Using lemon juice seems easy and common for most of us, but what happens if you can’t find lemons anywhere?
A good cocktail or lemonade without lemons isn’t the same, but certain food substitutes can create similar flavors. The same goes for desserts, as the acidity is essential for leavening and browning.
Why Use Lemon Juice?
Lemon juice has plenty of uses in cooking and baking. For one, the acidity breaks through fat and gives your dish a fresh flavor. The same acidity can also tenderize meat, aiding in cooking raw fish, and creates umami with a variety of flavors.
In baking, lemon juice is added as an acid to react with baking soda for leavening purposes. The acidity also aids in browning certain baked goods. Finally, in jellies and jams, lemon juice provides structure.
See more: Does lemon juice go bad?
What Can I Replace Lemon Juice With?
No matter what the reason is, these are the best lemon juice substitutes for any of your cooking or baking needs:
Best For Baking, Jam, Apple Pie, and Cheesecake
#1. Lime Juice
If you can’t find lemons at the grocery store, try looking for limes instead. This juice works as a replacement because it adds a similar level of acidity, though it is less sweet. When making jams or jellies, lime juice adds the same texture and helps keep a pH for preserving foods.
You can also add lime juice when baking apple pies and cheesecakes, as the acidity is very close to lemon juice. You may also consider adding more sugar to balance out the tartness.
#2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Even though vinegar doesn’t have the same flavor or aroma that lemon juice does, it does possess a pH and sweetness that can help in baked goods. Use ⅔ cup of apple cider vinegar for every cup of lemon juice that your recipe calls for.
You can use apple cider vinegar in making pies, jams, jellies, and some other baked goods like muffins or banana bread.
Finding apple cider vinegar isn’t hard at all, try your local grocery or convenience store. This choice is not adequate for dishes that are supposed to taste like lemon, but it can work well otherwise.
See More: Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad?
#3. Cream of Tartar
This acidic powder also called tartaric acid, is very common in baked goods, including cakes and muffins. You can also use it when baking apple pies, cheesecake, or meringue.
If you don’t have lemon juice, cream of tartar will react with baking soda the same way, creating a leavening effect too.
You can buy cream of tartar at any grocery store, usually by the baking items. If your recipe calls for one tablespoon of lemon juice, add about half a tablespoon of cream of tartar. Remember, though, that this ingredient does have any zest or aroma.
See More: Cream of Tartar Substitutes
#4. Lemon Extract
Sometimes, people who are avid bakers will have lemon extract handy, but if you don’t, the baking section at your grocery store may have it. This is a very concentrated flavor, so you only need a few drops per every lemon juice teaspoon required for your dish.
You can use lemon extract when baking pies, cheesecake, and making jam or jelly.
This option is great for dishes that require a ton of lemon flavor, like key lime pie or lemon meringue pie. Keep in mind that this flavor is highly concentrated and not very sweet, so you’ll want to add sugar as well.
Best For Marinades, Dressing, Hummus, and Hollandaise Sauce
#5. Fruit Juice
It may seem weird to use fruit juice instead of lemon juice, but the acidity and sweetness are still there. When cooking, use apple, white grape, or orange juice in making marinades, salad dressing, or even in hummus.
In this case, use about ⅓ of what the recipe calls for and taste as you go because you certainly don’t want to overpower the rest of the flavors.
You can find fruit juice in any grocery or convenience store but go for ones that are sweet and sour at the same time. If you want to balance things and you have some vinegar around, you can add a pinch as well.
#6. White Wine
This choice seems unconventional but it works well in cooking, especially when it comes to marinades, dressing, and hollandaise sauce. Pick a dry and semi-sweet wine and use the same amount as the recipe calls for. You can also use white wine in deglazing before making sauces or gravy.
You can buy white wine in any liquor store, and depending on where you live, you may also find it in local grocery stores. If you need more sweetness, consider adding a bit of sugar or honey too.
See More: White Wine Alternatives
#7. White Vinegar
This choice of vinegar is best for cooking savory dishes, including marinades, dressing, hummus, and hollandaise sauce. You can use ½ tablespoon of white vinegar for every one tablespoon of lemon juice that your dish requires.
White vinegar cuts fat well, so you can use it in making thick and creamy sauces.
You may already have white vinegar, as it is a common household item, but if not, try the local grocery or convenience store. You may also want to add sugar or another sweetener depending on what you are making.
Yes, if you have lemons handy you can certainly use them and make homemade lemon juice to use in recipes. A medium-sized lemon will give you about two tablespoons of lemon juice. You should be able to cover the amount for most recipes, though not those that require cups of lemon juice.
If you don’t have anything else available, you can use bottled lemon juice. However, you should know that these bottled juices have more preservatives and sometimes contain sugar. It’s best to buy fresh lemons if you can instead.
Lemon water has become a popular drink for its detoxifying and hydrating properties. As with most things acidic, though, drinking too much of it will cause heartburn and upset your stomach. Limit your lemon water to 2 to 3 cups a day, or less if you already suffer from heartburn.
Some of us always have lemons at home, but if they aren’t in season, it can be hard to find them. Instead of using the wrong replacement, go with one of these choices to create delicious flavors and very similar aromas. You will no longer mess up any of your recipes, now that you know what to use in place of lemon juice.
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