Does fresh lemon juice go bad in fridge?

Quick answer

Yes, fresh lemon juice can go bad if left in the fridge for too long. Properly stored, lemon juice will generally stay good for about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. After that, it will start to degrade in quality and flavor.

How long does fresh lemon juice last in the fridge?

The exact shelf life of fresh lemon juice depends on how it was made and how it is stored. Here are some general guidelines for how long lemon juice will last refrigerated:

  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 3 to 4 days
  • Store-bought bottled lemon juice – 1 to 2 weeks after opening
  • Homemade lemon juice (strained) – 5 to 7 days

The acids in lemon juice help inhibit microbial growth and preserve the juice. However, over time the quality will deteriorate. The lemon juice will start to lose its bright, zesty flavor. It may also start to discolor or develop off-odors, signaling spoilage.

Factors that affect fridge life

There are several factors that can affect how long fresh lemon juice lasts in the refrigerator:

  • Preparation method – Juice that has been freshly squeezed and strained will have a shorter fridge life than store-bought pasteurized juices. The pasteurization process helps stabilize the juice and extend shelf life. Homemade lemon juice that hasn’t been strained will have the shortest duration.
  • Storage container – Storing lemon juice in an airtight container helps minimize exposure to air, which degrades the quality. A tightly sealed bottle or jar is ideal.
  • Exposure to light – Light can accelerate the breakdown of lemon juice. Store the juice in an opaque container in the fridge.
  • Acidity level – The more acidic the lemon juice, the better it is preserved. Juice from very ripe, mild lemons may spoil faster.
  • Temperature – Lemon juice lasts longest when refrigerated at 40°F or below. Higher fridge temperatures promote spoilage.
  • Age of lemons – Juice made from older lemons that sat at room temperature for awhile won’t keep as long as juice from fresh, young lemons.

Proper refrigeration and an airtight container are key to maximizing the shelf life of fresh lemon juice.

How to tell if lemon juice has gone bad

Here are some signs that lemon juice has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Appearance is cloudy or has debris
  • Dull or brownish color instead of light yellow
  • Mold visible on surface
  • Fermented smell
  • Off odors
  • Sour taste and loss of acidity
  • Carbonated bubbles
  • Growth of yeast or bacteria

Fresh lemon juice only lasts about a week in the fridge, so it’s important to use your senses to check for freshness. If in doubt, don’t risk it. Discard juice that shows any signs of spoilage.

Does lemon juice go bad or become unsafe to ingest?

The acids in lemon juice, like citric and ascorbic acid, act as natural preservatives that make lemon juice unlikely to harbor dangerous levels of bacteria or other organisms if stored properly in the refrigerator.

However, over time the quality will deteriorate. Spoiled lemon juice will have an off flavor and undesirable texture rather than making you sick.

If lemon juice is left unrefrigerated or kept for a very long time, eventually yeasts and molds can grow in it. Consuming molds could potentially cause health issues for some people with allergies or compromised immune systems. But for most people, consuming a small amount of spoiled lemon juice just leads to unpleasant taste and an upset stomach at worst.

When in doubt, remember the general rule: “When in doubt, throw it out.” Don’t taste test juice that shows signs of spoilage.

Botulism risks are extremely low in lemon juice

Because lemon juice has a very low pH, harmful bacteria like Clostridium botulinum cannot grow in it. This bacteria produces the neurotoxin that causes botulism. Most cases of foodborne botulism result from improperly home-canned vegetables, meat, fish, etc. where the anaerobic environment allows the bacteria to thrive.

Lemons naturally contain acids that prohibit C. botulinum from multiplying, even if the juice was left unrefrigerated. So while lemon juice left out too long can grow mold and yeast, botulism is not a safety concern.

How to extend the fridge life of lemon juice

Here are some tips to help lemon juice stay fresh and flavorful for as long as possible:

  • Squeeze juice from fresh, firm lemons. Wash the skin first.
  • Use lemons at room temperature, not cold from the fridge.
  • Strain the juice through a fine mesh sieve to remove pulp and seeds.
  • Transfer strained juice to bottles, jars or storage containers that seal tightly.
  • Refrigerate lemon juice right away, don’t leave it sitting out.
  • Store bottles in the refrigerator door to prevent temperature fluctuations from the door opening frequently.
  • Keep refrigerated temperature at 40°F or below.
  • Store lemon juice away from light sources like the refrigerator light.
  • Use clean utensils and containers to avoid introducing bacteria.
  • Never return unused portion of juice back into the original bottle.
  • Check for signs of spoilage before use. When in doubt, toss it out.

