Lemon juice adds acidity and tanginess and boosts the overall flavors of almost any dish. Adding it to salty or spicy recipes helps add layers of complexity to the food, which sometimes eliminates the need for additional condiments like salt or mustard. It is rich in vitamin C and has a manageable sourness that pairs brilliantly with a plethora of foods.
But if you’re ever out of lemons, here are 8 substitutes for lemon juice that can add the same magic as lemon to your pan-roasted chicken or Greek salad.
#1. Lime Juice
Lime juice is the most ideal alternative to lemon juice. It gives dishes all of the same effects you get with lemon and preserves the acidity your recipe calls for. Limes, like lemons, are also citrus fruits and fall in the same family. Lemons are small and yellow whereas limes are typically larger and green.
There is one minor difference though. Lime can add some bitterness to the flavor of the dish. If that’s something your recipe isn’t compatible with, or if you’re sensitive to bitterness, dilute the lime juice a bit with water before adding it.
Because it’s a near-perfect substitute, you can replace lemon juice and lime juice in equal amounts in your recipe, be it sweet, savory, spicy, or even to cocktails.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = 1 Tbsp Lime Juice
#2. White Wine Vinegar
Made by fermenting white wine, white wine vinegar has a lightly sweet, acidic, and almost tangy taste. White wine vinegar is more complex than lemon, so it’s often used in elaborate recipes like lasagna, French cuisine, and foods with gravy. It perfectly replaces the crispiness and freshness of lemon.
However, white wine vinegar is more acidic than lemon so you cannot substitute them evenly. They share a similar flavor, so as long as you get the substitution right, you won’t experience much difference in the taste of the final product.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = ½ Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
#3. White Vinegar
White vinegar is made from fermented grain alcohol. It has bold flavors and adds a strong punch of sourness to the dish. This substitute pairs brilliantly with savory dishes like Mexican cuisine and helps to enrich meat marinades and gravies for a fuller palate.
The flavors in white vinegar are much more concentrated than lemon juice or white wine vinegar, so you may want to dilute it or use it in small amounts. In excess, it can make your dish smell pungent and unappetizing.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = ¼ Tbsp White Vinegar
#4. Lemon Extract
Lemon extract is a highly concentrated lemon juice that you can find in the baking section of most supermarkets. It is very potent; just a few drops of it is equal to an entire tablespoon of lemon juice or more. But using it gives you the same flavor as lemon juice.
The most optimal way to add lemon extract is to dilute it with water so you can spread it across your dish evenly. The level of concentration varies from brand to brand. Some are so concentrated that only one or two drops are enough to enhance your dish. Our suggestion is to start with the substitution shown below and only add more if needed.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = ½ Tsp Lemon Extract (note that this measurement is in teaspoons)
#5. Dry White Wine
Dry white wine adds acidity and complexity to your dish, giving you a more enhanced version of lemon juice. Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios are some of the best wines to use in cooking. Many traditional recipes for marinating sauces and thick gravies call for white wine reduction to add crispness to dishes.
Dry white wine is almost as sour as a lemon, and depending on the variety, it may also add some sweetness to your dish. If you’re substituting dry white wine for lemon, you will need to know which wine pairings go with your type of dish to select the optimal wine.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = 1 Tbsp Dry White Wine
#6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar adds the same level of acidity to a dish as lemon, with a hint of tartness and sweetness because it’s made from fermented apples. Using it as a substitute for lemon juice can slightly alter the taste because of the sweetness.
Picking an appropriate food pairing is imperative if you’re using apple cider vinegar as a substitute for lemon. Apple cider vinegar would go best with flavor-intensive dishes that can balance its sweetness and complement its tang, like marinades, stews, and risottos.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
#7. Celery Juice
Here’s an out-of-the-box idea. If you want the freshness and crispness of lemon minus the sour notes, you should try celery juice. If you’re thinking about food pairing, celery is most commonly used in Asian cuisine, stocks, and Italian pasta. It has a tantalizing aroma, and it’s also a good source of vitamins A and B.
However, celery is also rich in sodium and potassium, so if you have any dietary restrictions, that’s something to be mindful of.
Celery juice is not as strong as lemon, so you will need to substitute more.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = 2 Tbsp Celery Juice.
#8. Cream Of Tartar
Cream of tartar is another out-of-the-box solution you can use in the event of a lemon shortage. It’s a type of acidic powder sold in the bakery section of most supermarkets and grocery stores.
Cream of tartar has several culinary uses. It is primarily used as a leavening agent in baked goods to prevent sugar from crystalizing and allows the dough to rise. The acidic character of cream of tartar is what makes it a decent replacement for lemon juice in cooking. It comes in powder form, so you will have to dissolve it in water first.
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice = ½ Tbsp Cream Of Tartar (Dissolved in water or some liquid)