Lemon juice is one of those ingredients that is always good to have on hand. It is commonly used in both sweet and savory dishes and is even a key ingredient in a number of cocktails. Its acidity brightens and balances a plethora of savory dishes, and who doesn’t love a delicious lemon bar or lemon poppyseed muffin.
Lemon juice can be squeezed from fresh lemons or store bought, and both are convenient and easy to keep on hand. However, if you are in a pinch and happen to find yourself without lemon juice, there are fortunately quite a few ingredients that you can use in its place, each one serving a specific and unique purpose.
Lemon juice – flavor and uses
Lemon juice is known for its tartness and ability to brighten up just about any dish. Its high acidity helps to balance out fatty and salty flavors, and thanks to its low pH level, sometimes serves a more scientific purpose in recipes, such as activating baking soda in cakes or cookies.
Lemon juice can be enjoyed in water as a refreshing drink, and this is one of the best ways to receive the various health benefits that lemons offer. They are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and have even been shown to aid with weight loss and digestive issues, along with reducing the risk of kidney stones and certain types of cancer.
However, most people turn to lemon juice when a recipe they are making calls for it. Many savory recipes require lemon juice to brighten up or balance out the dish, while plenty of classic lemon desserts rely on it to give them their signature tart flavor. Finally, a number of cocktails rely on lemon juice for acidity and balance.
When it comes to cooking, lemon juice has a variety of uses.
The best substitutes for lemon juice
There are plenty of options when it comes to substituting lemon juice, and the one that’s right for you depends on what dish or drink you are making. There are substitutes more fit for desserts, others that work well with meat and fish, and some that you can use in cocktails.
Fortunately, lemon juice substitutes are common ingredients that people tend to have on hand, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding them when you reach into your pantry for a lemon juice alternative.
Finally, it is always important to keep in mind what purpose the lemon juice is serving in your recipe (i.e. flavor, acidity, balance) in order to select the right substitute.
So, without any further ado, here are the top 5 best substitutes for lemon juice!
1. Lime juice
Lime juice is one of the best substitutes for lemon as it has such a similar citric profile. While their flavors differ slightly, the brightness of limes make them an excellent lemon juice alternative in savory dishes. Limes will add a unique touch to dishes, and because they are so common in Mexican and many Asians foods, they may provide flavors reminiscent of these cuisines.
Lime juice can be used with a simple 1-to-1 ratio to replace lemon juice, and thanks to their similar pH levels, lime juice is the best candidate for substituting lemon juice when canning or preserving. However, lime juice will provide a significantly different flavor when baking, so it is best to use another lemon juice alternative in dessert recipes.
Vinegar is an excellent replacement for lemon juice when it is not being used for flavor but rather to provide acidity, namely when only a very small amount is needed. Vinegar is also tart and acidic, so it can be used when a recipe needs just a splash of brightness. White vinegar or white wine vinegar are the best types to use thanks to their smoother flavor.
Just be careful not to add too much, as vinegar has quite a strong taste and can produce an unpleasant result when overused. You can usually use half as much vinegar as you would lemon juice when preparing a savory recipe.
When a dessert recipe calls for lemon juice with the purpose of providing acidity to activate baking soda, vinegar is a perfectly appropriate alternative.
3. Orange juice
Orange juice is a great way to add some sweetness while still providing the important acidity and brightness that lemon juice creates. Orange juice and lemon juice have about the same level of acidity, so they can be swapped in equal ratios.
While orange juice is an acid, it won’t be quite as tart as lemon juice, and it is significantly sweeter, so just keep in mind that it will certainly impact the flavor of your dish. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you like the taste of orange, and it can add a sweet and delicious touch to a dessert or cocktail.
Orange juice can also replace lemon juice as the protagonist in fish and poultry dishes. While it will create a unique flavor, the results will be delicious.
4. Lemon extract
Lemon extract offers highly concentrated lemon flavor and is most appropriate when baking. Because it is so strong, you will only need a little to achieve that perfect lemony taste for a delicious dessert, but you may have to add more liquid to the recipe depending on how much lemon juice it calls for.
You shouldn’t need more than a teaspoon or two of lemon extract to replace lemon juice in a baking recipe to achieve that bright and acidic flavor that so many people crave. However, lemon extract isn’t the best option when it comes to savory dishes or cocktails, so if you aren’t baking, consider turning to some of the other lemon juice alternatives listed in this article.
5. White wine
Our last lemon juice alternative, white wine can be used to substitute lemon juice in savory dishes that only call for a little or where its purpose is to deglaze a pan. The acidity of white wine, much like that of lemon juice, also serves to balance the other flavors in a dish.
The nice thing about using white wine as a substitute for lemon juice is that it is convenient and easy to keep on hand. If you open a bottle of white wine and are unable to finish it, you can save it in the fridge for months to use for cooking purposes.
How to substitute lemon juice with other alternatives?
Substituting lemon juice for other acids depends heavily upon its purpose in the recipe and the substitute that you have chosen. The easiest lemon juice alternatives to substitute are other citric juices, like lime juice or orange juice, which can replace lemon juice in a 1:1 ratio.
Alternatively, when substituting lemon juice with lemon extract in a dessert recipe, you need to use very little. For every two tablespoons of lemon juice that a recipe calls for, you just need to replace it with 1 teaspoon of lemon extract.
Finally, when replacing lemon juice with white wine or vinegar, you will need to use a lower quantity than the original recipe calls for. You can use about half the amount of vinegar or white wine as you would use lemon juice in a recipe due to the fact that their strong, acidic flavors can be overpowering if you use too much.