Bright, tangy lemons might evoke images of poolside cocktails or a kid’s neighborhood business venture, but citrus season comes with the end-of-year chill. Starting in December, lemons hang like ornaments from small, dark green trees, ready to brighten up holiday dishes and treats.
We hardly need to tell you how many ways you can use lemon juice, zest, or rinds. From baked fish to creamy pasta and fluffy meringue, little lemons pack a mighty, refreshing punch. Their sourness stars in sauces and creams, and supports hearty stews and salty dressings. Plus, they add much-needed acid to pastas and poultry. So, if you’re looking for some lemony inspiration, here are 19 recipes to get you started.
1. Lemon Bars
These are not your average crinkle cookies, nor are they your average lemon cookie. Here, the preserved lemon peel is used to give the cookies a robust, intensely lemony flavor and salty bite that’s prominent, but not overpowering.
3. Lemon Curd
I can’t get too far into this recipe roundup without talking about lemon curd—and this easy recipe will walk you through exactly how to make one without it turning into lemon scrambled eggs.
Mezcal lovers will adore this three-ingredient margarita and even skeptics will like the subtle smokiness from the grilled lemons.
“This light, moist, lemony cake is genius for so many reasons: It’s powerfully puckery. It’s got both more fresh lemon juice and zest than you’d expect or normally see in a recipe, and the flavor holds up under heat. It’s given even more flavor because it’s soaked—really soaked—with a lemon and sugar syrup that seeps into the cake slowly and provides moistness, a little more keepability, and a lot more lemon intensity,” writes Maida Heatter.
Think of this as the creamier, more pudding-like relative to lemon meringue pie. Omit the usual graham crackers in favor of spiced Biscoff cookies for the crust. As for the topping, this cream pie gets a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream with lemon zest.
A whole new way to eat broccoli and I’m definitely not mad about it.
There are lemon scones and then there are lemon scones. An entire lemon (minus the seeds) is mushed up like applesauce and folded into the scone batter. As for the glaze, it also uses the juice and zest from a whole lemon (the biggest one you can find, please!).
Looking for a new way to make asparagus, well, new again? Blanch it and then grill it; once the stalks are charred, transfer them to a serving platter and top with a creamy lemon-pepper marinade (it gets its silkiness from the tofu, so it’s totally vegan).
Lemon chicken, four ways. By that, we mean that the chicken is brined in a dry lemon-zest mixture; and then there’s a lemon zest butter, which is rubbed over the skin of the bird before roasting; oh, there’s lemon halves that are stuffed in the cavity; and finally, there are lemons scattered around the chicken in the skillet, which become deliciously caramelized.
A trio of citrus zest—lemon, orange, and grapefruit—are mixed with softened butter for a swirly-twirly filling in this sweet bread for brunch.
Regular lemons (you know, the kind that are 79 cents in the grocery store) are known as Eureka lemons. Meyers, on the other hand, are smaller, more floral, and not so tart, making them the perfect citrus fruit to use for cheesecake.
When you use really good quality ingredients, like true Parmigiano-Reggiano and big, fresh, juicy lemons, you don’t need much else to make a delicious dish like spaghetti.
For something sweet come 5 o’clock, turn to this citrus cocktail. A combination of simple syrup, good-quality vodka, fresh lemon juice, and orange liqueur is shaken, not stirred, for an extra citrus boost.
Dress up crispy chicken thighs with a relish made from the zest and juice of an entire lemon, green olives, garlic, fresh mint, and parsley.
Ice cream on a hot summer’s day is always a good idea, but creamy lemon ice cream that requires absolutely no churning is a requirement.
Even if you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, these lemony muffins studded with crunchy poppy seeds will turn your morning around.
The thing about pasta al limone is that it’s so silky and so creamy that you’d think it uses a ton of butter to achieve that consistency. And many recipes do. But this one relies exclusively on soaked cashews puréed with starchy pasta water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Instead of rolled pancakes, these blintzes are filled with a sweetened lemon cheese mixture and formed into individual square pockets.
Think of this as your best-ever boxed cake mix, which achieves its perfect texture from a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour and its extra-lemony flavor from the zest and juice of four lemons, which is used in both the cake batter and the glaze on top.
Allow me to introduce the lemon recipe of all lemon recipes, the one that you’ve all been waiting for—lemon meringue pie. Hiding beneath a billowing torched meringue is a luscious filling made from more than a tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.
23. Vodka Sidecar
Emily Gilmore may not approve of sidecars, but we certainly do (especially when it’s made with a duo of orange liqueur and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Leave it to Martha to develop a pound cake recipe that is not only one of our favorite lemon desserts, but also one of the prettiest.
A lovely mix of oranges and lemons makes arctic char an absolutely irresistible winner dinner.
Fill this moist sponge cake with a generous layer of lemon curd and then adorn it with even more curd on top, along with piped whipped cream.
It normally takes a lot of butter and a lot of Parmigiano-Reggiano to make creamy risotto, but this one is totally dairy-free. How? “The chewy, flavorful oat groats create a starchy broth that makes this vegan dish creamy,” says recipe developer AntoniaJames.
Both lemon juice and lemon zest are utilized in this skillet cake studded with fresh raspberries.
For better-than-basic green beans, toss them with a combination of garlic, sea salt, and the zest and juice of a whole lemon.
"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this! I have the butcher butterfly the chicken so all I do is grind the thyme, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper, mix it with olive oil, and brush it on the chicken. When the lemon slices are roasted and caramelized, you can eat them with the chicken,” said Ina herself.
Tarts are often fussy and time-consuming but this one is, as the title implies, quite lazy. All of the ingredients—all five of them—are blended together and voilà, there’s your filling.
The acidity of lemons and the sweet-tart duality of raspberries makes them perfect dance partners in any sweet treat, such as this beautiful layer cake that’s worthy of a special occasion.
33. Lemon Curd Rolls
Go beyond cinnamon rolls for breakfast and instead, serve literal sunshine. Homemade lemon curd is spread over Erin Jeanne McDowell’s soft, sweet dough, which is then rolled up and sliced into rolls.
Wondering how to make bitter broccoli rabe taste less bitter? A lemony cream sauce, says Food52’s founder Amanda Hesser. “A small squeeze of lemon juice transformed the dish—brightening the mineral flavors in the greens and challenging their bitterness with acidity.
Lemon and lavender is a naturally soothing combination and when paired together for this gin cocktail recipe, you’ll immediately feel the stress of the day melt away.
A twist on the beloved muffins, these pancakes deliver brightness when you need it the most.
Three types of lemon flavorings—whole lemons, lemongrass, and lemon thyme—are used in the wet brine for this turkey recipe. But wait…there’s more! The bird is also stuffed with lemons, lemongrass, garlic, and onions for even more flavor.
“Limoncello is a strong, sunny, lemon-infused Italian liqueur, usually enjoyed as a digestif, or post-dinner drink,” writes recipe developer Emma Laperruque. “Adding black pepper is another way to cut the sweetness and incorporate some subtle spice, which I really love in a digestif.”