Substitutes for Lemon Juice in Cooking

by Erica Roth
A variety of different pantry staples can be effective substitutes for lemon juice.

A variety of different pantry staples can be effective substitutes for lemon juice.

Cooking for a busy family often means tweaking recipes to individual tastes, and learning to incorporate ingredients you have on hand into meals. Lemon juice is a basic ingredient that has countless uses in the kitchen. Ever the multitasker, you might not have time to run out for more lemon juice when you run out in the middle of cooking dinner. As a resourceful mom, however, you know you've got a kitchen full of appropriate substitutions.

When lemon flavoring is what you want to impart on a dish and you have not a drop of lemon juice left in the house, you'll need to get a little creative. Lemon extract may work well for baked goods such as cookies, cakes and breads. Use extracts sparingly, one drop at a time, as they are extremely concentrated and could overpower the other flavors in your recipe. Lemongrass and lemon verbena are lemony herbs that can serve as substitutions as well. Sprinkle a bit of dried herbs on top of chicken or seafood.

Sometimes it's not necessarily the lemon flavor you want, but the zing of acidity that lemon juice provides to foods such as salsa, guacamole, fresh fish and sourdough-based baked goods. In this case, an equal substitution of another citrus juice or vinegar does the trick. Salad dressings made with vinegar may be too sharp in taste, however. Adjusting the measurement to one-half cider vinegar and one-half water is an appropriate substitution.

Lemon juice is routinely used in the kitchen to prevent browning in fruit and vegetables that discolor upon exposure to the air. The active ingredient that stops the oxidation process is vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Choose another citrus fruit juice, such as lime, grapefruit or orange to perform this function when you're all out of lemon juice. In a pinch, dissolve vitamin C tablets into water at a ratio of 3,000 milligrams per gallon.

Intact lemons stay fresh in the refrigerator for about two weeks. Once you have cut into the fruit, it may begin to rot more quickly. If you find yourself without lemon juice because your lemons spoil before you can use them, preserve the fruit or the juice in the freezer. Peel and remove membranes and seeds from lemons before placing them in an airtight container. To freeze lemon juice so you'll have it ready, juice lemons into a glass jar, clean ice cube tray or a zip-top bag. Seal tightly before freezing.

About the Author

Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.

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