Lemon slices
Canning, Freezing & More Preserving, Recipes

Freezing Fresh Lemon Slices, Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest

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

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).

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

Lemon slices

Lay lemon slices on a cookie sheet

Frozen lemon slices

Frozen lemon slices

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

Zested lemon

Lemon zest

The rest of that zested lemon is juiced and poured into an ice cube tray. 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.

Each lemon cube (about a tablespoon’s worth) is the perfect serving size to brighten up dishes or drinks.

Juicing lemons

Lemon juice poured into an ice cube tray for freezing

Lemon zest and lemon juice ready for the freezer

The leftover lemon rind can be used to polish a stainless steel sink or chrome faucet; sprinkled with salt to scrub a counter clean; and finally, 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!

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  • Larisa Afanasew from Melbourne

    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.

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  • Stellapuppy

    Thanks. Our Meyer lemon knocks out over 100 lemons a year and we need to find ways to save them.

    • David N Cook

      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

  • Carole

    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.

    • 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.

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  • Cherryl

    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!

    • Interesting! I haven’t tried that, but I do use lemon to treat stains and clean my kitchen from time to time.

  • AH

    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!

    • 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.

      • AH

        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.)

      • Wanda Carroll

        Thanks for the tip! I’ve just started hoarding lemons since I found a good deal on bulk!

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  • Seaslug

    Doesn’t lemon juice acid break down the plastic leeching out dioxin?

    • 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.

  • Dotswords

    Thank you thank you!!!! geat pics too!!

  • Annie

    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.

  • lolita

    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.

  • Mishmosh

    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!

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  • Sheryl

    Thank you. Exactly the information I was looking for on a great looking page. Going to zest some lemons now….

  • julie

    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.

  • Doris Rollins Meador

    how cold to freeze the lemons on a tree

    • I’m not quite following? This post is about freezing lemons once they’re harvested.

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  • Consuelo

    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!

    • 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.

  • Laura

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

  • John Res

    Nice lemons you got there!

  • Donna

    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.

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  • Sally

    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.  

  • Queen8211

    Do u ever freeze them whole?

    • I do not, since I rarely ever use a whole lemon. I’m also not sure how well it would thaw out.

  • jaytee

      THANK YOU!    (UPPER CASE – LEGALLY BLIND!)  I AM ADDING LEMON ZEST TO  BOUGHT VANILLA  FROSTING.  I GOUGE A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE WITH A WARM (HOT  WATER TAP) BUTTER KNIFE, AND FOLD THE LEMON ZEST IN THE FROSTING AND REFRIGERATE IT.  I ALSO LIKE RUM FLAVOR ADDED THE SAME WAY.
    BOTH OF THESE ARE EXCELLENT ON LEMON POPPY SEED CUPCAKES. 

    JAYTEE  

  • dee

    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
    -Dee

  • LJBizz

    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!!!

  • Chelle

    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.

    • This makes stocking up on a whole bag at the farmers’ market worth it!

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  • Wildoakdesigns (Nancy)

    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!
    Nancy
    wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com
    wildoakdesigns@gmail:disqus .com

    • Lemon confit sounds delicious, I’ll have to look that up!

  • travelingchi

    brilliant! i like how the photos make the instructions dummy proof. 😉

    • LOL! This post actually needs no visuals, but I just love taking pictures of these bright and sunshiny lemons!

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