When cooking or baking recipes that call for lemon juice, you may find yourself without the right amount on hand. Thankfully, there are several handy ingredient substitutes for lemon juice that can be used in a pinch.
Vinegars make excellent lemon juice substitutes in recipes due to their acidic nature. White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar all can be substituted in equal amounts for lemon juice. The flavor will be slightly different, but the acidity level will be similar.
White vinegar is the most commonly used vinegar substitution for lemon juice. It has 5% acidity, close to lemon juice’s 5 to 6% acidity level. Replace lemon juice with an equal amount of white vinegar in recipes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a mild fruity flavor that won’t overwhelm recipes. Use an equal amount as lemon juice in cooking and baking. Keep in mind it has 5% acidity like white vinegar.
Rice vinegar is less acidic at 4 to 4.5% acidity. It provides a mild tangy flavor. You can substitute an equal amount in recipes calling for lemon juice.
Thick, concentrated balsamic vinegar contains about 6% acidity, making it nearly as tart as lemon juice. Use a bit less balsamic vinegar as it has a strong flavor. Start with 3/4 of the lemon juice amount and adjust to taste.
Red Wine Vinegar
Slightly fruity red wine vinegar has about 5% acidity. Replace lemon juice 1:1 in recipes, keeping in mind it will add a reddish color. The flavor is less tart than lemon.
Other citrus juices including lime, orange and grapefruit also work well as lemon juice substitutes. Their acidity levels are similar though flavors will vary.
Lime juice makes the closest match for flavor and acidity to lemon juice. Use equal amounts of freshly squeezed lime juice in place of lemon. Bottled Lime juice can be substituted as well.
Orange juice is less tart than lemon juice with an acidity of 3 to 4%. Use a ratio of 1 1/4 cup orange juice for every 1 cup lemon juice. The flavor will be much milder and sweeter. Make sure to use fresh squeezed juice.
Grapefruit juice has a bright citrusy flavor. Its acidity level is about 3%, so use a 1 1/4 cup for every 1 cup lemon juice. Only use fresh grapefruit juice, not bottled grapefruit drink.
Dairy products like milk, buttermilk, yogurt and sour cream add a tangy flavor and creamy texture to recipes. They work well as lemon juice replacements in baked goods.
Cultured buttermilk has a thick texture and tart flavor. Replace lemon juice with an equal amount of buttermilk in recipes for breads, pancakes, cakes and muffins. The acidity helps activate the baking soda for leavening.
Use plain yogurt in an equal amount for lemon juice in baked goods recipes. The tangy flavor comes through along with the acidity to help them rise properly. Greek yogurt works particularly well.
Sour cream is thicker than lemon juice, so use a 3/4 cup for every 1 cup lemon juice needed. It provides a nice tang and richness in cakes, muffins and breads.
Milk adds richness and subtle tang to replace lemon juice in baked goods. Use 1 1/4 cup milk for every 1 cup lemon juice. Any type of milk will work including dairy, soy, almond or oat milk.
Some fruits have enough acidity to substitute for lemon juice, though the flavor will be different. Berries, tomatoes, pineapple juice and dried fruit purees make suitable options.
Tart cranberry juice contains ample acidity at 2.5% to replace lemon juice in recipes. Use equal parts cranberry juice for the lemon juice called for. It adds a nicely tart, fruity flavor.
Tomato juice has a savory umami flavor. With a pH of 4.1 to 4.6, it can substitute for lemon juice in equal amounts. Use fresh tomato juice only, not canned.
Pineapple juice is lower in acidity at around 1%. Use 1 1/4 cup pineapple juice for every 1 cup lemon juice needed. The flavor will be tropical and sweet.
Dried Fruit Puree
Soak dried apricots, cranberries, cherries or raisins until soft. Blend into a puree and strain out solids. Use a 1:1 ratio for lemon juice. This adds fruity flavor and thickens the texture.
Tamarind paste is a pulp made from the pod-like tamarind fruit. It has a very tart, fruity taste similar to lemons. Substitute tamarind paste 1:1 for lemon juice in recipes. Look for it in the international foods aisle.
Some other mildly acidic ingredients can be used to approximate the tartness of lemon juice. Options include cream of tartar, citric acid, vinegar powder and white wine.
Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar provides acidity without much flavor. Use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every 1 tablespoon lemon juice in baking recipes.
Pure citric acid powder is very concentrated sour flavor. Use just 1/8 teaspoon citric acid for each 1 tablespoon lemon juice required.
Dehydrated vinegar powder provides a quick sour taste. Use about 1/4 teaspoon vinegar powder for every 1 tablespoon lemon juice needed.
The mild acidity of white wine approximates the tartness of lemon juice. Replace lemon juice with an equal amount of dry white wine in cooking recipes.
To approximate the bright lemon flavor missing from acidity-only substitutions, add lemon zest, lemon extract or lemon herb seasoning.
Bright yellow lemon zest contains the flavorful citrus oils from the lemon peel. Add 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest for each tablespoon of lemon juice replaced.
Alcohol-based lemon extract provides concentrated lemon flavor. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract for each tablespoon lemon juice substituted.
Lemon Herb Seasoning
Dried lemon peel herb blends enhance lemon flavor in recipes. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoning blend for each tablespoon lemon juice replaced.
Pre-Made Convenience Options
Bottled lemon juice provides the most convenient substitution for fresh lemons. Powdered lemon juice mix and lemon sauce can also be used.
Bottled Lemon Juice
Keep bottled lemon juice on hand to use when fresh lemons are not available. Make sure to get 100% lemon juice without added sugar. Use equal amounts to replace fresh squeezed juice.
Powdered Lemon Juice
Dehydrated lemon juice powder is handy for baking and cooking. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons juice powder with 1 tablespoon water to replace 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Jarred lemon curd sauce provides lemony flavor and texture in recipes. Use a about 2 tablespoons lemon curd to replace 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
In some recipes, lemon juice is used mostly for wetness rather than flavor. An equal amount of water can substitute for lemon juice, though the tartness will be missing.
|Apple cider vinegar
|Cream of tartar
|1/2 tsp:1 tbsp
|1/4-1/2 tsp:1 tbsp
|Bottled lemon juice
Tips for Substituting Lemon Juice
Here are some helpful tips for getting the best results when substituting for lemon juice in recipes:
- For vinaigrettes, marinades and sauce recipes, stick with tart acids like vinegar or lime juice.
- In baked goods, dairy products add moisture, richness and subtle tang.
- Reduce the amount of sugar slightly in baking recipes to account for sweet substitutes like orange juice.
- For lemonade or ice tea, lime juice or a mix of vinegar and sugar closely approximates lemon flavor.
- Add extra lemon zest, extract or peel to enhance lemon flavor in substitutes.
- Adjust acidity levels gradually to taste and watch for reactions with baking soda.
- In curries, stews and savory dishes, try tamarind paste for sourness.
- For pranks, substitute grapefruit juice or vinegar for lemon juice and watch people’s reactions.
With so many handy ingredient substitutions, running out of lemon juice doesn’t need to stop you from following through on a recipe. Vinegars, citrus juices, dairy products and other fruits can provide the acidity and some approximation of tart lemon flavor. Get creative mixing different substitutes like vinegar and orange juice or cream of tartar and lemon extract. With a little tweak, you can pull off delicious lemon-enhanced dishes even without the real thing.