Homemade Lemonade

5 from 6 votes
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Perfect for a backyard barbecue or a lazy summer day, this simple, refreshing lemonade recipe will have you sipping on a cold glass of perfection in no time.

Best freshly squeezed lemonade recipe.

Recipe Science

  • Mixing lemon juice with sugar allows the sugar to dissolve and balance the acidity, creating a refreshing and palatable flavor.
  • Adding water dilutes the concentrated lemon juice and sugar mixture, achieving the desired consistency and taste while making it more hydrating.
  • Chilling the lemonade helps meld the flavors together and enhances the refreshing quality by providing a cool, crisp beverage.

Why It Works

This fresh lemonade requires only three simple ingredients: juicy fresh lemons, your favorite sweetener, and water. That’s it! Once you have the base, the recipe is easy to customize. Make sure to check out the fun flavor variations!

To enhance the taste of the lemons, make an easy, simple syrup and infuse some lemon zest. The process only takes 10 minutes and has a significant flavor impact. Stir in the tangy lemon juice and water for the best homemade lemonade. You can even make a pitcher or two several days in advance to grab a glass whenever you need one. Make a big batch for your next barbecue or kids’ lemonade stand!

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients needed to make this homemade lemonade recipe.
  • Lemons: Freshly squeezed lemon juice makes for the best homemade lemonade. Different varieties of lemons will change the taste of the beverage. Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer are the most commonly found in the store.
  • Lemon Zest: The skin of the lemon contains delicate citrus oils. When infused into the simple syrup, it will add a more robust lemon flavor and aroma.
  • Sweetener: For the cleanest taste, use granulated sugar for the recipe. Other types of sweeteners can be used but will change the flavor profile and preparation.
  • Water: Add some cold water to dilute the tanginess of the citric acid in the lemon juice. If you prefer to add sparkling water for a fizzy lemonade, that can be used instead.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

Now that you’ve got the base for the best lemonade recipe, have a little fun customizing the tangy beverage. Try these exciting flavor additions:

  • Sweetener: Honey, agave, or maple syrup adds a natural sweetness. Add ½ cup of water to dilute the sweetener instead of 1 cup. Noncaloric sweeteners like stevia or erythritol can be added, adjusting the levels according to package directions.
  • Fruit: Puree or muddle in fresh or frozen berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries. Peaches, mango, pineapple, watermelon, guava, or pineapple add a tropical twist.
  • Herbs: Fresh mint or basil adds a delightful herbaceous note. Steep some rosemary, thyme, or lavender with the simple syrup.
  • Water: If you like an effervescent beverage, add carbonated club soda or flavored sparkling water to the lemon juice and simple syrup mixture.
  • Alcohol: Use the lemonade as a mixer with your favorite spirits like vodka, gin, tequila, rum, or champagne to make mimosas.

How to Make Homemade Lemonade

Pouring granulated sugar into a saucepan with water.

Step 1: Make the Simple Syrup

To sweeten the lemonade, make a simple syrup to add to the lemon juice base. It’s a 1:1 combination of water and granulated sugar. Heat the water just below a simmer. Add the sugar. You don’t want to cook to the point of caramelization.

Person adding lemon zest into a pot of water and sugar.

Add the lemon zest and turn off the heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Wooden spoon stirring a pot of water with little bits of lemon zest.

Let the mixture steep for 10 minutes, then strain to remove the zest shreds. Gently heating the sugar-water solution helps dissolve the granules better and allows the lemon zest to infuse its flavor into the syrup.

Measuring cup with freshly squeezed lemon juice inside of it.

Step 2: Juice the Lemons

You’ll need at least four large lemons, depending on the size. I suggest buying a few extra, just in case. Before squeezing, roll the lemon with your palm on the countertop, lightly pressing down on the fruit. This will release some of the juice on the sides.

Cut the lemons in half and use a manual or electric juicer to extract the juice. You will need 1 cup of lemon juice for the homemade lemonade recipe.

Pouring lemon juice into a pot of water.

Step 3: Make the Lemonade

Once the simple syrup is done steeping, strain it into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice, making sure there are no seeds. Some pulp is okay.

Pouring water into a bowl of lemonade.

Add two cups of water and stir. Taste the lemonade and adjust as needed with more water, lemon juice, or sugar. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Pouring lemonade into a glass with ice cubes and a lemon slice.

Step 4: Ready to Serve

Wait to add ice cubes to a pitcher until right before serving so as not to dilute the lemonade. Add ice cubes to a glass, pour a cup of lemonade, and serve with a lemon slice. It’s the perfect refreshing beverage!

Two clear glasses of refreshing cold lemonade.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lemons do I need to make a pitcher of lemonade?

This recipe makes 4 cups of lemonade (32 ounces). This requires four to five large lemons to yield 1 cup of juice. Double the recipe to make a larger batch for a party.

How to get the most juice out of lemons?

Roll the lemon on its side on a countertop, pressing with your palm, rolling back and forth for about 10 to 15 seconds. When adding to a manual juicer, place it cut side down so the juice goes into the cup and not your eye.

Can bottled lemon juice be used?

Yes, however, the citrus aroma won’t be as strong because the juice has been processed. If available, purchase bottled lemon juice that’s not from concentrate for the best flavor.

Can I skip making the simple syrup?

The granulated sugar can be dissolved directly into 3 cups of cold water. However, you won’t be able to extract the citrus oils from the lemon zest for a stronger taste and aroma. Instead, add lemon slices to the pitcher to chill with the lemonade before serving.

Can I use liquid sweeteners instead of granulated sugar?

Honey is a good substitute for granulated sugar in lemonade and will add a more complex flavor. It’s 25% sweeter than sugar, so start with ¾ cup diluted with ½ cup of water when heating. Adding more sweetener to taste. Agave or maple syrup are other good options, following the same guidelines for adding.

Serve This With

If you tried this Lemonade recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Homemade Lemonade

Making lemonade from scratch is so refreshing, easy to customize to your taste, and the perfect beverage to sip on a hot summer day with friends and family.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Drink
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 3 cups cold water, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice, about 4 large lemons
  • lemon slices, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Make the Simple Syrup – Heat 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once bubbles just break the surface and the water barely comes to a simmer, add the sugar and lemon zest. Do not exceed 185ºF (85ºC). Turn off the heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Steep the syrup on a cool burner for 10 minutes.
  • Juice the Lemons – Roll the lemons on the countertop to soften. Cut them in half and use a lemon squeezer to extract the juice into a measuring cup.
  • Make the Lemonade – Strain the simple syrup mixture into a pitcher or mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and 2 cups of water. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  • To Serve – Pour into a large pitcher with ice and slices of lemon.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 4 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Storing: Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 207kcal (10%)Carbohydrates 54g (18%)Protein 0.2gFat 0.3gSaturated Fat 0.03gPolyunsaturated Fat 0.02gMonounsaturated Fat 0.003gSodium 1mgPotassium 66mg (2%)Fiber 0.3g (1%)Sugar 52g (58%)Vitamin A 4IUVitamin C 26mg (32%)Calcium 6mg (1%)Iron 0.1mg (1%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Sharon says

    This is fun to make and tastes wonderful. I keep extra of this Simple Syrup in my fridge so I can pick a lemon off my tree and make a fresh glass when the urge hits.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for your feedback, Sharon! So smart to have some simple syrup ready to go for the next batch.