You’re halfway through whipping up a delicious dish of pan-roasted chicken—maybe your best rendition yet—and you want to add a hint of brightness. A squeeze of lemon juice will do the trick…then it dawns on you: You’re out of lemons. But not all is lost, friend! There are plenty of swaps you can use in a pinch, and you probably already have a few in your kitchen. Need a substitute for lemon juice? These seven options are just as tasty.
1. Lime juice
So you don’t have any lemons, but you do have a bowl of fresh limes. Great news: Even though its flavor differs slightly (limes are sweeter and less zingy than lemons), lime juice is a worthy substitute for lemon juice if need be, and it happens to be our favorite of the bunch. Swap lime juice for lemon juice in equal amounts, in both savory and sweet recipes (and cocktails, too).
2. Dry white wine
White wine is another excellent substitute for lemon juice, thanks to its bright, citrusy flavor profile, as long as you choose one that’s very dry instead of sweet. Sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and vinho verde are our favorites because they’re already very acidic, but even a Chardonnay would work if that’s all you have. For savory recipes, sub dry white wine for lemon juice in equal amounts.
3. Orange juice
Orange juice is sweeter and less acidic than lemon juice, but it has the same citrusy quality and can be swapped into both sweet and savory recipes if that’s what’s in your fridge. It will impart a distinctive orange flavor, so keep that in mind depending on your recipe. (Orange chicken doesn’t sound half bad.) When using orange juice as a substitute for lemon juice, replace in equal amounts.
4. White wine vinegar
Vinegar is highly acidic, so if you’re just looking to brighten up a dish, it can replace the bite that lemon juice would bring. Our first choice is white wine vinegar, which is softer and more nuanced than plain white vinegar. The only caveat? We would reserve this substitute for smaller amounts of lemon juice—otherwise the entire meal might taste like vinegar (which is not really what you’re going for). Vinegar is strong, so use half as much as you would fresh lemon juice when substituting in savory dishes (or start out small and adjust to taste).
5. White vinegar
Like white wine vinegar, regular old white vinegar can add a boost of acid to savory dishes. But only use this substitute in small amounts (a small splash will do), because it can taste intense in large amounts.
6. Lemon verbena
This herb has a sweet, lemony aroma, so it can impart similar flavors in cooking, baking and cocktails. Keep in mind that it will also add its own set of herbaceous notes (and doesn’t add any acidity), so it’s best used as an accent or a garnish. When replacing lemon juice with an herb like lemon verbena, it’s best to use your taste as a guide instead of sticking to a strict measurement.
7. Lemon extract
If you’re just looking for the flavor of lemon and not the acidity, lemon extract can replace lemon juice in baking recipes. Reserve this substitute for recipes where only a splash of lemon juice is needed, or even better, use it to replace lemon zest. Because it’s very concentrated, you should only need about a teaspoon of lemon extract per two tablespoons of lemon juice (or two teaspoons lemon zest) to get the same lemony flavor.
Looking for more ingredient substitutes?
- 10 Dairy-Free Substitutes for Milk and How to Use Them
- 5 Ingredients You Can Substitute for Molasses
- 7 Genius Substitutes for Heavy Cream
- 7 Vegan Buttermilk Substitute Options for Plant-Based Baking
- How to Make Your Own Self-Rising Flour Substitute
- 6 Vanilla Extract Substitutes That Are Just as Good as the Real Deal
- What’s the Best Substitute for Soy Sauce? Here Are 6 Delicious Options
Ready to cook? Here are a few of our favorite lemon recipes.
- Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake
- Sheet-Pan Lemon Butter Veggies and Sausage
- Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce