. If your plastic containers are freezer-proof, they should be fine. If you mean plastic spice jars that you’ve recycled, the plastic might be a little thin so you should use up your zest sooner before it gets freezer burn.

      Just a tip: I save a bunch of the little glass jars that my olives, capers, jams, etc. come in, specifically for storing stuff like this.

      1. thanks, linda. i think i do have a couple of glass jars left. (i used to recycle my empty glass jars, but they’re getting so hard to find these days that i’ve started saving all i can.)

        1. I was thinking and griping about the lack of glass jars just yesterday. Here we are recycling plastic and a lot of people and places don’t even bother. Glass is becoming more scarce by the day and they are reusable. While we are finding out their plastic repacements are not always safe to use, Plus I am getting tired of industry using my family as lab rats. Teflon pans are bad for us, plastic storage containers are not safe (Tupperware!), and we never find out util our families have been exposed for sometimes years, Maybe we women should start a back to glass movement. It’s cheaper to ship and use plastic and we are paying the price in more ways than one! B.K.

    1. Are you referring to the plastic bag or the plastic ice cube tray? The lemons are already frozen by the time they’re bagged (you can store them in a glass container, if you wish) and the juice doesn’t take that long to freeze once it’s in the tray. I’d say the chances of the juice breaking down the plastic in that short amount of time would be highly unlikely. I suppose you could use a silicone or stainless steel tray instead, but those would have their own drawbacks.

  9. My mom is grating and juicing a ton of lemons for 4 separate lemon desserts and we’re going to try this out afterwards. I’ll let you know how this works for those who are curious when we’re done.

  10. Thank you for this article. I, too, was tired of getting around to using the last lemon, only to find it dried out. I just finished putting lemon slices and lemon zest in the freezer. Then it was time for a chore I shun – cleaning the grater. I usually seem to grate one or two of my knuckles in the process. Then I had an idea. When I buy toothbrushes, I usually buy a pack of 5 or 6 (Dollar store for $1) so I can use a new one every couple of months (good hygiene). I thought why not use one of the new ones now? It worked great/grate in two ways: 1) brush out all the lemon zest out of the grater so none was wasted, and 2) use the brush to scrub the grater. Win/win.

  11. I have three freshly zest’d lemons which i am going to juice right now so that i can cube the juice! Great hints – thank you!

  12. Great info. I’ve been freezing little cubes of fresh lemon to make lemon water but the idea of zesting them first is perfect – especially the organic ones. I had not thought of freezing the slices though- perfect for my infusion pitcher.

  13. You made me curious as to why frozen citrus slices are not on the market so I asked Sunkist. This is their reply.

    “We appreciate your interest in Sunkist. When citrus
    freezes, the juice sacs burst, so when it is thawed out the fruit is dry.”

    Sunkist Growers
    Good to know before going to all the work!

    1. My frozen slices have never thawed out into a dry fruit; in fact they’re still as juicy as my fresh slices, but just more soggy (as expected of anything thawed out).

      If you use ripe fruit, you should not have a problem. I’m guessing Sunkist (like most food producers) pick their fruits while still green and then start the ripening process with ethylene gas before shipment. They could never wait until their fruits ripened naturally in order to freeze them for packaging.

  14. Thank you Betty! Lovely photos and easy to see how to freeze my lemons for popping into drinks for a party this weekend!

  15. I have been hearing great things about lemon water which I have been drinking for detoxing in general. I think I will also try to zest oranges and lemons together and see how that goes. I LOVE orange juice but it has a lot of sugar so maybe I’ll give this zesting a try to add to my water. And thanks for the freezing ideas.

  16. Another idea.  I zested 2 lemons and added in 2 ts fresh rosemary that I diced and 1/2 C of sea salt or kosher salt.  It fills 2 small spice jars.  Great with chicken or pork.  Now I’m juicing the lemons and freezing the juice.  

    1. I do- wash them and put into zip top freezer bags, remove however many you need. If you want the zest, grate them while they are still mostly frozen. These are actually easier to juice than fresh ones because the freezing has broken the little juice sacks inside the lemon. They do not dry out in the freezer bag. I have used them almost year later to make lemon meringue pies with and everyone is just as pleased with those pies as ever. Several of my neighbors and friends have begun to do the same and have been satisfied with results- try it with a couple and see for yourself. I planted a Meyer lemon tree just for making my lemon pies- although of course now that I have one, I used them for lots of other things (including gifts since you can’t buy them in stores usually) and get a huge crop each year.



  18. thanks girl! You totally solved my question of whether or not i can freeze lemons and you’ve also given me the bonus tip of how to lay them out!
    Also great picture instructions 🙂 for a person who is not very good with food, you really made it clear

  19. Thank you, thank you, thank YOU!! I knew this would be a great way to save the lemons before they get old. Can’t tell you how many I wasted before actually trying this. Thanks for your post.  PINNED!!!

  20. So awesome. I just pinned this 🙂 I hate those little plastic lemons/limes. Many a lumpy, dried up lemon I have met in my fridge. This totally fixes that problem. Too bad I never find myself with too many lemons or limes. Sigh.

  21. Thanks! Yeah, last year I had a huge harvest of Limes (we call them Limones because they actually get crossed with the lemon right next to it). I did the same thing….
    Have you tried lemon confit? It is a preserving of lemon quarters between layers of sugar and salt. Find it on google…great way to preserve lemons too!
    wildoakdesigns@gmail:disqus .com

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