How Long Do Lemons Last?

Let me share a secret with you. I don’t use lemons that often. I usually need them only once or twice a month. And it’s not like I have everything planned and buy exactly as many fruits as I need.

If you share the sentiment, you surely want to know how long do lemons last and how to store them to keep them fresh and juicy for as long as possible. This article covers exactly that, plus we talk a bit about choosing the best ones and how to tell if a lemon has lived past its prime. If that’s the information you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.

Bunch of lemons and lemon halves
Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash.

How Long Do Lemons Last? How To Store Them?

When it comes to the shelf life of lemons, the short answer is: it depends on how you store them.

Many people keep lemons at room temperature, either simply on the countertop or the fridge or in a cupboard in the kitchen. They look great in a bowl on display and smell nice too, but that method of storage is perfectly fine only if you plan on using them within a week, maybe a couple of days more. For better results (i.e., longer shelf life) transfer the citrus fruits into the fridge.

How long do lemons last refrigerated, you ask? That, again, depends on the way you package them. If they sit in a plastic bag you brought them in from the supermarket, they should last at least two, maybe even three weeks, before they start hardening. To get a full month’s worth of excellent quality, put them into a sealable freezer bag (1) and squeeze as much air out as you can before sealing. The sealed bag keeps the moisture in, so the lemons retain their quality for longer. This method requires about a minute of your time for an additional two weeks of shelf life, so I think it’s well worth the trouble. Especially if you’re like me and need fresh lemon juice only every so often.

Single lemon
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

When it comes to cut lemons, they last in good quality for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Use an airtight container or a freezer bag for storage, and make sure the flesh sticks to a surface (the bag or container), so it doesn’t dry out as quickly. If the surface dries out, cut out the dried part and use the rest.

Of course, for the lemons to last the longest, you should pick up the best ones to begin with. Old, soft citrus fruits, even if stored in the best possible conditions, won’t last that long.

How To Choose The Best Lemons?

Choose thin-skinned lemons that are firm, but yield a bit under pressure (1). Rock-hard ones with thick skin are okay too, but they usually don’t give as much juice. Definitely avoid ones that are squishy or have any soft spots. Just grab the citrus and squeeze it gently. You will know what you’re dealing with right away.

When it comes to appearance, ones with a bright yellow, blemish-free rind look the best, but that doesn’t matter that much when it comes to overall quality. In other words, some small discolored spots are not a problem at all. Unless, of course, you need those lemons to look perfect for a photoshoot.

Lemons on a tree
Photo by Ernest Porzi on Unsplash.

Do Lemons Go Bad? How To Tell?

Of course, lemons do go bad. And telling whether the specimen you hold is still okay to use or not is rather straightforward.

First, like with pretty much all fruits and veggies, look for any signs of mold. White or dark spots near the ends, or on the flesh (if it’s a cut lemon) are a sure sign that you should discard the lemon. And if the fruit is moldy, throw it out instead of trying to cut out the off part. Lemons are very high in moisture, and that makes it super easy for microorganisms to spread throughout the whole thing, even if there aren’t any visible signs right away.

If the fruit has noticeably shrunk in size or looks thoroughly dried, it’s past its prime, so feel free to toss it out. Of course, you can try squeezing out the remainings of the juice that’s left inside, but you won’t get much, and the quality might not be the best. In any case, smell and taste the juice before using it in a recipe.

Are soft lemons bad, you ask? Well, not necessarily. Cut the citrus open and see what’s inside. If the flesh is somewhat squishy but looks alright, feel free to use that juice. But if there’s anything wrong about the insides or the liquid, throw it out. As usual, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Key Takeaways

  • Lemons at room temperature last only about a week.
  • To keep the lemons for the longest, store them refrigerated in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out.
  • Choose thin-skinned specimens that yield under pressure for the best quality. Avoid squishy ones or ones with dark or soft spots.
  • If the lemon is moldy, throw out the entire thing. It’s not a good idea to try to cut out the bad part from a high-moisture fruit and eat the rest.


  1. Cook’s Illustrated: Preserving Lemons

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