This bright yellow citrus fruit has the power to make anything a little brighter. If you’re shocked to discover you’re fresh out of lemon juice, no worries. There are numerous ways to replace it in any dish, sauce, or beverage.
During the two decades I worked as a cook and pastry chef, I explored every way lemon juice can be used. In turn, I also learned a plethora of great alternatives for it.
Here are 12 of the best lemon juice substitutes for all your recipe needs. You’ll find information about the flavor and acidity of each option, along with recommendations on how to use them. With the right substitute in your recipe, no one will be the wiser.
The 12 Best Lemon Juice Substitutes
1. Lime Juice
Lime juice is an obvious first choice to use in place of lemon. It adds a little something extra to stir-fries, marinades, and dressings. On top of that, it’s a great juice for cocktails and desserts.
While lime juice is similar in acidity to lemons, it will slightly alter the flavor of your dish. It has a touch more bitterness and sweetness than lemon juice, so consider this when deciding if it’s right for your recipe.
If you’re canning and need a high-acid lemon juice substitute, consider using pre-bottled lime juice. Since it usually has citric acid added already, it comes with a higher acidity than fresh lime juice.
Lime juice can be used as a 1:1 replacement for lemon juice. If you want to lighten up the lime flavor, you can mix it with a little water before using it.
2. Orange Juice
Orange juice can be a delicious substitute in salad dressings and beverages. In the baking realm, it’s perfect to use in glazes, cakes, and cheesecake.
This juice’s sweet flavor can give a dish or drink a special touch. It also has that sunny color that looks lovely in beverages (tequila sunrises, anyone?).
When using this substitute it’s a good idea to factor in just how much sweeter orange juice is than lemon. And remember that it will change the taste of your dish when used in larger quantities.
Use fresh or bottled orange juice as an easy 1:1 substitute for lemon juice.
Pro Tip: Try juicing blood oranges for amazing flavor, color, and slightly higher acidity than common oranges.
3. Lemon Zest
If you have access to lemon zest but not the juice, it can be a useful substitute. Try it in baked goods, salads, and sprinkled over vegetables.
The zest of lemons is highly flavorful. It adds the floral essence of lemon without the acidity due to the flavor-packed oils abundant in the peel.
If you’re using zest as a substitute, you may need to add extra water to your recipe to replace the liquid of the juice. Consider adding another acidic ingredient to replace the acidity of the lemon juice.
The flavor of lemon zest can be more intense than the juice, too, so you’ll want to use 1 part lemon zest to replace 3 parts lemon juice.
4. Grapefruit Juice
The juice from this big citrus fruit works as a substitute in dressings, beverages, and on green vegetables. Try it in baked goods and sweet icings for an unexpected flavor.
Grapefruit juice has a bold taste that’s slightly less acidic than lemon juice. Each fruit also yields significantly more juice than a lemon, which doesn’t hurt.
However, grapefruits have a stronger bitter element than lemons do. Because of this, you’ll need to be a bit more careful about what you pair it with.
Use grapefruit juice at a 1:1 ratio to replace lemon juice.
Pro Tip: Grapefruit juice and Castelvetrano olives are a phenomenal flavor combination for salads.
Vinegars are best for replacing lemon juice in savory cooking, salad dressings, and marinades. There are several types to choose from, and each has its own unique qualities.
Vinegars can be strong and potentially overpowering. For the best results, use them to substitute smaller quantities of lemon juice.
Some great vinegars to use instead of lemon juice include:
- White wine vinegar- A milder vinegar that’s great for fish, dressings, and sauces
- Apple cider vinegar– A punchy, slightly sweet vinegar for salads, soups, sauces, and general cooking.
- Sherry vinegar- Another mild vinegar that’s slightly sweet and nutty. A delicious choice for dressings, hot and cold soups, sauces & marinades.
In cooking, use vinegars as a 1:1 substitute for lemon juice. In salad dressings, try using half the amount of vinegar than the amount of lemon juice called for (a 1:2 ratio).
6. Lemon Extract
Lemon extract is a quick way to substitute lemon juice. It’s best for baked goods and buttercream icings.
This substitute allows you to add a strong lemon essence by using a tiny bit of the extract. It costs more than lemons, but a little goes quite a long way.
Since this extract has a strong taste, it should be used carefully. And like lemon zest, It doesn’t add acidity like real lemon juice, so it may not be ideal if you need acidity in your dish.
To use lemon extract instead of lemon juice, start by using 1 teaspoon of extract in place of every 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
7. White Wine
White wine can be used instead of lemon juice in cooking, grilling, and soups. This type of wine adds a magic touch to seafood recipes as well.