Proper storage practices help maximize the freshness window. But no matter what, lemon juice only lasts about a week in the fridge once squeezed or opened.

Can you freeze lemon juice?

Yes, freezing is a great way to preserve lemon juice and extend the shelf life. Frozen properly, lemon juice can keep for 6 to 8 months in the freezer.

Here are some tips for freezing lemon juice:

  • Squeeze juice from fresh lemons and strain well.
  • Pour juice into freezer-safe containers or ice cube trays.
  • Leave about 1/2 inch headspace to allow for expansion.
  • Seal containers tightly.
  • Label with date and contents.
  • Freeze juice rapidly at 0°F or below.
  • Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags or airtight containers.
  • Squeeze out extra air and seal.
  • Use within 6 to 8 months for best quality.

The freezer stops enzymatic and microbial degradation processes that cause spoilage. Thawing and refreezing is not recommended, as this can degrade texture and flavor.

For easier use, freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays first. Once cubes are frozen solid, pop them out and store them in freezer bags. Then you can grab a few cubes at a time as needed.

What happens if you drink spoiled lemon juice?

If you accidentally ingest a small amount of lemon juice that’s begun to spoil, it may cause some stomach upset like nausea or diarrhea. The sore throat and stomach ache should subside after a day or so.

Consuming large volumes of spoiled lemon juice is more likely to cause food poisoning symptoms. When made properly, lemon juice does not contain high levels of harmful bacteria. But decomposition produces byproducts that can irritate the digestive tract.

Signs you may have drank bad lemon juice include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache and fatigue
  • Dehydration

These symptoms of food poisoning should resolve on their own within 12-48 hours. Drink plenty of water and rest. See a doctor if severe symptoms last more than a couple days.

Some groups at higher risk for foodborne illness complications include young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems. When in doubt, avoid tasting expired or questionable lemon juice.

Cooking and baking with lemon juice

Heat from thoroughly cooking or baking lemon juice will destroy any organisms growing in spoiled juice.

However, the flavor and acidity of the juice may be off. Spoiled lemon juice may give unexpected results in recipes.

Only use lemon juice that smells fresh and tastes pleasantly sour. Discard any old juice. For cooked applications, you can generally substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice = 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice = 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Vinegar adds a similar tart, acidic quality with some different flavor notes. Lime juice makes a great citrusy substitute for lemon in dishes like stir fries, marinades, and dressings. Extracts impart lemon flavor without altering texture.

Lemon juice storage questions

Should lemon juice be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, keep lemon juice refrigerated after opening. The cool temperatures help slow the growth of microbes and preserve the flavor.

Can lemon juice be left out overnight?

It’s best to avoid leaving lemon juice out at room temperature longer than necessary, no more than 2 hours. The juice will become susceptible to bacterial contamination when left unrefrigerated for too long.

How long does reconstituted lemon juice last in the fridge?

Properly stored, reconstituted lemon juice will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, similar to fresh juice. Discard if it develops off-colors or smells.

Does lemon juice need to be pasteurized for shelf stability?

Pasteurization helps stabilize and extend the shelf life of lemon juice by destroying harmful organisms through heat treatment. Unpasteurized juice must be kept refrigerated and only lasts about a week.

Should you refrigerate store-bought lemon juice?

Once opened, it’s best to refrigerate bottled lemon juice. This helps maintain quality and prevent mold growth. Sealed, unopened bottled juice can be stored in a cool, dry pantry for up to a year.

Can you freeze reconstituted lemon juice?

Yes, reconstituted lemon juice concentrate can be frozen just like fresh squeezed juice for extended storage. Freeze in airtight containers and use within 6 to 8 months for best quality.


Fresh lemon juice has a limited shelf life of just about a week in the refrigerator. Keeping lemon juice sealed and properly chilled helps prevent spoilage and maintain the bright, acidic flavor. Let your senses guide you – if the juice smells or tastes off, err on the side of caution and throw it out. Freezing extends the lifespan of lemon juice for 6 to 8 months. With proper storage methods, you can keep lemon juice on hand to brighten up recipes and drinks.

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