You’re standing in the kitchen, having just prepared your favorite pasta dish (rigatoni, roasted Brussels sprouts, leeks and Parmesan) and all you need now is a squeeze of fresh lemon to make the dish complete. Alas, horror of horrors... you’re out of lemons, but you do have a couple of limes on hand.
So, is lime juice a substitute for lemon juice? Is lemon juice a substitute for lime juice? In short, the answer is yes. There are a few slight differences between these two popular citrus fruits, but for the most part, they’re each other’s best replacement.
Yes, for the most part, limes and lemons can be used interchangeably in recipes. However, it's important to note that lime juice is more acidic than lemon juice, so you may need to use a little less of it than what your recipe calls for. The general rule is 3/4 cup of lime juice substitutes for 1 cup of lemon juice.
Best Substitutes for Lemon Juice
Lemons are a wonderful flavor enhancer for many dishes, just like salt. But when you’re fresh out of lemons, you can use lime instead. And, considering that limes and lemons are so closely related, lime juice is a good substitute for lemon juice, although you may need to alter the quantity a bit. Keep in mind, too, that lemons tend to be slightly sweeter than limes. However, for many recipes (especially cocktails), you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.
If your recipe calls for lemon juice and you’re out of both lemons and limes, rest assured there are several other substitutes you could try, depending on what you’re making. Orange juice works well for salad vinaigrettes, salsas, alcoholic cocktails and most sauces; it’s also high in potassium, calcium and vitamin C, so you’re getting a similar health boost.
White wine works beautifully as a substitute for lemon juice in most savory dishes, like pasta, fish, meat and veggie recipes. Finally, vinegar contains a decent level of acidity (just like lemon), so this is a great substitute if you need an ingredient with a slight kick. Note that you should use half as much vinegar to replace a given amount of lemon juice, or else you’ll end up with an overpoweringly bitter dish on your hands.
The Differences Between Limes and Lemons
Lemons and limes come from the same citrus family, which is why you can usually substitute one for the other when you’re whipping up a dish that calls for one of these delectable fruits. They’re two kinds of citrus fruit known for their acidic, sour flavor, and they’re often used for many of the same purposes.
There are a few slight differences between these fruits. Other than their appearance, limes are more acidic than lemons. Also, lemons are a better, richer source of vitamin C and folate (a B vitamin your body needs to make DNA and other genetic material) than limes.
Lime Recipes You’ll Love
If you have an abundance of citrus in your kitchen, you may be wondering what kinds of lime recipes to try. Limes pair well with seafood, desserts, salads, tacos, pico de gallo, and grilled vegetables and meats. And as far as drinks go, several popular cocktails contain lime as a main ingredient.
A dash of lime zest is a wonderful addition in a tilapia (or other white fish) marinade, for example. And veggie fajitas wouldn’t be the same without a big burst of lime. Of course, lime is a key ingredient in many of America’s favorite desserts, too, from key lime pie to panna cotta.
Many summery cocktails contain a hint of lime as well. If you’re craving a refreshing mojito, a Mexican martini, a Moscow mule or a margarita, you’d better stock your kitchen with plenty of this beloved citrus fruit.
Justine Harrington is a writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been published in Forbes, USA Today, Fodor's, American Way, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Texas Highways, Austin Monthly, and dozens of other print and online publications.