Lemons are a versatile citrus fruit that can be used in a variety of dishes and drinks. Their bright, acidic flavor makes them a popular ingredient in everything from salad dressings to baked goods. Many people like to keep lemons on hand for whenever a recipe calls for them. However, lemons can go bad over time if not stored properly.
Do Lemons Go Bad When Frozen?
Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of lemons. The cold temperatures help slow down the deterioration process, allowing frozen lemons to stay fresh for longer. When frozen correctly, lemons can last for up to 6 months in the freezer before going bad.
There are a few things to keep in mind when freezing lemons:
- Wash and dry lemons thoroughly before freezing
- Freeze lemons whole or sliced into rounds/wedges
- Place lemons in air-tight freezer bags or containers
- Remove as much air from bags/containers as possible
- Label bags/containers with date of freezing
As long as frozen lemons remain continuously frozen, they will not go bad. However, fluctuating freezer temperatures or freezer burn can cause frozen lemons to deteriorate faster. Be sure to maintain a stable freezing environment around 0°F.
How to Tell if Frozen Lemons Have Gone Bad
Despite proper freezing methods, lemons can sometimes still go bad in the freezer over time. Here are some signs that frozen lemons have spoiled and should be discarded:
- Mold growth – Discard lemons at first signs of mold.
- Soft or mushy texture – Frozen lemons should still feel firm. Discard lemons that have turned soft or mushy.
- Off odors – Frozen lemons that give off foul, sour or unpleasant odors have likely gone bad.
- Changes in color – Yellowing, browning or dark spots indicate spoiled lemons.
- Freezer burn – Severe freezer burn can cause frozen lemons to go bad faster.
- Lots of ice crystals – Large ice crystals inside lemons is a sign of improper freezing.
Do a visual inspection and smell test before using frozen lemons. Any lemons that display signs of spoilage should be thrown out.
How Long Do Lemons Last When Frozen?
Properly frozen lemons can be kept frozen for up to 6 months before the quality starts to degrade. The timeline depends on a few factors:
- State of lemon before freezing – Fresher lemons will last longer. Freeze lemons as soon as possible after purchasing.
- Freezer temperature – Colder freezer temps (0°F) extend shelf life versus higher temps.
- Type of freezer – Standalone freezers maintain more consistent temps than refrigerator freezers.
- Freezer burn – Minimize exposure to air to prevent freezer burn.
- Packaging – Air-tight packaging prevents freezer burn and moisture loss.
For best quality, use frozen lemons within 3-6 months. Lemons that have been frozen for over 6 months will become dry and lose flavor.
Tips for Freezing Lemons
Follow these tips for successfully freezing lemons at home:
- Choose fresh, firm lemons free of mold and damage.
- Wash and dry lemons thoroughly.
- Slice lemons or freeze them whole.
- Place lemons in freezer bags or airtight containers, removing air.
- Freeze lemons as soon as possible after purchasing.
- Label bags/containers with date of freezing.
- Store lemons at 0°F or lower.
- Avoid overfilling freezer bags or containers.
- Use frozen lemons within 3-6 months for best quality.
Uses for Frozen Lemons
Frozen lemons are great to have on hand for a multitude of recipes. Here are some of the best uses for frozen lemons:
- Beverages – Thaw and juice frozen lemons for lemonade, tea, punch, water.
- Marinades and dressings – Mix thawed lemon juice into vinaigrettes, marinades.
- Seafood – Thawed lemon wedges for squeezing over fish and shellfish dishes.
- Baking – Add unique flavor to cakes, cookies, breads with frozen lemon zest.
- Sauces – Use lemon juice in pasta sauce, dipping sauce, cheese sauce.
- Desserts – Make lemon curd, pies, tarts.
Frozen lemons are grated for zest or juiced while still partially frozen. Let thaw at room temperature or microwave 10-20 seconds before juicing or zesting.
How to Juice Frozen Lemons
It’s easy to juice frozen lemons. Here are a few methods:
- Let lemons thaw at room temperature for 1-2 hours before juicing.
- Microwave lemons for 10-20 seconds to partially thaw before juicing.
- Grate the frozen lemon peel, then squeeze by hand.
- Process in a blender, food processor or juicer while still frozen.
The juice from frozen lemons has a more concentrated, tart flavor. Thaw larger frozen lemon wedges before attempting to juice by hand to make it easier to squeeze out the juice. Partially frozen lemons are easier to grate for zest as well.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Lemons?
It is not recommended to refreeze lemons after they have been fully thawed. However, lemons that are still partially frozen or slightly thawed can be safely refrozen. Follow these guidelines for refreezing lemons:
- Refreeze lemons immediately after taking them out of the freezer if they are still partially frozen and cold to the touch.
- Do not allow lemons to thaw at room temperature or sit out for over 2 hours before refreezing.
- Squeeze any thawed lemon juice into ice cube trays and refreeze juice cubes.
- Refreeze grated lemon zest in airtight bags or containers.
- Label refrozen bags with new freeze date.
- Only refreeze lemons once for best quality.
Lemons that have been fully thawed for longer than 2 hours should be used immediately instead of being refrozen to prevent food safety issues.
Storing Thawed Lemons
Thawed lemons that won’t be used right away can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Take these steps for proper storage:
- Place thawed lemons in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
- Squeeze out any thawed lemon juice and store separately.
- Refrigerate thawed lemons at 40°F or below.
- Use refrigerated thawed lemons within 5-7 days.
- Do not refreeze thawed lemons that have been refrigerated.
The acidic environment of lemons allows them to last about a week when refrigerated before quality degradation occurs. Always inspect refrigerator-stored lemons and discard any that appear moldy or damaged.
Signs of Bad Lemons
Watch for these signs that indicate spoiled, bad lemons:
- Mold growth
- Wrinkled skin
- Soft or mushy texture
- Dry, spongy fruit inside
- Brown or dark colored juices
- Off odors
- White film on rind
Discard any lemons displaying these signs of spoilage. Only use fresh lemons that feel firm and heavy for their size with smooth, bright yellow rinds. When in doubt, it’s always best to play it safe and throw out lemons that look or smell questionable.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do lemons last in the fridge?
Whole, fresh lemons will last 2-3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer. For maximum freshness, store lemons loose rather than in plastic bags.
Can you freeze lemon slices?
Yes, lemon slices can be frozen successfully. Wash and dry lemons, slice into rounds or wedges, lay in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer slices to freezer bags or containers. Frozen lemon slices will last 4-6 months.
What happens if you freeze lemons whole?
Freezing lemons whole is fine, but it can be difficult to grate or juice them when frozen solid. For easier use, it’s best to slice or wedge lemons before freezing. Whole frozen lemons will still last up to 6 months and can be thawed before use.
Can frozen lemons go bad?
Yes, frozen lemons can still go bad over time. Signs that frozen lemons have gone bad include mold, soft/mushy texture, off odors, and severe freezer burn. Discard frozen lemons at the first signs of spoilage. Properly frozen lemons will maintain quality for about 6 months.
Can you freeze lemon zest?
Lemon zest can be frozen for later use. Zest lemons, spread zest out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze until solid. Transfer to an airtight container or bag and store frozen up to 6 months. Frozen lemon zest maintains its bright flavor well.
The Bottom Line
Freezing is an effective method to extend the lifespan of fresh lemons. When frozen properly in air-tight packaging, whole lemons or sliced lemons can typically last for up to 6 months in the freezer before going bad. Signs that frozen lemons have spoiled include mold, soft texture, freezer burn, and off odors. Thawed lemons can be refrigerated for about 1 week. Follow proper storage methods and use frozen lemons within 3-6 months for best quality and flavor.