Can lime juice be left unrefrigerated?

Lime juice is a common ingredient used to add flavor to foods and drinks. It packs a tangy, tart taste and is rich in vitamin C. But because lime juice is an acidic fruit juice, it can spoil if left unrefrigerated for too long.

How long can lime juice be left out?

Freshly squeezed lime juice can be left unrefrigerated for up to 8 hours before it starts to lose quality. After 8 hours at room temperature, lime juice will start to degrade. Leaving it out for longer than 24 hours at room temperature is not recommended.

Here is an overview of how long lime juice can be left unrefrigerated:

Time at Room Temperature Quality
Up to 8 hours Still fresh, retains nutrients and flavor
8 to 24 hours Loses some nutrients and flavor
Over 24 hours Not recommended, juice will spoil and taste unpleasant

But there are some exceptions. Store-bought bottled lime juice or concentrated lime juice that has been pasteurized can be kept unopened at room temperature for up to a year. Once opened, it should be refrigerated and used within 2-4 weeks.

How to tell if lime juice has gone bad

There are a few signs that indicate your lime juice has spoiled and is no longer good to consume:

  • Change in color – Fresh lime juice is a bright green color. As it starts to spoil, it may turn a brown, yellow, or tan color.
  • Mold growth – You may see fuzzy mold growing on the surface of old lime juice.
  • Unpleasant sour smell – Rancid lime juice gives off a potent sour aroma.
  • Bitter, unpleasant taste – Spoiled lime juice will taste bitter, astringent, or off.
  • Fizzing or bubbling – Fermentation causes carbonation in bad lime juice.
  • Separation – Lime juice that has sat for too long may separate, with the clear juice at the top and sediment at the bottom.

Why lime juice needs to be refrigerated

There are a few reasons why fresh lime juice is best stored in the refrigerator:

  • Prevent microbial growth – Refrigeration slows the growth of mold, bacteria, and other microbes that can spoil lime juice.
  • Inhibit enzyme activity – Cold temperatures inhibit the enzymes that cause lime juice to lose flavor and nutrients over time.
  • Slow vitamin C degradation – Exposure to air and light causes vitamin C levels in lime juice to break down more rapidly. Refrigeration preserves vitamin C.
  • Maintain fresh flavor – The cold prevents lime juice from losing its bright, tart taste.

So for the best quality and food safety, homemade or freshly squeezed lime juice should always be kept refrigerated and used within a week or two.

Does lime juice need to be refrigerated after opening?

Once bottled, pasteurized lime juice is opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator. An opened bottle of lime juice has exposure to microbes, light, and air. Refrigeration is necessary to extend the shelf life of opened lime juice.

Here are some lime juice storage guidelines after opening:

  • Refrigerate after opening and use within 2-4 weeks for best quality.
  • Transfer to an airtight container or resealable bottle to prevent air exposure.
  • Look for changes in appearance, texture, or smell that indicate spoilage.
  • Discard if you see mold, fuzz, separation, or other signs of spoilage.
  • Don’t let the juice come in contact with the bottle cap or lid to avoid corrosion.

With proper refrigeration, opened pasteurized lime juice will remain good for several weeks. Just be sure to discard it if you notice any off odors, flavors, or appearance.

How to store lime juice properly

Here are some tips for storing lime juice correctly:

  • Refrigerate promptly – Refrigerate fresh lime juice within 1-2 hours of juicing.
  • Use airtight containers – Store juice in sealed glass bottles or jars with tight lids.
  • Minimize air exposure – Leave only 1/4 inch of headspace in containers and keep lids sealed.
  • Limit light exposure – Store juice in opaque containers out of direct sunlight.
  • Freeze for long-term storage – Frozen lime juice stays good for 6-8 months.
  • Watch for signs of spoilage – Discard if you see changes in color, smell, etc.

With proper refrigeration and storage methods, lime juice can retain its freshness, nutrition, and flavor for much longer.

