What's The Difference Between Meyer Lemons And Lemons?

If you're a fan of lemons, then you likely enjoy making lemonade, baking lemon cakes and pies, or mixing a zesty vinaigrette. You probably also always have lemons in the house. In fact, you might even secretly jump for joy when Meyer lemons grace farmers' markets and produce aisles in winter and early spring.

Here's what you need to know about the difference between Meyer lemons and regular lemons and whether you can use them interchangeably.

What Is A Meyer Lemon?

Meyer lemons are considered to be a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a lemon. Frank N. Meyer, a United States Department of Agriculture employee, brought this variety from China to the United States in the 20th century and gave this lemon its namesake.

Smaller and rounder in size, this variety has a thinner peel with a more fragrant zest. The skin has a darker yellow to orange hue.

Aside from their distinct appearance and flavor profile, these lemons are seasonal. Meyer lemons typically crop up at farmer's markets and produce aisles from December to May; they aren't available year-round. Not as hardy as regular lemons, Meyer lemons don't withstand traveling long distances to reach grocery stores. Meyer lemons are used in an array of savory and sweet recipes. You can also make marmalade and preserved lemons to extend the season.

Related: What's The Difference Between Mandarins, Clementines, And Tangerines?

What Is A Lemon?

Lemons, sometimes called Common or Regular lemons, have a bright, yellow color, thicker skin, and are larger than a Meyer lemon. The pulp tends to have a sunny-colored hue with a thicker texture. These lemons are more acidic and make your mouth pucker.

Lemons purchased at the grocery store are typically Lisbon or Eureka varieties and are available year-round. Most citrus fruit is harvested in the winter, though in this case, some varieties can be grown commercially all year.

Can You Use Them Interchangeably?

Choosing whether to swap regular lemons and Meyer lemons depends on how they will be used.

  • For a sweeter, more floral flavor: If you're looking for a sweeter, less acidic and more floral flavor for your desserts, such as lemon pie or cookies, you'll want a Meyer lemon.

  • For a bolder flavor: For a recipe that calls for a bold lemon flavor, such as a lemon vinaigrette or ceviche, using a regular lemon is best.

Both types of lemons can be used to add the lemon juice to spritzers, cocktails, salad dressings, marinades, and baked goods, such as cookies, pies, cakes and scones. The pulp and the zest can be used for baking and savory recipes.

If a dish calls for the rind or zest of a Meyer lemon, you'll likely want to adhere to the recipe as a regular lemon will offer a different result. 

Favorite Lemon Recipes

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