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Freezing Lemons and Using Frozen Lemons – whole, slices, juice, and zest

Can you freeze lemons? Absolutely! In fact, freezing lemons is a great way to ensure you have that bright, fresh lemon flavor even when lemons aren’t in season.

We have this amazing Meyer lemon tree that came with our house. Each year we try to freeze lemons to last the year. I like to use frozen lemons in a variety of ways to I like to freeze lemons in a variety of ways. I freeze whole lemons, lemons slices, and lemon juice. You can freeze lemon zest but I find I like it better dehydrated.

image of bowl of lemons for freezing

In addition to freezing lemons, I also make preserved (fermented) lemons and dried lemons.

I keep track of my preserved food with these worksheets. You can get them emailed to you by filling out the form below. It’s nice to have all that information of what I preserved each year in one place.

Preparing Lemons to be Frozen

Since we grow our own lemons or get surplus from neighbors who grow their own lemons I know they haven’t been sprayed with anything. So, I don’t feel a need to do more than a quick washing with dish soap and water to prepare them.

Birds like to nest in our tree so there might be bird droppings on some of them and our chickens like to hang out under the tree and kick up dirt with sticks to the lemons. So, they definitely need to be washed even though they are organic.

If you’re using store bought lemons you might want to wash with a bit of apple cider vinegar or vegetable wash. You’ll need to do your own research and decide the pros and cons of it all.

image of frozen lemons

Freezing Whole Lemons

Freezing lemons whole is the easiest way to preserve lemons. After washing them, dry them off and toss them in the freezer. If you have more than one or two lemons you’re freezing, put them in a ziplock bag so they stay together. If you have a lemon that you’re not going to use before it starts to shrivel up, just toss it in the freezer to preserve it.

I freeze 10-12 this way each year to use during the winter for my homemade cold and flu remedies. They work great!

What happens when you freeze lemons like this? When frozen lemons thaw out the texture is mushy, so be aware of that. You won’t want to use them for things that need to look nice. But the flavor is the same as fresh lemons.

In addition to using frozen lemons to make homemade remedies, you can grate a whole frozen lemon. Once the lemon is completely froze, use a cheese grater to grate the whole thing. You’ll want to wear an oven mitt for this because it’s hard to hold a frozen lemon for long.

Then put the frozen grated lemon in a bag or jar and put it back into the freezer. When you want to season a dish or your water put a spoonful of the frozen grated lemon in it.

You can also just grate the frozen lemon as you need it, and put the portion you didn’t need back in the freezer to grate and use later.

This gives you the benefits of the juice and the rind. The essential oil is in the rind and it has some healing properties – but the vitamins are in the juice and that has some great healing properties. If you’re in the habit of putting drops of lemon essential oil in your water each day (which I don’t recommend, by the way), using frozen grated lemons instead will give you all the health benefits of lemon and is much cheaper and environmentally friendly.

image of freezing lemon slices

Freezing Lemon Slices

You can freeze lemon slices the same way you freeze cucumber slices.

  • Wash and dry the lemons
  • Slice the lemons 1/4″ thick
  • Lay lemon slices on baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Put baking sheet in the freezer overnight
  • Once frozen, remove lemon slices and put in ziplock bag 
  • Store frozen lemon slices in freezer

Of course frozen lemon slices are great for infusing water but they can also be used for cooking fish or chicken or used as a garnish.

When the lemon slices thaw out, the juice will most likely be released from the pulp cells. The juice expands when frozen and the cells can (and probably will) burst, especially if the lemons are super juicy like Meyer lemons are. That’s totally fine if you’re dropping a frozen lemon slice into water. It’s not so fine if you’ve laid the bag of frozen lemon slices on the counter and forgot and they all thawed out.

If you’re using them to bake fish, put the lemon slice on before it thaws out, then the juice will permeate the fish while baking. If you’re using it as a garnish and don’t want lemon juice puddling, thaw the lemon slices on a separate plate and then add them as a garnish. Just know that they won’t be nearly as pretty as fresh lemon slices.

image of freezing lemon juice

Freezing Lemon Juice

I’ve used a variety of citrus juices over the years, each one has it’s pros and cons. So don’t get too hung up on using the “right” juicer. We have a hand held juicer, which is great if you only have a few lemons to juice and it quite inexpensive.