Does lime juice have to be refrigerated for margaritas?

Yes, it’s best to refrigerate lime juice that will be used in margaritas. There are a few reasons why:

  • Refrigeration inhibits microbial growth from repeated exposure as drinks are made.
  • The chilled temperature of refrigerated lime juice is ideal for a cold, refreshing margarita.
  • Lime juice can lose its bright, tart flavor if left at room temperature too long.
  • Warm or spoiling lime juice may curdle or separate when blended in a margarita.

For best results when making margaritas:

  • Squeeze limes just before serving and add the fresh juice to the drinks.
  • If juicing limes ahead, refrigerate the juice for no more than 24 hours.
  • Use chilled lime juice to avoid dilution from melted ice.
  • Squeeze a little extra juice to allow for straining of pulp if desired.

With its tangy, sour taste, fresh lime juice adds the signature flavor to margaritas and is best added straight from refrigeration.

What is the best way to preserve lime juice?

Here are some effective methods for preserving fresh lime juice:


As covered earlier, refrigeration is key for preserving lime juice. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.


Frozen lime juice stored in airtight containers retains its quality for 6-8 months. Let it thaw in the fridge before using.


Lime juice can be canned by heating sealed, sterile jars in a water bath canner. Canned lime juice keeps for up to a year stored in a cool, dark place.


Adding citric acid or lemon juice helps stabilize lime juice for longer storage. The extra acidity inhibits microbial growth.


Mixing lime juice with sugar makes a syrup that can keep for several months refrigerated. The sugar acts as a preservative.


Combining lime juice and vinegar creates an acidic product that resists spoilage when refrigerated in airtight containers.

For short-term storage, refrigeration is best. For preserving larger batches or long-term storage, freezing, canning, acidification, and mixing with sugar or vinegar help extend the shelf life of lime juice.

What’s the shelf life of bottled lime juice?

Commercially processed and bottled lime juice has a longer shelf life than fresh juice. Here is how long bottled lime juice lasts:

Unopened Bottled Lime Juice

Storage Method Shelf Life
Pantry 12-18 months
Refrigerator 18-24 months

Opened Bottled Lime Juice

Storage Method Shelf Life
Refrigerator 6-8 months
Freezer 1 year

Check bottle best by dates and discard if juice smells, tastes, or looks off. Properly stored, unopened bottled lime juice stays fresh for up to 2 years.

Signs of spoiled lime juice

Look for these signs that indicate your lime juice has gone bad and needs to be discarded:

  • Sour, unpleasant smell
  • Mold or fuzz growing in bottle
  • Changes from bright green to brown, yellow, or cloudy color
  • Bitter, acidic, rancid taste
  • Carbonation – fizzing, bubbling when container opened
  • Curdling, separation, sediment at bottom of container

Dispose of lime juice immediately if you notice it looks, smells or tastes off to avoid foodborne illness.

Tips for using up lime juice

To avoid wasting lime juice, here are some tips for using up leftovers before they go bad:

  • Freeze juice in ice cube trays for adding to drinks later
  • Make dressing, marinade or sauce – lime juice brightens up oil and vinegar dressings, marinades, salsas, etc.
  • Use in ceviche – lime juice “cooks” the seafood in this dish
  • Add to smoothies or shakes for a tangy flavor boost
  • Mix with herbs like cilantro, mint, basil for a quick sauce for chicken, fish, veggies
  • Blend with avocados for guacamole, creaminess balances acidity
  • Preserve with sugar or vinegar to make shelf-stable lime syrup

With a little creativity, lime juice can be used to add a bright pop of flavor to many different recipes and foods.


Lime juice adds delicious tangy flavor, but it can spoil if left unrefrigerated too long. For best quality and safety, store fresh lime juice in the refrigerator and use within 1-2 weeks. Opened pasteurized juice should also be refrigerated. If lime juice smells or tastes unpleasant, it’s best to discard it. With proper storage and handling, lime juice can keep its bright, citrusy taste.

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