How to Juice a Lemon without a Juicer

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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There’s no denying how much vibrant flavor fresh lemons and limes bring to a recipe, but they’re not cheap! So here are a few tricks that I use to juice a lemon (or lime) to make sure you get every last drop of juice and leave no penny wasted.

A hand squeezing a lemon into a glass

1. Choose Ripe Lemons

This step might be the most obvious, but it can also be the most difficult depending on the season or your location. Unripe, rock-hard lemons are not likely to give you much juice no matter what, so spend some time checking for ripeness before you buy.

Give the lemons a light squeeze. A ripe, juicy lemon will feel a little heavy and give just slightly when squeezed. If it’s too soft, it’s probably past its prime. A very light lemon is likely to be dry or have a thick pith and less juice. Looks for a bright yellow peel with a nice sheen. The lemon should never look dull or wrinkled.

A hand squeezing a lemon

2. Roll It

I like to think of this step as the “pre-squeeze.” Before cutting into the lemon, roll it on the countertop with pressure. This crushes some of the membranes in the lemon even before you cut, so the juice is loose and ready to go!

A lemon being rolled on a countertop

3. Microwave It

Pop the lemon in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (again, before cutting it open). This has a similar effect to rolling the lemon in that it causes some of the membranes inside to burst and release their juice. Plus, a warm lemon is a lot softer and easier to squeeze than a cold lemon.

A lemon being reamed with a spoon

4. Ream It

After finally cutting the lemon in half and doing an initial squeeze by hand, I like to “ream” the inside of the lemon. While there are special tools made for this purpose, I find that a large spoon works just fine. Simply insert the spoon into the center of the halved lemon and twist. This crushes any remaining membranes and releases every last drop. And then do one last squeeze after reaming.

Freezer Bag Full of Fresh Lemons

5. Freeze It

Another option, if you do happen to get some lemons that are really dry, is to freeze them. Freezing breaks almost all of the internal membranes and will leave the lemon very soft and juicy after thawing. Freezing lemons is a great way to save extra lemons that you plan to use for zesting and juicing. You can read my full tutorial on how to freeze citrus here.

Recipes for Fresh Lemons

Now that you’re a pro at squeezing lemons, here are a few awesome recipes to make with all that fresh juice!

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  1. Thank you for sharing this Beth. I don’t use lemons, limes, or oranges very often in a recipe, so I don’t think I want to invest in a juicer.

  2. Wondering about making fresh lemon aid is their an easy way to collect the seeds ?

  3. Ok so maybe this is a dumb question since you’ve mentioned it not at all, but how do you keep from getting all the lemon seeds mixed into the juice? When I squeeze the lemon the seeds pop out and then I have a hard time fishing them back out.

    1. I think the easiest option is to just pour the juice through a mesh strainer afterward. Otherwise, yes, you’ll just have to fish them out with a spoon. :(

  4. Probably a bunch of folk will have ideas about doing this, too. I bought a Chef’n lemon squeezer. It uses a compound lever, and fits in a drawer. I know – more equipment. But this thing is amazing. It’s about $15, but it’s paid for itself many times over. I’ve had mine for 6 years, and it’s still working great. I’m not associated with them or anything, but I love it. Not sure if links work, or if you allow them, but feel free to replace it with an affiliate one, or kill it if it’s a problem. Cheers!

  5. My handheld citrus press is BY FAR my favorite kitchen tool. It gets every drop of juice, was inexpensive, and takes less time and hassle than using a spoon.

  6. So clever! Thank you for delivering the clever tricks and hot tips to make cooking more enjoyable.

    Can I also say that I love your nail polish? It looks very stylish and witchy, and I mean that in the best way. Is it gel?

    1. Haha, thank you!! And I definitely took that as a compliment. :) It’s Olive and June nail polish in the color “obsessed.” Nail polish usually doesn’t stick to my nails at all, so I always used to do gel just to get it to last more than 24 hours, but that’s expensive and bad for your nails. Then I found this and while it doesn’t last as long as gel, it definitely lasts longer than anything I’ve bought in a store and I can change it out anytime I need without having to go into a salon (the worst part about gel, IMHO).

  7. I had never thought about freezing a lemon or lime for juicing later!! I have one of those handheld citrus press things, and it’s lasted me forever and makes juicing a lemon or lime so quick and easy. I read somewhere that after you cut the lemon in half, you should then also cut off the pointy end parts to really help get all the juice out.