I also have a citrus attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer which is good if you have a lot of lemons to juice – but I have noticed that when I’m doing a lot of lemons the juice starts to run down my arm and will even get back behind the attachment sometimes.

Because of that, I now have a small electric citrus juicer that works great, takes up very little space, and is not as messy as the KitchenAid attachment.

I mainly freeze our juice in 16 ounce plastic cups. I have a set of reusable plastic cups that we use for large gatherings that I also use for freezing lemon juice.

Lemon juice can also be frozen in ice cube trays, which I’ll do a few of. But since we mainly use the frozen lemon juice for lemonade I like the cups better, I use one block of frozen lemon juice to make a gallon of lemonade.

To freeze lemon juice in the cups or ice cube trays, fill the cups (or ice cube trays) with lemon juice and put them in the freezer overnight. Once they’re completely frozen, run warm water over the cup to thaw it out just a bit. The juice block should be able to be popped out of the cup when you squeeze the cup. Put the frozen lemon juice blocks in a ziplock bag (I can usually get 4-5 blocks per bag) and store in the freezer.

Do the same for the juice frozen in ice cube trays.

You can freeze lemon juice in glass if you’re not using plastic. Just leave about a couple of inches head space and don’t put the lid on until they are frozen. Also, shorter jars with wide mouths work best for freezing. Here are some more tips for freezing in glass containers.

I also fill a few cups with lemon slices and lemon juice poured over them to freeze. When we have a party, the lemonade has fun lemon slices floating in it.

What you don’t want to do when freezing lemon juice is to just leave it in the open cups or ice cube trays – they need to be transferred to some kind of air tight container. If you don’t, the water in the juice will evaporate over time and leave you with a freezer burned mess.

image of freezing lemon zest

Freezing Lemon Zest

I mentioned earlier that freezing lemon zest isn’t my favorite way to preserve it; I prefer to dehydrate it. But it is possible to freeze lemon zest and lots of people like to preserve zest by freezing it.

Having a zesting tool to zest lemons is really great because a regular grater will often dig too far into the pith which is the bitter white part on the inside of the lemon peel. The pith is great for digestion which is another reason why using a whole grated frozen lemon is good for your health.

But when I am baking with lemon zest, I really don’t want the bitter taste of the peel.

  • Wash and dry the lemons
  • Using a zesting tool remove the peel from the lemons
  • Put lemon zest in a mason jar or ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

Just like the frozen lemon slices, when frozen lemon zest thaws out it releases the oils. So don’t leave the jar of frozen lemon zest out long enough to thaw out. I’ve done this and it’s a huge bummer to see a years worth of lemon zest no longer usable. That’s why I now dehydrate lemon zest instead of freezing it.

image of sliced lemon for freezing

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Susan

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Thank you for this great information. Just wanted to pass along a hint that I've found is helpful when doing anything in the freezer. Get Mr. Clean 's Bliss , Latex -Free kitchen gloves. They're washable, you can use them when canning (I've put my hands in a water bath canner to remove jars) or when sorting food in the freezer. In your tip above, about zesting a whole frozen lemon, they'd give you more accuracy than a pot holder. Blessings!

geina

Saturday 29th of January 2022

Hi there "peeps"! ... wondering what your thoughts are about fermenting (in a brine or salting them North African style) previously frozen lemons or limes? Many thanks ... great site ... geina

Angi Schneider

Friday 4th of February 2022

I think it could work out well, just know that they will be mushy from being frozen first.

Terria Kehr

Monday 12th of July 2021

I am wondering as I have not seen anything about freezing lemons in half’s.

Angi Schneider

Monday 12th of July 2021

Absolutely you can do that. Just know that they will be mushy when they thaw out, which might be what you want. If you use a lot of lemon halves then doing all the cutting on the front end is a good idea.

Ronnie

Thursday 8th of October 2020

I have a very productive lemon tree. Every year I sit down with hundreds of lemons and juice them and store them in containers in my freezer. My freezer just broke and all the juice melted, although they stayed cold and refrigerated. I bought a new freezer. Can I refreeze the juice? I have 21 containers.

Angi Schneider

Saturday 10th of October 2020

As long as they stayed cold, I would refreeze them.

Margaret

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

If you zest the lemon while their frozen can you then dehydrate the zest?

Angi Schneider

Thursday 10th of September 2020

Sure can.