1 December 2023

Here is everything you need to know about storing lemons. Learn if and when to refrigerate them, how to store cut lemons, and how to make them last as long as possible.

Bought a whole bag of lemons and aren’t sure if you should leave them on the counter or put them in the fridge? How to store lemons?

the short answer

Whole lemons last about a week on the counter and three to four weeks if refrigerated. So if you care about their shelf life, you should refrigerate them. Cut lemons require refrigeration and keep at their best quality for 3-4 days.

That’s all in a nutshell.

Interested in learning a little more? This is what we discuss below:

  • choose lemons in the supermarket
  • details on storing whole lemons
  • When to refrigerate and when to leave on the counter
  • options for storing cut lemons
  • other useful tips related to lemon storage

Let’s jump right in.

Half lemon

How to choose lemons

To make your lemons last as long as possible, choose those that:

  • they are firm to the touch
  • no soft spots or bruises
  • they are bright yellow with no discoloration or blemishes

The first two are essential, which means you don’t want to buy a lemon that is soft, bruised, or has soft spots. Such a lemon will not last long (at best) or spoil due to bruises (at worst).

The third point, that is, the general appearance of the lemon, is much less important. While you may be used to seeing perfect yellow lemons in advertisements and stock photos, not all of them look like this.

Many lemons have some blemishes, discolorations, and other blemishes, and that’s okay. 99 times out of 100, the inside of the lemon will be fine.

(Check out the lemons I photographed for this article. They all have some blemishes and discoloration.)

That being said, if you plan on zesting that lemon as well, make sure that most of the rind is nice, yellow, and good enough to zest. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy a dozen lemons just to get the zest from one lemon.

lemon juice
When juicing lemons, note that the rind is far from perfect.

How to Store Whole Lemons

The optimal way to store lemons is to keep them sealed in a freezer bag in the refrigerator. They will last for more than 4 weeks if you store them this way.

If you throw them in the fridge, they keep for 3-4 weeks, whereas if you leave them out on the counter, all you get is about a week of good quality.

That’s how long lemons last, depending on how you store them.

Related: How long do lemons last?

If you decide to refrigerate your lemons, an easy upgrade is to place them in the crisper drawer instead of on a shelf. The crisper drawer is a more humid area than the rest of the fridge, which helps them retain quality (your water) for a little longer.

(That’s also why lemons last longer in a freezer bag. The bag prevents them from losing water too quickly, keeping their quality high.)

Now, it doesn’t matter if your lemons end up in the fridge or on the counter, you don’t have to worry about the other fruits or vegetables nearby. That’s because lemons aren’t particularly sensitive to ethylene.

If your lemons end up in a fruit bowl on the counter, try to keep them out of direct sunlight. You don’t want them to get too hot and lose water faster.

How to store lemons - freezer bag
How to store lemons in a freezer bag

Should you refrigerate lemons?

Lemons should be refrigerated if you want them to last as long as possible. But if you know you’ll be using them in a couple of days, you can just leave them on the counter and they’ll be fine.

So if you’re only buying a lemon or two for the next week, leaving it out at room temperature is an option. And a pretty useful one if you have a small fridge (like me) and sometimes you just don’t have free space in there.

Once you open a lemon, it has to be refrigerated. And speaking of cut lemons, let’s discuss how to store them.

halved lemon
Lemon cut in half – requires refrigeration

How to Store Cut Lemons

Store cut lemons for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container or freezer bag and in the refrigerator. If you are using a bag, remember to squeeze out the air before sealing it.

If you don’t have a bag or container handy, wrap them in plastic wrap.

Alternatively, you can use one of those silicone food protectors (or food huggers) if you have one handy. They work fine too.

Like all cut fruits and vegetables, cut lemons only keep for a couple of days. So if you have too much on hand, freezing them is a simple solution to preserve the lemons for later.

Now, let’s wrap up with a bunch of tips for getting the most out of lemons.

Lemon with elastic silicone lid
How to store a halved lemon: with a silicone stretch lid

How to make lemons last longer

For starters, if your lemons are still whole and you want them to last as long as possible, refrigerate them in a freezer bag. That is the only way they will last more than a month without freezing them.

(The same trick helps your files last longer.)

Then you can either freeze your lemons or process them and freeze what’s left.

If it’s juice you’re after, you can squeeze those lemons and freeze lemon juice. In most cases, you need the juice and not the whole fruit, so this approach might make things easier for you.

(Plus, the juice takes up much less space than the whole fruit.)

If you need lemon zest, you can zest the lemons and freeze the zest separately. Or, freeze whole lemons and zest as needed. Or zest and squeeze the lemons, and freeze both separately. It’s up to you, really.

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