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10 Ways to Use Up All Those Lemons

lemon curd pie


Ah, lemons. They’re such flexible culinary players, adding oomph to savory and sweet dishes alike, that it’s no wonder of us buy them by the armful or bagful. But sometimes that crisper drawer is so packed that one must take a moment to figure out how to use all its bounty. Here are ways to use both the fruit’s zest and its juice, from cocktails to baked goods to entrées.

1. Lemon Squares

lemon squares


You can use Meyer lemons or regular ones for this delightful (and delightfully easy) treat. A full three-quarter cup of lemon juice, or about five lemons, comprises its silky lemon curd base. It’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve to help put a dent in a citrus overflow. Though it’s a simple recipe, with about 45 minutes of hands-on time, it’s helpful to have a citrus thermometer, and you’ll want to leave three hours for the lemon curd to set.


2. Preserved Lemons

preserved lemon


Salt-cured preserved lemons are essential for many Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes, and they’re a snap to make. All you need are lemons, Kosher salt and a canning jar, and you’re off to the races. Consider nestling these savory treats next to chicken or salmon for easy, more brightly flavored dinners.


3. Oleo Saccharum (Lemon-Oil Sugar)



Spirits historian David Wondrich identified the term oleo saccharumLatin for “oil sugar,” to explain a technique that’s been around since the 1600’s. Its odd name belies its super-simple technique. Just zest a lemon, avoiding the white pith, and add it to a large glass jar. For each lemon, add 2 oz of white sugar. Tighten the jar’s top and shake it thoroughly, leaving it in the sun, for a few hours, shaking it periodically. After a while, the citrus oil will begin to permeate the sugar. Add lemon juice. Shake again. Strain, and add the super-citrusy, sweet mixture to seltzer, bourbon for sours, or any other favorite cocktail. The delicate oil in the rind packs a booming bouquet, and is just delightful. Tip: This technique also works wonderfully with grapefruit and orange.


4. Punch 

Pink and White Punch


Using the zest of lemons and limes before squeezing them for juice is such a smart way of getting the most out of your purchase and reducing food waste. Once you’ve used the peel, turn to the juice for lemonade and cocktails. We love this Aperol-white wine punch, but you could also try a more tropical rum punch garnished with a tropical edible flower.


5. Lemon Chiffon Cake

lemon chiffon cake


Though it is truly a fool’s errand to try to choose a favorite lemon recipe, any citrus cake certainly gives the competition a run for its money. This one is powered by four to five whole lemons, plus their zest. Even more lemon juice makes a cameo in that gorgeous glaze. With a texture somewhere between a sponge cake and a butter cake, it is simply divine.


6. Chicken With Lemon, Garlic and Spring Onions

chicken with lemon


A whole chicken nestled into a Dutch oven alongside lemon slices, a head of garlic and tiny spring onions sure is tough to beat, looks-wise. The key to this recipe is a compound herb butter slathered between the skin and the meat. Plus, there’s that lemon, adding brightness in two ways: lemon slices, roasting alongside the meat, and the piquant zest, tucked into the fresh herb butter.


7. Asparagus With Lemon Zest

lemon with asparagus


Thank goodness you saved all that lemon zest. You’ll need it for all the fabulous vegetarian recipes that call for it, such as this springy asparagus. Butter, olive oil, garlic and panko are the only other staples you need to make this marvelous side dish. (Bonus: You don’t even need to preheat that oven, but can make it on the stovetop and under the broiler.)


8. Salmon With Lemon and Fennel

salmon with lemon


Isn’t the sight of salmon without lemon a terribly sad sight? We are always happy to see it sliced or quartered on the table, but this roasted fennel-salmon dish is next-level. Lemon juice makes its way both into the bevy of veggies beneath the fish and on top of the fillets themselves. You’ve got an instant side for your entrée without breaking a sweat.


9. Lemon Curd Pie

lemon curd pie


There’s almost no wrong move when it comes to lemon pies. Whether you’re craving chiffon, meringue, curd, zest, juice, or whipped cream, there’s a lemon pie for you. We’re particularly fond of this showstopper of a lemon curd meringue pie, though. The trick to that killer meringue crust? A quick spin under the broiler.


10. Lemon Tart

Meyer lemon tart


For those who really like to taste all the lemon that goes into a dessert, this is the tart for you. It calls for a lovely Meyer lemon curd (which you can buy or make), but a regular lemon curd will do, in a pinch. Nine graham crackers blitzed in a food processor make up its super-simple crust. And the whole thing is ready in just 30 minutes. Lemons: saving you time in every course.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.