Here’s everything you need to know about freshly squeezed and bottled lemon juice. Learn how long each last, how to store them, and when to toss them.
Got an old half-open bottle of lemon juice that’s past the printed date and not sure if you should toss it or not? Does lemon juice go bad?
Or maybe you just juiced a bunch of lemons for lemonade and found yourself with some leftover lemon juice. How long does lemon juice last?
If either sounds like you, this article is for you. In it, we cover storage, shelf life, and spoilage of lemon juice, both the store-bought bottled variety and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Let’s jump right in.
How To Store Lemon Juice
You should store-bought bottled lemon juice pretty much the same way you store other juices. That means it should sit in a cool and dark area, away from sources of heat. If it’s a clear plastic bottle, make sure it’s away from the light too. The pantry is the perfect place, but a cupboard in the kitchen will do too.
Once you open the bottle or container, first and foremost make sure you keep it sealed tightly when not in use. Second, remember to store it in the fridge for best results.
While the store-bought variety has some additional preservatives, besides the citric acid which is a preservative itself, at room temperature the quality of the juice degrades much faster than in the fridge.
Freezing is also an option for lemon juice. If you freeze it using ice cube trays, you can easily thaw as much juice as you need for a recipe. Or throw a cube or two into a glass of water, which makes a perfect refreshment on a sweltering day.
When it comes to fresh lemon juice, either one you squeezed yourself, or one you’ve bought in the refrigerated section, you should always keep it in the fridge and sealed tight.
The same principles apply when you’re storing lime juice, too (here’s how long lime juice lasts).
Does Lemon Juice Need to Be Refrigerated?
You should refrigerate freshly squeezed lemon juice in an airtight container right after juicing.
For bottled lemon juice sold unrefrigerated, you can store it in the pantry as long as it’s unopened. After opening the bottle, put the leftovers in the fridge, where they should retain quality for at least a couple of months.
How Long Does Lemon Juice Last?
|Bottled lemon juice (unopened)||Best by + 3 – 6 months|
|Bottled lemon juice (opened)||Best by or 6 – 12 months|
|Freshly squeezed lemon juice||3 – 4 days|
Fresh Lemon Juice
Freshly squeezed lemon juice lasts about 3 to 4 days if you refrigerate it in a sealed container. It’ll likely stay safe for a few more days, but it’s better to freeze any leftovers if you need them to last longer.
Since fresh lemon juice doesn’t contain any preservatives to lengthen its shelf life, it lasts only a couple of days. Ideally, you always use all of the fresh juice right away, but that’s not always feasible.
Because of the really short life of fresh lemon juice, it’s an excellent candidate for freezing. Use all the juice you need for lemonade or in a recipe and freeze the rest. Next time you need some lemon juice, you just pop a cube or two from the freezer, and you’re good to go.
Related: Can you freeze lemon juice?
Alternatively, you can bake or cook something using that lemon juice.
A good example here would be lemon curd because it lasts longer than fresh lemon juice. And if you make too much, you can always freeze lemon curd leftovers.
Now, you can sometimes find bottles of refrigerated fresh lemon juice in the grocery store. Those come with a very short shelf life, like a couple of days. They typically last a few days longer than lemon juice that you squeeze yourself, but that’s about it.
Bottled Lemon Juice
Bottled lemon juice that’s sold unrefrigerated keeps for at least a couple of months past the printed date. Once you open the bottle, it retains quality at least until the printed date, or for 6 to 12 months of opening, whichever comes later.
Store-bought lemon juice sold unrefrigerated is usually made from concentrate diluted with water to resemble the taste of actual lemon juice. Two very popular brands, namely Jif and ReaLemon produce their juices this way.
Besides the concentrate and water, there are also some preservatives (usually sulfites) added and the whole thing is pasteurized to kill any bacteria that might have been there. This production process makes the juice last quite some time and not require refrigeration while unopened.
Pretty much every bottle of lemon juice comes with a best-by or best-before date. That date tells you how long, at the very least, the juice will stay fresh. Of course, that date is a rather conservative estimate, and you can expect the juice to retain quality for a few months longer.
Once you open the bottle, the juice should still retain its quality for quite some time. ReaLemon recommends referring to the date on the label. So unless the juice is nearing the date on the label, it should still stay safe to use for about 6 to 12 months.
Now, what if your bottled lemon juice is already past its date?
Expired Lemon Juice
Unopened bottled lemon juice should easily last a few months past the printed date, you already know that. But how long will that expired juice keep after opening?
While there’s no way of telling exactly, 1 to 3 months should be a safe estimate. Obviously, the sooner you use it, the better, but it’s not like it’s going to spoil a couple of days after opening. The worst that’s likely to happen is that the quality will be slightly worse.
That said, if the bottle is already opened and you have no idea how you’re going to use the leftovers within those couple of months, it’s probably best to freeze the juice. This way, you lock in the quality and don’t have to worry about it each time you open the fridge.
(Again, my guide on freezing lemon juice should help you out in this case.)
How To Tell If Lemon Juice Is Bad?
Like other juices, lemon juice degrades in quality before it goes bad.
For bottled lemon juice sold unrefrigerated the process is very gradual. Little by little, the juice becomes worse. If you were to use the juice every day, you wouldn’t notice those tiny changes at all. But if the bottle was left untouched for a few months, the changes are easier to notice.
It doesn’t smell that fresh, and the taste alters a bit too. At some point, you might find that the juice doesn’t seem good enough to use, and that’s when you should throw it out. Same thing if you notice any usual signs of spoilage, such as the smell being sourer than it usually is, changed color, mold present, or the juice seems tasteless.
If you’re about to use old lemon juice in a baked recipe, better check its quality before adding it. So you don’t accidentally ruin the whole thing by using spoiled lemon juice.
When it comes to freshly squeezed lemon juice, all the guidelines above apply to it too. Except that the degradation process is much faster. Within a few days, the changes will be quite pronounced, and you might prefer to discard the juice.
Also, if the liquid seems to be perfectly fine, but you have already stored it for over a week, throw it out. The first signs of spoilage are difficult to catch, and 7 days is quite a long time for fresh fruit juice. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Lemon Juice Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary
Thank you for reading this short guide. Here’s a quick recap of what we covered:
- Does lemon juice go bad? Lemon juice doesn’t easily go bad thanks to its acidity, but it doesn’t last forever. Over time, its quality (think smell, taste) slowly degrades, and at some point, you’ll find it not good enough to use anymore. If it’s freshly squeezed lemon juice, treat it the same way you treat similar juices: use it within a couple of days or discard it.
- How long does lemon juice last? Store-bought lemon juice comes with a long shelf life and easily lasts for months past the printed date. Once you open the bottle, it stays safe in the fridge for up to the printed date and then some. That’s true, of course, only for long-lasting lemon juice from brands such as Jif or ReaLemon. If it’s a freshly squeezed juice, its storage time is much shorter.
- How long does fresh lemon juice last? Freshly squeezed lemon juice lasts 3 to 4 days. If you buy it in a grocery store, it usually comes with a slightly longer shelf life of a couple of days, and the label asks you to finish it within a couple of days of opening.