White wine doesn’t have the same level of acidity as lemon juice, but it adds a hint of citrus flavor that brightens up recipes. It can also be used to deglaze a pan while cooking, which adds great depth of flavor.
Because there are different types of white wine, some varieties can make your dish too sweet if you’re not careful. I’d recommend using a dry white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Use white wine at a 1:1 ratio instead of lemon juice.
Pro Tip: Be sure to add your wine near the beginning of cooking, so the alcohol has time to burn off, and the complex flavors can shine.
8. Cream of Tartar
This powdered lemon juice substitute is recommended for baked goods only. It is most often used to stabilize egg whites in meringue-type recipes.
Cream of tartar is a mostly flavorless acid that can react with baking soda, similar to lemon juice. When combined with baking soda in a recipe, it acts similarly to baking powder, creating a rapid rise.
To use cream of tartar as a substitute, use ½ teaspoon to replace 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. And since cream of tartar is a powder, be prepared to add a little extra liquid to your recipe to make up for the lemon juice.
9. Citric Acid
Citric acid is another acidic powder that can be used in baking recipes in place of lemon juice.
Commonly used in large-scale food production, citric acid can help keep food fresher longer. Another bonus is that it’s shelf stable and can stay in your kitchen for a long time if it’s kept sealed, cool, and dry.
Please note that citric acid won’t bring lemony flavor to your recipe, only acidity. And like any powdered substitute, you’ll need to add extra water to your recipe when using this substitute.
Use ½ teaspoon of citric acid to replace ¼ cup of lemon juice (2.5 g citric acid to every 60mL lemon juice).
10. Acidic Dairy Products
Acidic dairy products like buttermilk and yogurt can replace lemon juice in baked goods and salad dressings.
In baked goods, lemon juice is sometimes used to react with baking soda to create rise in a product. And acidic dairy products can perform this same function. But, these fermented dairy products are likely to change the flavor and texture of your product.
If you need your recipe to remain dairy-free, or you don’t want the extra richness added, this may not be the substitute for you.
Use buttermilk or unsweetened yogurt at a 1:1 ratio to replace lemon juice.
Pro Tip: Avoiding dairy? Try making plant-based buttermilk. Mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar with 1 cup plant-based milk, and let it sit for 5 minutes before using.
11. Pineapple Juice
Pineapple juice can be used as a last-minute substitute for lemon juice. It’s best in marinades and vinaigrettes, but can also be an interesting change in beverage recipes.
Pineapple has a strong tropical flavor and some good acidity as well. But be aware that it’s far sweeter than lemon, so make sure you don’t mind extra sweetness in your recipe.
Try either canned or fresh pineapple juice as a 1:1 replacement if you’re short on lemon juice.
12. Lemony Herbs
For a most unconventional substitute, consider using lemon-scented herbs as an alternative to lemon juice. They will work best in beverages (especially cocktails) and soups.
What do I mean by lemon-scented herbs? Your best bets are lemon balm and lemon verbena, but you can also try lemon thyme as a more savory option.
To use in a cocktail, muddle the leaves in the bottom of a glass just before making a cocktail (like you would with mint leaves for a mojito). Or, mince them and add to soups in the last half of cooking for a citrusy-herbal fragrance and flavor.
Since these will be fresh, whole herbs, you’ll have to experiment with the amount to use. Start small, taste, and adjust.
Pro Tip: Try making a herb-infused, lemon-scented simple syrup to use in beverages. Once the syrup is made but still hot, add 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of herbs for every cup of finished syrup. Steep the herbs for 30 minutes, then strain and enjoy!
Helpful Considerations for Lemon Juice Substitutes
When replacing lemon juice, it’s helpful to consider what it’s bringing to your recipe. For instance, is it adding acidity and brightening the flavor, or is it used as a primary ingredient, like in lemonade? Or is it functioning as part of a leavening combination in a baking recipe?
Once you know its function, you’ll be able to parse out which substitute will bring the right elements to a recipe.
If you’re looking to replace a large quantity of lemon juice, consider other citrus juices as your ideal substitute.
If you only need a touch of acidity to replace a small amount of lemon juice, consider vinegars or white wine. And if you’re baking, you have a huge array of choices available, from juices or extracts, to acidic powders and fermented dairy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use vinegar in place of lemon juice?
Vinegar is best used to replace lemon juice in marinades and savory cooking. However, many vinegars are very potent, so you may need to use less vinegar than lemon juice.
How can I substitute lemon juice in cheesecake?
Other citrus juices are your best bet to replace lemon in cheesecake. Try sweeter types of citrus like blood oranges, tangerines, or yuzu for more flavor.
What’s the best lemon juice substitute to use in hummus?
Lime juice is the closest lemon juice substitute to use in hummus. However, it is slightly more bitter and sweet, which will change the flavor slightly.