Should You Refrigerate Lemons?

Or is the counter the right spot for citrus?

Despite the fact citrus is stocked at room temperature in grocery stores, you likely see many people (perhaps including yourself) store lemons in the refrigerator. Others will insist they remain at room temperature, placing them in a bowl, much like onions or garlic.

Although lemons make a beautiful kitchen centerpiece stacked artfully in a bowl, that’s not always the best place to put them. For long-term storage, the fridge is your best bet.

But don't just toss them in the fridge willy nilly; let us explain the best place to store lemons in the fridge, and why keeping them cool is the move.

<p>Caitlin Bensel</p>

Caitlin Bensel

Why You Should Refrigerate Lemons

Simply put: They last longer in the fridge. In fact, lemons will last up to four to six weeks in the fridge.

You can safely store lemons at room temperature, but like any fruit, they will start to go bad quicker. On average, you have about a week to use lemons stored at room temperature before they start to dry out, go soft, or worse, begin to mold.

Pro Tip

It's harder to extract all the juice out of cold lemons. We suggest pulling them out of the fridge a couple hours before you're going to use them, so they can warm up before juicing.

Related: How To Store Lemons So They Stay Fresh Longer

How To Store Lemons In The Refrigerator

You could simply toss lemons in the fridge, but to really extend the shelf-life of lemons, proper storage is necessary.

How to store whole lemons

Whole lemons are best kept in the crisper drawer, a low-humidity environment where they can be kept cool and dry. It's a good idea to open the air vents on your crisper drawer to increase airflow to the fruit as well.

Don’t store lemons in plastic bags (including the plastic produce bags from the store), as those bags trap moisture, which can speed up spoilage. This is why bags of lemons from the grocery store come in mesh bags, which allow air to circulate around the fruit.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t store lemons next to melons, bananas, apples, tomatoes, and avocados either. All of these fruits give off lots of ethylene gas, which can cause lemons in their vicinity to spoil faster.

Since there’s only so much room in the fridge, we wouldn’t worry about this too much, but just beware that if lemons are sitting next to super ripe avocados in the crisper drawer, you might need to use them up faster.

How to store cut lemons

Once cut, wrap the cut side of the lemon in plastic wrap, or place in an airtight container. Store it in the fridge, and use within a few days, as once sliced, lemons dry out quickly.

How to store lemon juice

You can store fresh lemon juice in a sealed container, like a jar, for up to four days in the fridge. For long-term storage, freeze the juice. A great way to do so is in an ice cube tray where the juice will be neatly separated into individual portions (about two tablespoons in each well.)

How to store lemon zest

Always zest your lemons! But if you don’t need to use the zest right now, the best way to store it isn’t in the fridge, but the freezer. In a freezer bag or airtight container, the zest can last up to three months in the freezer. You can also use grated zest straight from frozen in salad dressings, cake batters, sauces, and more.

Should You Freeze Lemons?

If you have too many lemons on your hands, and you don’t think you’ll use them in the coming weeks, you can freeze them.

There is one drawback: As with a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables, freezing can change the texture of the fruit (i.e. the lemon will be a little mushy once defrosted).

Unless you are specifically saving them for slices, or to be used whole, we recommend freezing the zest and juice separately for best quality results. Plus, this way some of the prep work is done for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you leave lemons at room temperature?

You can! We suggest storing them in the fridge to make them last longer, but if you know you’re going to use them within a few days, it’s fine to leave them on the kitchen counter.

Does storing lemons in water in the fridge work?

This internet hack does work, but it doesn’t tend to extend the lifespan of a lemon much beyond a month, which is about as long as lemons just placed in the fridge. There’s no harm in doing it; the technique just tends to take up more valuable fridge space.

How do you know when lemons go bad?

Lemons that have gone bad typically become very soft. They may become slimy, look shriveled, or contain visible mold. If your lemons display any of these signs, it’s best to just toss them out.

Related: 49 Lemon Dessert Recipes as Lovely as They Are Sweet

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