If there’s one ingredient we always aim to have on hand in the kitchen, it’s lemons — and happily, they’re at their best in these wintry months. Their tart juice and aromatic, oil-rich zest adds the finishing touch to all kinds of dishes. Read on for our best tips for choosing and prepping lemons, plus some new ways to use them in your cooking.
Look for: Choose lemons that feel heavy for their size and are free from soft spots. Lemons with smooth, glossy rinds yield the most juice, while fruits with thick skin have more zest. Store lemons in a basket at room temperature for up to 1 week, or refrigerate them in a plastic bag for up to 1 month. Lemon juice can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Prep tips: For the most juice, bring the lemon to room temperature and roll it firmly against a hard surface. Then use a citrus reamer to extract the juice. A rasp grater is best for obtaining fine, fragrant shreds of lemon rind without any pith. A vegetable peeler is useful for creating wide ribbons of lemon zest. Use a sharp knife to cut the fruit into slices or wedges.
Uses: Use lemon juice and zest to brighten soups, finish sauces, marinate meats, garnish vegetables and enhance drinks, as well as to flavor baked goods.
Variations: Lisbon and Eureka are the most popular lemon varieties because of their large fruit, distinct sourness and thick, protective piths. The smaller, rounder, more fragile Meyer lemon boasts a floral fragrance and sweeter flavor. A hybrid imported from China, it now proliferates in California and other Mediterranean climates. This prized fruit is thought to be a cross between a Eureka lemon and a mandarin orange. Look for it closer to spring!
|Artichoke and Lemon Fritto Misto
Begin your meal in the Italian style with crispy morsels known as fritto misto. Here, we fry up fresh artichokes along with thin lemon slices, which add a refreshing tang to the mix.
This rich, lemony chicken-and-rice soup is a signature dish of Greece. Here’s the secret: beaten eggs are stirred into the soup at the end of cooking to add richness and body.
|Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing
This nutritious (and delicious) salad relies on kale instead of the more traditional lettuce. The sturdy green holds up well to a creamy dressing seasoned with lemon, anchovy and Dijon mustard.
|Artichokes Stewed with Lemon and Garlic
Lemons work double duty in this recipe: they flavor the cooking liquid and prevent the artichokes from browning.
|Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
Grated lemon zest is the secret to these oven-roasted asparagus, which make a perfect spring side dish to seafood or poultry.
|Roasted Broccolini with Lemon
Here’s a creative way to prepare broccolini: a half lemon is cut, peel and all, and roasted with the vegetables. The other seasonings are minimal—just garlic, salt and pepper—for a surprisingly complex flavor from only six ingredients.
|Fresh Pasta with Prawns and Lemon Oil
In Sicily’s fishing villages, rustic handmade pasta is tossed with olive oil, garlic and fresh seafood. Inspired by that tradition, we created this recipe using prawns and lemon-infused olive oil.
|Roasted Fish with Lemon-Almond Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs mixed with nuts, citrus zest and a little olive oil make a wonderfully crispy topping for fish in this simple weeknight meal.
|Chicken Thighs with Green Olives and Lemon
This savory dish, simmered to juicy tenderness, is made with chicken thighs, meaty olives, lemon zest and juice, and a surprise ingredient: jalapeño chili.
To infuse roasted chicken with delicious flavor, tuck lemon slices and fresh thyme sprigs underneath the skin — plus, it makes a gorgeous presentation.
|Veal Chops Stuffed with Herbs and Lemon
A lemon and herb stuffing is great for these thick veal rib chops, which are seared quickly in a hot pan for an easy but elegant meal.
This recipe carries a double dose of lemon: grated zest in the batter and lemon syrup poured over the bread after baking. For a heavenly dessert, bake it in 2 miniature loaf pans, then top the slices with berries and whipped cream.
|Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie
If you love billowy meringue, this is the pie for you. It’s piled extra high above a perfectly tart-sweet, silky smooth lemon filling and a crumbly crust.
|Lemon Chiffon Cake
This moist, lemony chiffon cake is simple, delicate and delicious. The texture falls somewhere between a dense butter cake and a light and airy sponge cake.
A popular condiment in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons are made by soaking the fresh fruit in a saltwater brine for at least 1 week. They impart an intense lemon flavor to a variety of dishes.