28 November 2023

Do you love lemons? Refreshing, tangy, and nutrient-dense, lemons add a delicious touch to everyday dishes, desserts, and beverages.

But as with other fruits, it is possible to overdo it and buy too many. So what if you’ve bought more lemons than you can handle? Do lemons go bad?

Or maybe you’re debating the best way to store lemons. She usually leaves them on the counter, where they look great. But since you bought a lot in a sale, you are thinking of refrigerating them so that they keep longer.

Does refrigeration help lemons? And if so, what is the difference between the shelf life of a fruit stored at room temperature and one chilled in the fridge?

If any of these questions and concerns sound familiar to you, this article is for you. In it, we go through the storage, shelf life and spoilage of lemons. If that’s something you’d like to learn a bit more about, keep reading.

How to store lemons

As with all fruits and vegetables, to store food items longer, start by choosing the best ones possible.

In the case of lemons, that means choose yellow fruits that are firm to the touch and avoid somewhat soft ones with golden or spotted skin. Of the three, the shell with blemishes is the least problem, so if there aren’t any perfect ones, go for the ones with the not-so-perfect shell.

Now let’s talk about how we store these bad boys. Many people just put them on the kitchen counter. And that’s definitely a valid option if you plan to use them within a week or so. If you choose a cool, dry area away from heat sources, like the pantry or a kitchen cabinet, that’s a little better, but definitely not perfect.

Lemon cut in half
Lemon cut in half

The fridge is the best place to store lemons. if you want to store them long term. The easiest way is to simply put the bag with the fruits in the crisper.

When it comes to cutting lemons, the fridge is where you should keep them. The cold air will dry out the cut fruits, so to avoid that it is necessary wrap them well. Use plastic wrap or aluminum foil for that.

Alternatively, you can put the fruit in a freezer bag and squeeze out the air before sealing. That method works best with lemon halves. So if you needed half to make some lemon juice for a dish, place the second half in a freezer bag and refrigerate.

Lemon with extendable silicone lid
Lemon with extendable silicone lid

How long do lemons last?

Any type of fruit will spoil if stored long enough. Lemons are no exception. But, because the lemon peel is quite thick, it will take a while for this citrus fruit to go bad. Just like you do with limes.

A whole lemon should last about a week on the counter and a few more days in the pantry. If you transfer it to the refrigerator, you can expect it to last for about 3-4 weeks. And if you decide to go the extra mile and seal the fruits well, you can assume that they will keep for 5 weeks or even a little longer.

When it comes to cutting lemons, they retain their quality for about 3-4 days in the fridge. They won’t go bad after that period, but they will inevitably wither and dry out.

Worktop Pantry Fridge
whole lemons 1 week 12 weeks 3-4 weeks
cut lemons 3-4 days

Please note that the periods above are estimates only.

Lemon prepared to make juice
Lemon prepared to make juice

How to tell if lemons have gone bad

At their freshest, lemons have a bright yellow rind, a sour taste, a pungent aroma, and are quite firm to the touch. In time they will they lose some of the aroma, become mushy or sometimes even slimy.

Unless you see any signs of mold, it’s really up to you to choose whether or not the lemon is still good enough to use. If the peel looks really bad, just throw the fruit away. But if it looks good, cut it up and see how it fares on the meat before you make a decision.

When it comes to leftover lemon slices, halves, and the like, it’s usually a no-brainer. If it’s moldy like the one below (which I forgot), there’s no debating whether it’s spoiled or not.

Half a lemon after a long time in the fridge.
Half a lemon after a long time in the fridge.

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