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What foods can you put lemon juice on?

Lemon juice is a versatile ingredient that can be added to many different foods and dishes. The sour, citrusy flavor of lemon juice enhances and brightens up other ingredients. From savory to sweet, lemon juice can provide the perfect acidic kick. In this article, we’ll explore all the different types of foods that pair well with lemon juice.


Lemon juice is a staple ingredient in many salad dressings. It provides acidity to balance out the oil and seasonings. Here are some salads that are complemented by the addition of lemon juice:

  • Green salads – A squeeze of lemon brings brightness to lettuce or mixed greens
  • Fruit salads – Lemon juice keeps cut fruit like apples, pears, and bananas from browning
  • Vegetable salads – Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and onions all pair well with lemon
  • Grain or pasta salads – Lemon brightens up heavy grains and pasta


Lemon juice brings out freshness and enhances the flavor of fish and shellfish. A squeeze of lemon is perfect on:

  • Fish fillets or baked fish
  • Shrimp, lobster, crab, or crayfish
  • Ceviche
  • Oysters and mussels

The acid in the lemon denatures the proteins in the seafood, making the flesh appear opaque and firm. Lemon also balances out any “fishiness” and draws out the natural sweetness.

Chicken and pork

Lemon juice adds bright flavor to chicken and pork dishes:

  • Grilled or baked chicken
  • Chicken or pork roasted with lemons
  • Chicken or pork cooked in a lemon sauce or marinade
  • Lemon chicken piccata

The acidity cuts through the richness of the meat and helps make it tender. Lemon juice is also a natural tenderizer for meats.


Many vegetables pair perfectly with lemon juice. The acid brightens their flavor and helps maintain color and texture. Vegetables to use lemon juice on include:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Roasted potatoes or root vegetables

A squeeze of lemon toward the end of cooking vegetables like spinach, kale, or chard helps them stay vibrantly green.

Rice and grains

The tang of lemon accentuates the nuttiness of rice and other grains. It brings a brightness to the texture. Lemon juice also helps fluff up rice and keeps it from getting sticky. Grains that pair well with lemon juice:

  • White or brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Farro
  • Barley
  • Couscous

Dips and spreads

Lemon juice can be mixed into many dips and spreads to add flavor. The acidity helps balance out the other ingredients.Some options include:

  • Hummus
  • Baba ganoush
  • Tzatziki
  • Guacamole
  • Bean or lentil spreads

Dressings and sauces

Lemon juice is the key sour element in many salad dressings, marinades, and sauce:

  • Vinaigrettes
  • Tartar sauce
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Aiolis and mayonnaises
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Marinades for meats, fish, or tofu

In vinaigrettes, lemon balances the oil and adds brightness. In creamy sauces, it cuts through richness.


Lemon pairs wonderfully with sweet flavors. A bit of lemon juice enhances and brightens all kinds of desserts:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pies
  • Tarts
  • Puddings
  • Frozen treats
  • Fruit desserts

It adds moistness, texture, and that signature tang. Lemon dessert glazes, curds, and custards are also popular ways to incorporate this bright flavor.


Lemon juice is the key sour ingredient in many drinks:

  • Lemonade
  • Iced tea
  • Hot tea
  • Cocktails and mixed drinks
  • Sorbets and slushes
  • Infused water
  • Smoothies

It can be added straight or in the form of simple syrup. Lemon juice mixes equally well with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Pickling and preserving

The acid in lemon juice helps pickle and preserve foods. It can be used to pickle vegetables, fruits, eggs, and more to extend their shelf life. Lemon juice also prevents browning of cut fruits and vegetables.

Cooking applications

Beyond flavoring, lemon juice has several cooking applications:

  • Tenderize meats
  • Curdle milk for ricotta cheese
  • Provide acidity for cake batters and bread doughs
  • Balance out richer, heavier dishes
  • Brighten up the flavor of cooked vegetables
  • Marinate proteins

The acid interacts with the other ingredients for beneficial reactions.


