The best balance of tart and sweet, this refreshing lemon sorbet tastes like a frozen lemonade – perfect for any hot summer day.
Anyone who has made homemade ice cream can tell you that it is one of the best things about summer.
But what if you can’t do dairy, or simply want a lighter frozen dessert option?
That’s where sorbets come in.
This lemon sorbet is like eating frozen lemonade. It’s perfectly tart, cold, creamy, and totally refreshing. It’s everything you want on a hot summer day!
WHAT IS SORBET?
I’m sure if you’ve spent any time in the ice cream aisle at the grocery store, you’ve probably seen pints of sorbet alongside the various ice cream flavors.
But what exactly is a sorbet?
A sorbet is a frozen dessert made with fruit juice, sugar, and water. There may be other ingredients included, such as alcohol or citrus zest, but the most basic sorbet consists primarily of those 3 things.
If you’ve ever wondered what makes a sorbet different from sherbet: sorbets do not contain dairy and sherbets do.
And what about granitas? Granitas are made with similar ingredients to sorbets, but instead of being churned in an ice cream maker for a smooth texture, they are poured into a pan and the surface is scraped with a fork as it freezes to create icy flakes.
HOW TO MAKE LEMON SORBET
If you’ve never made ice cream or sorbet before, don’t worry: it’s actually quite easy! This lemon sorbet is especially simple.
Ingredients you’ll need
As I said above, a basic sorbet is made with fruit juice, sugar, and water, and this recipe is not much different from that.
To make this lemon sorbet, you will need:
- 1 ¼ cups of water
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon of grated lemon zest
- 1 ½ cups lemon juice
You will need to zest about 2 lemons to get a tablespoon of zest.
1 ½ cups of lemon juice is a lot of lemon juice. You’ll need around 10-12 lemons to get that much juice.
If you don’t want to juice that many lemons, you could use Nellie & Joe’s bottled lemon juice. I recommend this brand because I think it has a better flavor than other bottled lemon juices.
If this ingredient list seems similar to what you’d find for homemade lemonade (or even strawberry lemonade or watermelon lemonade), you’re right! In fact, this sorbet tastes like a frozen lemonade – and it is sooo good.
Making this recipe
Because granulated sugar does not dissolve in cold water, we have to make a simple syrup in order to sweeten the lemon sorbet base.
In a small saucepan, combine the water with the sugar. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is clear. This will take about 1 minute.
Take the syrup off the heat and add the lemon zest. Let the syrup steep for about 20 minutes.
After the syrup has steeped, whisk in the lemon juice and then cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. You want the sorbet base to be cold before churning it in your ice cream maker.
When the lemon sorbet base has chilled, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Transfer the churned sorbet to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm, usually at least 3 hours, before enjoying.
This lemon sorbet is so classic, it gives you a lot of wiggle room to play with adding other flavors to the base before churning.
Infusing the simple syrup with different flavors is the best way to change up this recipe without accidentally throwing off the sugar-to-juice ratio. Some ideas of things you could infuse into the syrup include:
- Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or sage
You could even try making the syrup with honey instead of granulated sugar for a lemon-honey sorbet.
Can I use bottled juice to make lemon sorbet?
Yes. If you want to skip juicing a ton of lemons, you can use bottled juice in this sorbet.
If you go that route, I recommend using Nellie & Joe’s lemon juice. I find it to have the best flavor out of the bottled lemon juices I have tried.
Can I use Meyer lemons in this recipe?
Yes! Because Meyer lemons are a tiny bit sweeter than regular lemons, you will want to reduce the sugar by 3 tablespoons if you choose to use them in this sorbet.
Can I make this sorbet without an ice cream maker?
If you want the smoothest lemon sorbet, I recommend investing in an ice cream maker. Even though you can definitely find fancy ones that are more expensive, there are very affordable options available.
If you aren’t able to get ahold of an ice cream maker, though, you can still make sorbet without one – it just won’t be quite as smooth.
To do this, pour the chilled sorbet base into a shallow freezer-safe container and place it in the freezer. Every half hour or so, take it out and use a fork to break apart the sorbet, repeating until the sorbet is fully frozen.
Unlike making coffee granita, you don’t really want ice flakes in your sorbet, so try not to scrape the sorbet with your fork. Instead, try to just break up and smash the frozen pieces.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker and want to make homemade ice cream, make sure you check out my no-churn ice cream recipe.
How long will lemon sorbet keep in the freezer?
Lemon sorbet is best served within 3 days.
Why is my sorbet icy?
If you’ve ever had a sorbet that was icy instead of smooth, that’s because it didn’t have enough sugar in it!
The sugar ratio in sorbet is important for getting just the right texture. Too little and it will be icy; too much and it will be slushy.
If you make a sorbet that is too icy, simply let it melt, then stir in a bit more simple syrup or even a splash of vodka and re-churn it.
I have tested this recipe with the amount of sugar listed to make sure it is nice and smooth, so I don’t recommend reducing the sugar in this lemon sorbet.
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon zest from about 2 lemons
- 1 ½ cups lemon juice from about 10-12 lemons or bottled, see notes
- In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is clear, about 1 minute.
- Remove the syrup from the heat, add the lemon zest, and set aside to steep for about 20 minutes. Whisk in lemon juice, cover and refrigerate until chilled, 2-3 hours.
- Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to a freezer safe container and freeze the sorbet until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving.