With its zesty citrus notes, lemon juice has many health and culinary uses around the house. If you have too much of it though, you are probably wondering whether lemon juice goes bad. We have the answers including everything from shelf life to tips on storing your juice for freshness.
Does Lemon Juice Go Bad?
Lemon juice will go bad at some point. How fast it spoils will depend on whether it is freshly squeezed or whether it is the packaged variety bought off a store shelf. Freshly squeezed juice will go bad faster than the bottled type.
The method of storing the juice will also have an impact on how long it stays fresh. Refrigerating is usually the best way to go to prolong the life of perishable products such as lemons. If you have quite a large batch of lemon juice, your best bet is to freeze it.
We will learn how to store lemon juice for ultimate freshness. But, first let’s take a look at the shelf life of the different types of lemon juice.
How Long Does Lemon Juice Last?
Lemon juice can last as little as 2 days or keep fresh for up to a year depending on the variety of juice and how it is stored.
Lemon Juice Shelf Life
Homemade freshly squeezed lemon juice
|2-3 days||1 week|
|Store-bought refrigerated||1 week|
Store-bought unrefrigerated unopened
|Store-bought unrefrigerated opened||6-12 months|
We will focus on three types of lemon juice: homemade freshly squeezed, store-bought refrigerated, and store-bought unrefrigerated.
Homemade lemon juice has the shortest shelf life and should be used within 2-3 days of squeezing it. Because it lacks preservatives, freshly squeezed juice is highly prone to bacteria and its quality starts to decrease the moment you squeeze the lemons.
The store-bought refrigerated variety has small amounts of preservatives and can last a little longer than the homemade juice. If you store it in the fridge, it should be good for up to a week after which it will become rancid and unsuitable to use.
Lastly, the unrefrigerated, store-bought lemon juice has a longer shelf life. Not only does it contain preservatives, but manufacturers also remove as much as 90 percent of the water content in the juice to reduce bacteria growth. The juice can stay fresh for to 3-6 months if unopened and 6-12 months if opened and refrigerated.
Pay attention to the best-before dates on the store-bought juices. Generally, the juice is safe to use a few days after the best-before date after which, it will start to lose its flavor and nutritional value.
4 Tips To Tell If Lemon Juice Has Gone Bad
Lemon juice might not go bad immediately, especially if it is the bottled unrefrigerated type. The juice will gradually lose its zest day by day so it is easy to miss the signs of staleness.
That being said, here are sure-fire tips to help you tell if your batch of lemon juice has gone bad:
1. Check the color
Lemon juice has a watery light yellow color. When the juice starts going rancid, the color will change to a darker, cloudy yellow. If the juice is in an opaque bottle, simply pour it into a clear glass and check for any color change.
2. Do a sniff test
Good lemon juice will have a soft pleasant citrus smell. If the juice has stayed too long or is improperly stored, bacteria will breed and cause it to ferment. Because of this, the juice will smell tangier than usual. If this is the case, your juice is going stale or is already spoilt.
3. Take a sip
Checking the color and smell is usually enough to tell you if lemon juice has gone bad. But, if you are unsure, you can taste a small amount to check for freshness. Rancid juice will be either extra sour or just bland without the typical zest of lemons.
4. Check for mold
Lemon juice contains some amount of water, which is perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Mold is one sign of bacteria-infested juice. Should you notice any traces of mold or yeast, discard the juice immediately and clean the container to avoid spreading the mold around and contaminating other foods in the pantry or fridge.
3 Tips To Store Lemon Juice
You do not have to discard lemon juice if you find yourself with too much of it. We’ll show you a few simple ways to store your juice and keep it fresher for longer:
1. Turn the juice into ice cubes
Freezing is the best way to preserve lemon juice, especially if you squeeze it fresh. All you need is an ice cube tray in which to pour the juice then pop it in the freezer.
What’s really great about this method is that whenever you need to, you can take out just the number of ice cubes you need and keep the rest frozen for later use.
2. Refrigerate for short term use
You should refrigerate your freshly squeezed lemon juice immediately. Opened bottles of lemon concentrate should also be stored in the fridge to increase shelf life.
For best results, pour the juice into an airtight container. Make sure that the container has a cover or lid with a tightening band to keep air and moisture from entering or leaving to prevent the growth of contaminants such as bacteria, mold, and yeast.
Instead of storing all your juice in one container, divide it into smaller jars that can be used in one go. You should avoid removing lemon juice from the fridge, using it at room temperature, and putting it back in the refrigerator again. This temperature difference will alter the chemical structure of the juice, causing it to go bad, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
Keep fresh juice refrigerated for up to three days and lemon concentrate for up to 12 months.
3. Can the juice for long term storage
Other than freezing, canning is a great way to store large amounts of fresh lemon juice for longer. In fact, if canned correctly, the juice can keep in the pantry for up to two years.
To get started, you will need mason jars, a canner or stockpot, and a source of heat. First, sanitize the mason jar in the dishwasher or by placing it in boiling water for about 10 minutes to kill bacteria.
Next, bring the fresh lemon juice to a boil before pouring it into the jars all the way to the top. Seal the jars tightly to keep air out. Check that the jar is sealed by pressing the bubble in the middle of the lid. If the lid goes down and comes back up, air has slipped into the jar and you should use up the juice within a week.
After filling the jars, place them in a canner containing boiling water and cover for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars of lemon juice, allow cooling, then storing in a cool dry place until you are ready to use.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Lemon Juice
Consuming expired lemon juice whether directly or mixed in food can cause a serious bout of food poisoning.
If lemon juice is not stored properly or let to go past its best by date, bacteria, mold, and yeast can contaminate it, posing a risk of poisoning.
Symptoms of food poisoning will set in within 1-2 days of consuming the juice. In addition to diarrhea, you might develop other symptoms including fever, chills, weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, and headache.
Get in touch with your doctor should these symptoms last longer than 24 hours. You should seek medical assistance urgently if you show signs of dehydration.
Fresh juice is particularly prone to contamination. To minimize the risk of food poisoning, discard juice that has sat open in the fridge for more than a day.
Can You Freeze Lemon Juice?
Freezing is the best way to prolong the shelf life of lemon juice. If you regularly use lemon juice, storing it in the freezer in small quantities offers great convenience. Just pop out what you need and leave the rest in there for later use.
There are two ways to freeze lemon juice. You can simply pour the juice into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer overnight. The small size cubes are perfect for using in recipes that require a little zing to them.
Another neat way to store lemon juice is to pack it in zip lock bags and freeze. This is ideal if you need to use larger quantities of juice, for example for making lemonade.
Before pouring the juice into the plastic bags, be sure there is no air trapped inside. Air will oxidize lemon juice and quickly make it go bad. Seal the bags tightly and place in the fridge overnight or until you are ready to use the juice.
Once you remove frozen lemon juice from the freezer, it’s best to use it up instead of putting it back again. The temperature difference will alter the profile of the juice and possibly shorten its shelf life.
Lemon juice is a versatile condiment and generally stores well. If you have too much of it or would like to store enough for future use, freezing is the way to go. Be sure to observe utmost hygiene when handling fresh juices to extend shelf life and to prevent against potential poisoning.