If you cook delicious meals, then you already know how much of a huge change one squeeze of lemon can bring to a greasy, heavy dish or even a sauce of some kind. That’s the beauty of lemon juice. But then who really has extra time to always prepare fresh lemon juice, right? But then does lemon juice go bad when stored for too long? And how long?
These are commonly asked questions about a thing as simple as lemon and lemon juice. Well, simple it all may be but knowing the correct answers is very important because spoiled lemon juice can really wreak havoc in your system. So let’s get to know what kind of havoc, but before that.
Lemon Juice – Does It Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?
Bottled Lemon Juice
You went to the supermarket and bought unrefrigerated lemon juice. This type of store-bought lemon juice is actually a concentrate that’s diluted with water for giving off that real lemon juice taste. Along with preservatives of course.
And then the water and concentrate mixture is pasteurized for killing off potential bacteria, which is what contributes to the long shelf life of the product when unopened and unrefrigerated.
Now you can check the Before-Before and Best-By dates on the lemon juice bottle. But then also keep in mind that these dates are only conservative estimates. Meaning the lemon juice will have not “expired” but only won’t remain as fresh once that period has passed. You can still store it for longer and use it some months later. To be more specific, around 3-6 months.
On the other hand, if you’ve opened the bottle, the shelf life is certainly minimized. The best thing to do, at such times, is to refer to your brand’s guidelines and dates printed on the label.
Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
What about lemon juice that you have freshly squeezed at home? Or store-bought lemon juice that’s been refrigerated?
Obviously, both of them contain zero preservatives, which means they’re not going to be safe to consume after 2-3 days. Although store-bought, refrigerated lemon juice might keep its freshness intact for a slightly longer time, maybe 4-5 days at the max.
Nevertheless, it’s highly advisable to use up all the lemon juice immediately or as soon as possible.
How about freezing freshly squeezed lemon juice since its shelf life is so short? You can indeed freeze the juice you haven’t been able to use right away.
Now Here’s a Quick Rundown
|In the Pantry||In the Fridge|
|Unopened Bottled Lemon Juice||Best-By date + 3 to 6 months|
|Opened Bottled Lemon Juice||–||Best-By Date or 6 to 12 months|
|Store-Bought Fresh Lemon Juice||–||4 to 5 days|
|Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice||–||2 to 3 days|
Shelf Life of Whole Lemons
At room temperature, lemons remain in good condition for a whole week. In the refrigerator though, the shelf life drastically increases to 2-3 weeks. As for freezer storage of whole lemons, you’re looking at an indefinite shelf life. Although do expect some of the flavor to get compromised in about 2-3 months.
Not many know that lemons, once you remove them from the tree, cease to develop. What I’m trying to say is that there’s no point in expecting them to ripen or grow any bigger than they already are when you bought them. On the contrary, leaving them on your countertop thinking that they’ll ripen is only going to cause them to rot and shrivel up.
Shelf Life of Cut Lemons
More often than not, a part of lemon ends up not being used. But that does not mean throwing away leftovers when you can easily use them later. And by later, I mean within a day’s time; storage at room temperature is fine.
But if you want to keep the freshness intact for longer, then opt for refrigerator storage for 2-3 days. While in the freezer, these slices of lemon will last for 2-3 months. Just don’t expect both whole and cut lemons to not turn mushy during long-term freezer storage.
Shelf Life of Lemonade
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! And when you do make delicious, refreshing, freshly squeezed lemonade, make sure to consume the drink within a day. As for storing the remaining lemonade, it can keep fresh in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for 2-3 months.
What about store-bought, processed lemonade then? An unopened bottle can last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. And once opened, then only 1 week. Needless to say, freezer storage is longer, up to 12 months.
Signs of Lemon Juice Gone Bad
When it comes to lemon juice getting spoiled, there are just plenty of warnings signs. And this is almost always the case with homemade, freshly squeezed lemon juice since it’s free of preservatives. Hence, it goes bad sooner than the supermarket variety.
So if you have lemon juice that’s just been lying around for a really long time and you don’t know whether to throw it out or not, these clues might help.
1. Foul Odor
Simply have a sniff at it! Do you get that fresh lemon smell? If not, then that is indeed spoiled lemon juice. Even if the odor is slightly sour or funky, it means the growth of bacteria or mold is in order. Therefore, discard it right away.
When lemon juice has gone bad, it starts to take on a darker color. This kind of discoloration is the most obvious sign of spoiled lemon juice that needs to be thrown out.
3. Odd Taste/Flavor
If you somehow happen to taste the lemon juice and it has a very funky, sour, or unfamiliar flavor or maybe it’s just plain tasteless, it’s no good for consumption.
Does Expired or Spoiled Lemon Juice Make You Sick?
If the lemon juice has expired, it may have become very acidic. And if you had not stored it properly or stored it for too long, then the chances of bacteria growth are also quite high. Therefore, food poisoning could be lurking somewhere in the background. So look out for symptoms like stomach pain, vomiting, inflammation, diarrhea, etc.
How to Safely Store Lemon Juice
Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
It goes without saying that you should be using an airtight container or bottle for storing lemon juice in the refrigerator, where it can keep fresh for 2-3 days. Also, did you know that your fridge light also deteriorates the quality of lemon juice? So how about wrapping the bottle with dark paper or cloth for making sure the light doesn’t get in the way.
Freezer storage is also an option here if you want the lemon juice to keep fresh for as long as 6 months. But for freezer storage, use ice cube trays first and then pack the lemon juice cubes into a proper freezer bag.
One ice cube is equal to 2 tablespoons – this should give you an idea as to how many lemon juice cubes to thaw for a particular recipe.
Bottled Lemon Juice
When unopened, keep the bottle in a dark, cool place away from any heat or light source. This way, the storage time includes an entire year. But once opened, seal the bottle tightly for refrigerator storage for around 6 months.
Bad or spoiled lemon juice has a funny color, smell, and taste. So these warning signs are enough to make you want to throw the lemon juice right away. Don’t even think of using this lemon juice as that might lead to food poisoning.
As for the storage of lemon juice, the freshly squeezed kind is safe for consumption for a much shorter time than its unrefrigerated, store-bought counterpart.
The citric acid present in lemon juice does indeed slow down the growth of bacteria. But, at the same time, these bacteria can and will eventually multiply and end up contaminating the juice.