Lemon juice provides some important nutrients. It is a good source of:

  • Vitamin C – One lemon contains over 30mg vitamin C, or around half of the recommended daily amount.
  • Potassium – With about 80mg potassium per lemon, it contributes to electrolyte balance in the body.
  • Citric acid – This dominant acid provides the tangy taste and many health benefits.
  • Bioactive compounds – Lemon contains plant compounds that act as antioxidants and more.

Despite the calories and sugar, the nutrition in lemon juice is worthwhile when used in moderation.

Health benefits

Research shows lemon juice provides the following health benefits:

  • Aids digestion – Helps produce digestive enzymes and stimulates the liver
  • Boosts immunity – Antioxidants and vitamin C support immune function
  • Balances pH levels – Alkalizes the body due to citric acid
  • Promotes heart health – Potassium regulates blood pressure
  • Helps with iron absorption – Vitamin C increases iron absorption
  • Supports weight loss – Pectin fiber helps induce feelings of fullness
  • Acts as a detox – Helps remove toxins and stimulate the liver

There are also benefits for skin, hair, and more when applied topically.

Downsides of lemon juice

Despite the many benefits, lemon juice does have some downsides:

  • Acidic on tooth enamel – Can erode enamel over time, so rinse mouth after drinking lemon water
  • Phytophotodermatitis – Applying juice then sun exposure can cause rashes and burns
  • Gastrointestinal issues – Large amounts may cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Drug interactions – The compounds may interact with certain medications

So enjoy lemon juice in moderation and be aware of how it interacts with your body.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about lemon juice:

Is lemon juice acidic or alkaline?

Lemon juice has a very low pH and is acidic. However, when metabolized it produces alkaline byproducts that help alkalize the body. So it is both acidic and alkaline!

Is fresh lemon juice better than bottled?

Freshly squeezed lemon juice retains more nutrients and flavors compared to commercially bottled lemon juice. However, bottled is more consistent and convenient.

How long does lemon juice last in the fridge?

Properly stored lemon juice can last in the fridge for up to 6 months. To extend the shelf life, store in a tightly sealed container and keep away from light.

What’s the difference between lemon juice and lemon extract?

Lemon extract is made by soaking lemon zest in alcohol to extract oils and flavors. Lemon juice comes from squeezing the lemon pulp. Extract is more concentrated in flavor.

How much juice can you get from one lemon?

On average, one medium lemon yields 2-3 tablespoons of juice. The amount can vary based on the size and ripeness.

Tips for cooking with lemon juice

Here are some tips for buying, storing, and using lemon juice:

  • Roll lemons before juicing to maximize the amount of juice
  • Strain juice to remove any seeds or pulp if desired
  • Use wooden tools and bowls as the acid can react with metal
  • Add lemon juice at the end of cooking to retain the most flavor
  • Pair lemon juice with herbs like dill, basil, thyme, and parsley
  • When baking, add some zest for lemon flavor without too much liquid
  • Substitute vinegar for lemon juice in recipes at a 1:1 ratio
  • Juice and freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays for easy use

With these tips, you can easily incorporate lemon juice into all kinds of recipes!

Food category Examples of foods to use lemon juice on
Salads Green salads, fruit salads, pasta salads, vegetable salads
Seafood Fish fillets, shrimp, lobster, mussels, oysters
Meats Chicken, pork, lamb
Vegetables Asparagus, broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes
Grains Rice, quinoa, bulgur, couscous
Sauces and spreads Hummus, baba ganoush, salad dressings, marinades
Desserts Cakes, cookies, fruit desserts, frozen treats
Drinks Lemonade, iced tea, cocktails, smoothies, infused water


Lemon juice is an endlessly versatile and flavorful ingredient that can be added to all kinds of savory and sweet recipes. Its bright, citrusy flavor provides the perfect balance and enhancement to foods ranging from fish to salads to desserts. Just a small amount of lemon juice can elevate a dish. Next time you’re cooking, don’t forget to reach for the lemons! The possibilities are nearly endless when you put your mind to what foods can be paired with zesty, fresh lemon juice.