How to Store Lemons the Right Way
Sick of finding dried lemons in the crisper? Find out how to store lemons so you can keep them fresher for longer.
I have a tendency to buy lemons in bulk. I grab the biggest bag at the store dreaming of the lemony desserts I’ll bake, the refreshing cocktails in my future and how great fresh lemon zest is going to taste in these citrus-infused dinners.
But sure enough, after a few too many days I’ll find a dried-out lemon in the bottom of the crisper drawer. So disappointing since that fruit could have been part of a cool Chilton cocktail after a long work week.
So how do you prevent your lemons from going bad (or at least keep them fresher for longer)? Here’s how!
How to Store Lemons
It can be tempting to store lemons in a pretty bowl on your countertop or kitchen table but avoid the urge to decorate with fresh fruit. Left at room temp, lemons will dry out leaving you with less juice and a tough rind.
Lemons are best kept in the fridge—period. Stashed in the fridge in the crisper drawer or on a shelf, fresh lemons will keep for two weeks or more. If you really want your lemons to last, pop them in a sealed container (there are even specialty produce keepers for this purpose) or a zip-top bag. This extra step will prevent lemons from drying out and keep them fresh for a month.
If you insist upon keeping your lemons on the counter or in a pretty fruit bowl, use them within four to five days. This same advice applies to limes.
How to Store Lemon Juice, Wedges and Zest
If you’ve sliced into a lemon (or lime), you can definitely preserve the rest of it—do not toss it. There’s so much you can do with it!
- Whole lemons: As we said, whole lemons are best kept in the fridge. However, you can also freeze whole lemons. Once solid, pop them into a sealed container for best results. You can defrost them at room temp. They won’t be the same as a fresh lemon, so use these for baking or cooking—not your favorite lemon martini.
- Half a lemon: Used just half a lemon? Cover the exposed end with food wrap or pop in a sealed container. Use it within a few days.
- Lemon juice: You can keep fresh lemon juice in the fridge for a few days without any diminished quality. After a few days, the juice is best used in cooking or baking (not a fresh lemonade). Use it up within two weeks or freeze the rest. Just pop the juice into ice cube trays, remove when frozen and store in a sealed container.
- Lemon wedges and slices: Like a halved lemon, lemon wedges and slices should be stored in a sealed container and used within the week.
- Lemon zest: Don’t throw out a lemon rind without zesting it first! Even if you don’t have an immediate need for lemon zest, keeping some on hand is always a good idea. (This is how to zest a lemon.) A little zest livens up veggie sides and adds zip to baked goods. Use fresh lemon zest within a week. If you want to preserve it for longer, pop it in a sealed container in the freezer.
Tips for Buying and Storing Lemons
What should you look for when choosing lemons?
Like any fresh fruit, look for lemons that are free from bruises, soft spots and any noticeable scars. A good lemon is vivid yellow and will have a little bit of give when squeezed.
Can you zest frozen lemons?
As we said, you can definitely freeze whole lemons, however, you should zest them before freezing. Trying to zest a rock-hard frozen lemon is hard on your Microplane or grater. If you forgot to zest in advance, try a zest substitute, or just let the fruit defrost on the counter.
What fruits shouldn’t be stored with lemons?
Like onions and potatoes, there are some fruit combinations that shouldn’t be stored together. Don’t store apples, bananas, stone fruit or pears with other fruits—including lemons. Apples emit a gas as they age that can cause other fruit to ripen (and then spoil) more quickly.
An easy solution is just to store apples in one crisper drawer and the rest in another.