A few drops of lemon juice can make a big difference to many recipes.
But should you make a large batch to have it stored in case you need it?
Does lemon juice go bad?
Considering it’s made of real fruit, lemon juice will indeed go bad.
However, when stored properly, it can last you a very long time.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know, from shelf life to storage options.
Keep reading to learn more!
How Long Can Lemon Juice Last
Freshly squeezed lemon juice will last you way shorter than a commercially bottled juice sold on the racks at the supermarket. Shelf-stable lemon juices are packed with different preservatives. That’s what keeps them fresh for a long time, even at room temperature.
Obviously, the best way to tell if a product contains preservatives or not is to look at the ingredient list. Some of the most common preservatives used in lemon juice are sodium benzoate and sulfur dioxide, so look for them.
Another way to tell easily if lemon juice is packed with preservatives is to check out the date on the label. If the “best by” date is a long time from now, then it’s clear that it contains something for shelf life extension.
Keep in mind that a “best by” date gives you a clue of how long lemon juice will keep its freshness, rather than how long it will stay good for.
If you keep it stored properly (and we’ll talk about storage in the last section), lemon juice should be safe to use for at least some time after the printed date. It’s impossible to tell you exactly how long, but at least three to six months afterward.
Best by dates of commercially bottled lemon juice differ depending on the brand. But it’s good to assume it can last up to a year stored unopened. Once you open the bottle, the content should be fine for at least six months.
Once opened, lemon juice must be stored in the fridge. When kept at room temperature, lemon juice creates a hospitable environment for harmful bacteria to grow.
In fact, USDA doesn’t recommend drinking any juice that’s been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
|Shelf-stable, unopened||~1 year||~year|
|Shelf-stable, opened||Up to 2 hours||Up to 6 months|
|Homemade||Up to 2 hours||1-2 weeks|
|Preservative-free||Up to 2 hours||2-8 weeks|
You shouldn’t expect your freshly squeezed lemon juice to last you anywhere near the store-bought version would. Not unless you add some kind of preservative to it. Generally, homemade lemon juice will stay fresh for about a week or two, depending on how cold your fridge is.
Finally, we have commercially bottled but preservative-free lemon juice. This type of product contains no additives, so it doesn’t stay fresh as long as shelf-stable juices do.
But because they’re pasteurized, they have a longer shelf life than homemade lemon juice. The exact amount of time depends on the brand, but you can expect it to be anywhere from a few weeks to two months.
To keep lemon juice fresh for a bit longer, you can also freeze it. That way, you can use homemade fresh juice up to three months longer than usual.
How To Tell If Lemon Juice Is Bad
Because lemon juice is high in acidic content, you might think that it can’t go bad. Unfortunately, that’s not true, especially when it comes to preservative-free versions.
Without additives, lemon juice can’t sit for more than two hours before being potentially contaminated with bacteria. So if you’ve kept it outside the fridge for that long, you should throw it away even if you don’t see visible signs of spoilage.
As for what those signs are, let’s start with the most obvious one – mold formation. It’s highly unlikely this can happen when you keep lemon juice in the fridge. But when left at room temperature, mold patches will surely form in time.
Another clear sign of spoilage is the change in color. As it loses its freshness, lemon juice will slowly become darker.
The smell is another indicator of freshness. When you first open a bottle of lemon juice, it should smell sharp, citrusy, and slightly sweet. But once it goes bad, it will smell off. Generally, it will be much sourer and stronger than it smells when fresh.
Finally, the best way to check if lemon juice is still good is to take a sip. When fresh, lemon juice is sour and sweet. But as it starts to spoil, it becomes bitter.
Don’t worry, a taste test won’t get you sick, and it’s the best way to tell if lemon juice is still any good. With that in mind, you shouldn’t actually drink a cup or more of spoiled lemon juice.
How To Store Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is packed with vitamin C, which is a very healthy but unstable vitamin. It degrades over time when affected by heat, light, and air. Most plastic bottles lemon juices come in are transparent, meaning they let the light in.
This means that you should always keep a bottle of lemon juice in a cool and dark area, like a pantry. You can also store it in a kitchen cabinet, as long as it’s away from the stove and other heat sources.
Keep in mind that only shelf-stable lemon juice should be kept at room temperature. Preservative-free and homemade juices should always be stored in the fridge. The same goes for an opened bottle.
Furthermore, lemon juice degrades fast when exposed to air. That’s why you should always make sure to seal the bottle properly every time you’re done using it.
To keep lemon juice fresh for a long time, the best option is to freeze it. This will keep it fresh for another three months or so.
If you mainly use lemon juice for cooking, then consider freezing it by using ice trays. That way, you can easily take only as much juice as you need for a specific recipe.
Alternatively, you can a few cubes to a glass of cool water to freshen up during a hot summer day.
But don’t just pour lemon juice into an ice tray and freeze it like that. The cubes will be exposed to air for too long and will lose flavor rather quickly.
Instead, you should transfer the cubes as soon as they freeze into an airtight bag. Then, take all the air out before sealing the bag.
Lemon juice, when preserved with additives, can last as much as a year. Organic and homemade versions stay fresh much shorter, between two and eight weeks.
While it doesn’t easily go bad, lemon juice will spoil if kept at room temperature opened.
To keep it fresh, you should store it in the fridge in a sealed bottle. Alternatively, you can freeze it to preserve it even further.