How long can you keep freshly squeezed lemon juice in the refrigerator?

Lemon juice is a versatile ingredient that can add bright, fresh flavor to many dishes and beverages. While freshly squeezed lemon juice tastes best, it’s not always practical to squeeze lemons every time you need some juice. Thankfully, properly stored lemon juice can keep for a while in the fridge.

How Long Does Fresh Lemon Juice Last Refrigerated?

The exact shelf life of lemon juice depends on a few factors:

  • Storage method – Freshly squeezed vs. store-bought
  • Acidity – More acidic juice lasts longer
  • Quality – Higher quality juice maintains freshness longer

With optimal storage, here are some general guidelines for how long lemon juice lasts refrigerated:

Type of Lemon Juice Refrigerator Life
Freshly squeezed 3-5 days
Store-bought (pasteurized) 10-14 days
Bottled juice (not from concentrate) 14-30 days

Freshly squeezed lemon juice has the best flavor, but it also has the shortest shelf life. Pasteurized and bottled juices last longer thanks to heat treatment and preservatives. However, they lose some fresh lemon flavor.

How to Store Fresh Lemon Juice

Proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life of lemon juice. Here are some tips:

  • Squeeze juice from fresh, firm lemons. Old or mushy lemons have less acidity.
  • Strain the juice to remove pulp and seeds, which can cause it to spoil faster.
  • Store in a tightly sealed glass jar or bottle. Avoid plastic containers.
  • Make sure lemon juice is cold before refrigerating. Don’t store warm juice.
  • Keep juice in the back of the fridge, not the door. The coldest area maintains freshness.

If you plan to freeze lemon juice for longer storage, pour it into ice cube trays first. Frozen juice cubes can be stored in an airtight freezer bag for up to 6 months.

How to Tell if Lemon Juice Has Gone Bad

Here are some signs that lemon juice has spoiled and needs to be discarded:

  • Cloudy appearance
  • Mold growth
  • Fermented smell
  • Changed texture – thickened or separated
  • Sour taste and flat flavor

Fresh lemon juice may naturally separate a bit in the fridge, leaving a layer of pulp at the bottom of the container. This separation alone doesn’t mean the juice has gone bad. However, if the juice develops any other off qualities, it should be thrown out.

Does Lemon Juice Go Bad or Expire?

Yes, lemon juice eventually goes bad, but contrary to popular belief, it does NOT expire instantly after squeezing. With proper refrigeration, fresh lemon juice can keep for 3-5 days before the quality deteriorates. The high acidity of lemon juice allows it to last longer than other fruit juices before spoiling.

Drinking spoiled lemon juice likely won’t make you sick since the citric acid prevents microbial growth. However, expired lemon juice will simply taste bad, so you’ll want to discard it.

Of course, bottled and pasteurized lemon juice lasts much longer, generally up to a few weeks past the printed expiration date. But the flavor and vitamin content declines over time.

Does Lemon Juice Last Longer in the Fridge or Freezer?

Refrigerating lemon juice is better for short term storage, up to about 5 days. The cold environment slows spoilage but doesn’t stop it completely. If you won’t use lemon juice within a week, freezing is better.

Frozen properly in ice cube trays or bags, lemon juice can last 6-12 months in the freezer. It maintains more flavor and vitamin C content compared to refrigerating juice for that long. Just thaw frozen juice in the fridge when ready to use.

Tips for Using Up Leftover Lemon Juice

To avoid wasting leftover lemon juice, here are some great ways to use it up:

  • Add to dressings, dips, and sauces for a tangy flavor
  • Mix with olive oil for a marinade for chicken, fish, or veggies
  • Add to cooked grains and legumes like quinoa, rice, and lentils
  • Mix with hot water and honey for lemon honey tea
  • Blend with herbs, garlic, and oil for a homemade vinaigrette
  • Mix with plain Greek yogurt for a quick dip or sauce
  • Add to smoothies for extra citrus flavor and vitamin C

Leftover lemon juice also freezes very well. Simply pour it into ice cube trays or muffin tins. Once frozen, pop out the lemon juice cubes and store them in freezer bags. Use cubes as needed to flavor cooking, baking, and beverages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get sick from bad lemon juice?

Spoiled lemon juice likely won’t make you sick since citric acid prevents microbial growth. However, it can have an off taste that makes drinking it unappealing. Any mold that grows on lemon juice would be a risk.

What happens if you drink expired lemon juice?

Drinking expired lemon juice that’s within a few weeks of its use-by date probably won’t cause illness. However, the flavor will become increasingly sour, bitter, and flat the longer past its prime. For peak flavor and nutrition, use lemon juice within the recommended timeframe.

Can lemon juice be frozen after squeezing?

Yes, fresh lemon juice can be frozen after squeezing. To freeze, pour juice into ice cube trays or muffin tins. Once frozen, pop the cubes out and store them in freezer bags. Frozen lemon juice cubes can be used for up to 6 months.

Does boiling lemon juice make it last longer?

Boiling lemon juice helps preserve it for longer by killing any microbes present. However, high heat also degrades the flavor, vitamin C content, and beneficial enzymes in the juice. Refrigeration is a gentler method to extend the shelf life without compromising quality as much.

Can you substitute lime juice for lemon juice?

Yes, lime juice can be substituted for lemon juice in equal amounts. While they have slightly different flavors, both are very acidic citrus juices that function similarly in recipes. Adjust to taste if you want a more pronounced lemon or lime flavor.

Conclusion

When properly stored, fresh lemon juice can keep for 3-5 days refrigerated before losing quality. For longer term storage, freeze juice in ice cube trays for up to 6 months. Keep juice cold, in a sealed container and avoid contamination for best results. Look for changes in appearance, texture and smell to determine if lemon juice has gone bad.

With its bright, citrusy flavor and versatility, lemon juice is a handy staple ingredient for cooking and baking. Follow these refrigeration guidelines so you can always have it on hand when a recipe calls for a little lemon zing.

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