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Lemon Juice Substitute: 10 Flavorful and Zingy Alternatives

Knowing a few substitutes for lemon juice is practical when you are out of fresh lemons and need to give a dish the same acidic bite. 

This article describes the ten best alternatives to lemon juice to use in a pinch, which are equally flavorful and zingy.

Lemon juice is a sour, acidic drink with a citrus, tart flavor, which is made by squeezing fresh, ripe lemons. This liquid is pretty versatile since it can flavor water, tea, cocktails, cakes, marinades, and sauces. Additionally, lemon juice tenderizes meat, enhances the taste of cooked seafood, adds flavor to salad vinaigrettes, adds dimension to baked pies, and balances out the sweetness in overly sweet desserts. A lemon juice substitute should have at least some of these qualities.

Lemons have a pH level of around 2, which is why lemon juice serves as a natural preservative for fruits, such as apples and avocados. For example, sprinkling a slice of apple or half an avocado with lemon juice slows down their oxidation, so fruits will remain fresh longer. A substitute for lemon should have a similar pH level if you need a natural fruit preservative.

Citrus juice becomes bitter the longer it sits due to a natural compound called limonin. Use freshly squeezed citrus when replacing lemon juice unless you prefer the bitter taste. 

The best substitutes for lemon juice are lemon zest, lime juice, lemon oil, lemon extract, orange juice, citric acid powder, white vinegar, dry white wine, white wine vinegar, and lemon verbena leaves. Check out useful information about each of these ingredients:

1. Lemon zest

Lemon zest is the next best thing to lemon juice since it comes from the same fruit and requires no processing. Also known as flavedo, lemon zest is the outermost skin of a lemon peel, which can be easily scraped off with a grater to add to your dishes.

Compared to lemon juice, the zest doesn’t have the same tart and acidity, but it still adds a concentrated citrus flavor, thanks to its natural oils. Use lemon zest in any form to replace lemon juice, whether it is fresh, dried, roasted, or frozen. For example, add grated lemon zest to cakes, pies, sauces, marinades, salad dressings, and cocktails.

When using lemon zest in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of zest for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. In baking, lemon zest may change the consistency, so it’s best to mix ½ tablespoon of zest with ½ tablespoon of water to replace 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, in order to maintain the moisture and texture of the baked goods. For measure, remember that an average-sized lemon produces 1 tablespoon of lemon zest.

2. Lime juice

Lime juice is an excellent substitute for lemon juice, thanks to its acidic and tangy with a hint of sweetness. Compared to lemon juice, lime juice is slightly bitter, so the taste of the resulting dish will be different. The other way applies, too, since lemon juice is a fantastic alternative to lime juice.

Use lime juice in many recipes that call for lemon juice, such as margaritas, dressings for fruit salads, iced tea, marinades, guacamole, fish tacos, or ceviche. Lime juice has a pH level of 2-3, similar to lemon juice, which is why it works as a natural fruit preservative.

To get hold of this ingredient, buy lime juice or make it at home by squeezing limes. However, keep in mind that store-bought lime juice contains sulfites, which can trigger asthma attacks.

When using lime juice in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of lime juice for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

3. Lemon oil

Lemon oil is a terrific substitute for lemon juice, thanks to its strong, tangy citrus flavor that adds bright notes to food. This oil is a type of essential oil extracted from lemon fruit.

Use lemon oil to replace lemon juice in sweet and savory dishes, such as seafood, salad dressings, marinades, and desserts. Only a few drops are needed since lemon oil is quite potent. To cook with lemon oil, add a few drops to your dish while it is cooking. The oil will heat up and release its flavor, adding a bright note to your food. Lemon oil also serves as a finishing oil, so drizzle it over food just before serving.

It is possible to buy pure lemon oil or make your own at home. For homemade lemon oil, blend equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, pour the resulting oil into a bottle, and store it in a dark place. Store-bought lemon oil lasts for 1-2 years, while homemade lemon oil lasts for only several weeks when stored in the fridge.

When using lemon oil in place of lemon juice, use 1 drop of lemon oil for 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.

4. Lemon extract

Lemon extract is a great substitute for lemon juice, thanks to its tart, acidic aroma. This extract is a clear, yellowish, viscous liquid made from the infusion of lemon zest in alcohol.

Use lemon extract in many baking recipes that call for lemon juice, such as muffins, pound cakes, frostings, waffles, custards, and mousses.

It is possible to purchase lemon extract or make your own, depending on your preferences. Store-bought pure lemon extract is made from lemon oil and alcohol. To prepare homemade lemon extract, soak lemon peels in a neutral alcohol such as vodka for 5-6 weeks. Both store-bought and homemade lemon extract keep for up to 3-4 years.

