How many tablespoons is a full lemon?

Lemon juice is a common ingredient used in cooking and baking. It adds bright, citrusy flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. When a recipe calls for lemon juice, it is typically measured in tablespoons. But how many tablespoons are in an entire lemon?

Quick Answer

The quick answer is that there are about 3-4 tablespoons (44-59 ml) of juice in one medium lemon. However, the exact amount can vary depending on the size of the lemon. Larger lemons will yield more juice, while smaller ones may produce less. The variety and ripeness of the lemon will also affect juice yield.

Estimating Tablespoons of Juice Per Lemon

On average, one medium-sized lemon contains between 3-4 tablespoons (44-59 ml) of juice. Here are some general guidelines for expected juice yields from lemons:

  • Small lemon: 2-3 tablespoons juice
  • Medium lemon: 3-4 tablespoons juice
  • Large lemon: 4-6 tablespoons juice

However, these numbers are simply estimates. The actual amount of juice squeezed from a lemon can vary quite a bit.

Factors Affecting Juice Yield

Several factors impact how much juice can be extracted from a lemon:

  • Size – Larger lemons contain more juice than smaller ones.
  • Variety – Some lemon varieties are naturally juicier, like Meyer lemons.
  • Ripeness – Ripe lemons produce more juice than underripe ones.
  • Growing conditions – Warm weather and adequate water produces juicier lemons.
  • Juicing method – Hand squeezing vs. juicers vs. citrus reamer all yield slightly different amounts.

The only way to know exactly how much juice a specific lemon contains is to squeeze it and measure.

How Many Lemons Are Needed for Different Quantities?

When cooking or baking with lemon juice, recipes will specify the amount needed in tablespoons. But how many whole lemons are required to yield that amount of juice?

Here are some estimates for how many medium-sized lemons it takes to produce various common juice quantities:

Juice Needed Lemons Required
2 Tbsp 1 lemon
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) 1-2 lemons
1/3 cup (5 Tbsp) 1-2 lemons
1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) 2-3 lemons
2/3 cup (10 Tbsp) 3-4 lemons
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp) 3-4 lemons
1 cup (16 Tbsp) 4-5 lemons

As you can see, it takes multiple lemons to produce larger amounts of juice. When making recipes with more than a few tablespoons of juice, it’s smart to have extra lemons on hand.

Tips for Getting the Most Juice from Lemons

Here are some tips to help maximize the amount of juice you can get from lemons:

  • Roll the lemon on a hard surface before juicing to soften it up and release more juice.
  • Cut lemons in half before squeezing to expose more surface area.
  • Use a reamer or juicer rather than hand squeezing to separate more juice from pulp.
  • Gently warm lemons in the microwave or oven for 20-30 seconds to make them release more juice.
  • Store lemons at room temperature, not in the fridge, to keep them juicier.
  • Choose ripe, plump lemons that feel heavy for their size.

Nutrition Information

In addition to providing bright, tangy flavor, lemon juice also offers some key nutrients:

  • Vitamin C – One tablespoon of lemon juice contains about 3 mg of vitamin C, or 5% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI).
  • Citric acid – Lemons contain high levels of citric acid, which has antioxidant properties and acts as a natural preservative.
  • Potassium – There is about 13 mg of potassium in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • Folate – Lemons provide about 3 mcg of folate per tablespoon of juice.
  • Vitamin A – A trace amount of provitamin A carotenoids are found in lemon juice.

So while lemon juice adds great flavor to foods and drinks, it also contributes key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and acids.

Substitutes for Lemon Juice

In cases when you don’t have a lemon handy, there are a few suitable substitutes that can provide a similar sour taste and vitamin C content:

  • Lime juice – Lime juice can usually be swapped in equal amounts for lemon juice, although it has a slightly more bitter taste.
  • White vinegar – For each tablespoon of lemon juice, use 1 teaspoon of white vinegar diluted with a bit of water.
  • Citrus juice blend – Mix equal parts lime, orange and grapefruit juice to approximate lemon flavor.
  • Bottled lemon juice – Shelf-stable bottled lemon juice can be substituted 1:1, but may have a slightly different taste.
  • Vitamin C powder – For the nutrient content, add 250 mg vitamin C supplement powder per tablespoon of juice.

However, when possible, fresh lemon juice is best to take advantage of its bright, intense citrus flavor.

Uses for Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has many culinary applications, including:

  • Adding acidity and brightness to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces
  • Providing tartness in desserts like lemon bars, tarts and meringue pies
  • Preserving freshness and preventing browning when squeezing over cut fruit
  • Lifting and enhancing the flavors in fish and seafood dishes
  • Brightening up smoothies, juices, and water
  • Making lemonade and other lemon-based drinks
  • Serving as a tart complement and garnish for meals

Whenever a recipe calls for a punch of citrus flavor or acidity, lemon juice is likely to be an ideal ingredient. Its versatility makes it a staple in most kitchens.

Storing and Handling Lemons

To get the most use and flavor from lemons:

  • Store whole, uncut lemons at room temperature up to 1 week, or refrigerate in a plastic bag for 2-3 weeks.
  • Wrap cut lemon halves in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 5 days.
  • Seal fresh squeezed lemon juice in an airtight container and refrigerate 2-3 days, or freeze up to 6 months.
  • Avoid wasting the zest – finely grate it before juicing and store it frozen.
  • Infuse olive oil or vinegar with leftover juiced lemon halves.
  • Revive limp lemons in warm water for a few hours.

With proper storage, lemons can be kept fresh and juicy for use in various recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about lemon juice yield:

Does juicing technique affect how much juice you get?

Yes, the juicing method can make a difference. Hand squeezing results in lower yields. Using a wooden reamer or citrus juicer that presses and spins maximizes juice extraction.

Is juice yield different for Meyer lemons vs. regular lemons?

On average, Meyer lemons yield slightly more juice than regular Eureka or Lisbon lemon varieties. Their thinner skins and higher juice content make them easier to squeeze.

Can you get more juice out of a lemon by microwaving it?

Yes, heating lemons for 10-20 seconds in the microwave helps break down some of the cell walls and release more juice. Just don’t heat them too long or the juice will bake.

Is there a big difference in juice content between small vs. large lemons?

Yes, the general rule is the larger the lemon, the higher the juice yield. Giant lemons can produce up to 1/3 cup more juice than small ones. Size is a good indicator of how much juice to expect.

How does lemon juice content compare to limes and other citrus fruit?

Limes contain slightly less juice than lemons on average. Oranges and grapefruit have a higher juice yield due to their larger size.


To summarize, the juice content of a lemon can vary quite a bit based on size, variety, ripeness and juicing method. However, on average a medium lemon contains 3-4 tablespoons (44-59 ml) of juice. When a recipe calls for lemon juice, it’s helpful to know that you’ll need about 2-3 medium lemons to get 1/4 cup, and around 4-5 lemons to obtain 1 cup of fresh squeezed juice. Storing and juicing lemons properly helps maximize their flavor and juice they provide.

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