When using lemon extract in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of lemon extract for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

5. Orange juice

Orange juice is a great substitute for lemon juice since it has a similar tartness. But orange juice is a little sweeter, so reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Use orange juice in most recipes that call for lemon juice, such as marinades for fish or chicken, salad dressings, vinaigrettes, ham glazes, and sauces.

When using orange juice in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:1 ratio. For example, use 1 tablespoon of orange juice for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

6. Citric acid powder

Citric acid powder is a great substitute for lemon juice when you do not have access to fresh fruit. Also known as sour salt due to its strong resemblance to salt, citric acid powder is white, odorless, crystalline, water-soluble, and acidic with a pH level of 3-6.

It is possible to buy citric acid powder and use it instead of lemon juice to preserve tomatoes, can jam, prevent fruits and vegetables from turning brown, and curdle milk to make buttermilk. The powder adds a citrus, acidic flavor to tea, cocktails, meat curries, salad dressings, marinades, poultry dishes, and rabbit meat.

When using citric acid powder in place of lemon juice, add 1 teaspoon of powder for every ½ cup of lemon juice. The powder does not add moisture to baking goods on its own, so mix it with water or another liquid.

7. White vinegar

White vinegar is a good substitute for lemon juice in recipes where lemon is not the dominant flavor. Otherwise, the pungent smell and taste of white vinegar would muddle the flavor and aroma of the dish.

White vinegar has a pH level of 2-3, so use it to replace lemon juice in recipes that require the same acidity, such as salad dressings, dipping sauces, vinaigrettes, soups, stews, and chicken or fish marinades. Plus, white vinegar serves as a preservative.

When using white vinegar in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of white vinegar for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

8. Dry white wine

Dry white wine is a good substitute for lemon juice that adds taste and depth to food without becoming overpowered by other flavors, thanks to its alcohol content. It goes both ways since lemon juice is a good substitute for white wine in cooking.

There are two key qualities of dry white wine. Firstly, its strong flavor withstands the heat of cooking. Secondly, the wine does not have a lot of sweetness or fruity aromas that would otherwise get lost during the cooking process.

Use dry white wine to replace lemon juice in dishes that require a milder flavor and a relatively higher acidity since dry white wine has a pH level of 3.0-3.4. For example, use dry white wine to make sauces for chicken marsala or pork chops.

When using dry white wine in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:2 ratio. For instance, use ½ tablespoon of dry white wine for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

9. White wine vinegar

White wine vinegar is the next best thing to dry white wine when it comes to replacing lemon juice in cooking. This vinegar has the same strong flavor as dry white wine but lacks the alcohol content and strong acidity. With a pH level of 2.6-2.8, white wine vinegar is closer to lemon juice.

Use white wine vinegar as an alternative to lemon juice in liquid-based dishes, such as salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.

When using white wine vinegar in place of lemon juice, apply the 1:2 ratio. For example, use ½ tablespoon of vinegar for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

10. Lemon verbena leaves

Lemon verbena leaves are a decent substitute for lemon juice when you run out of all the other options. These leaves are a sweet herb with a lemony scent, which grows from the Lemon verbena shrub. Compared to lemon juice, lemon verbena leaves have a milder flavor and lower acidity.

Use lemon verbena leaves to replace lemon juice when preparing mild lemon-flavored ice cream, olive oil-based salad dressings, citrus-flavored sugar or jam, fish, chicken marinades, or tea.

When using lemon verbena in place of lemon juice, start with a pinch of leaves, taste, and adjust as needed.

FAQs

Discover more useful information about lemon juice.

Is lemon juice good for you?

Yes, lemon juice has many health benefits. For example, lemon juice is a rich source of Vitamin C since one lemon contains 50 mg of Vitamin C, which is more than half the amount recommended for a healthy daily lifestyle. Vitamin C is known to improve immunity, encourage heart health, and lower the risk of stroke. Lemon juice is also high in dietary fiber, which reduces LDL to improve heart health.

How much juice is there in one lemon?

It depends on the size of the lemon. For instance, a 4-oz. lemon has 3 tablespoons of juice, a 5-oz lemon has 4 tablespoons of juice, and a 6-oz. lemon has 5 tablespoons of juice.

Can lemon juice be harmful?

Yes, lemon juice can be dangerous when taken frequently and in large quantities. The acid in the lemon juice can erode the enamel on your teeth. You also run the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), which can cause nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.

Closing thoughts

There are many substitutes for lemon juice, and the best one to use depends on what you need it for. If you’re looking for a tart flavor, try lime juice or white vinegar. If you need acidity for cooking, you can use dry white wine or white wine vinegar. And if you’re making a drink that needs bitterness, grapefruit juice is a good option.

What’s your favorite lemon juice substitute? Let us know in the comments below!

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