Want to recreate a margarita- and guacamole-filled trip to La Paz, Mexico, or a ceviche feast from Lima, Peru? Or, are you a big fan of citrus drinks? If limes aren't as available in your home city as they are in Mexico or Peru, freezing them is one of the best ways to store limes for year-round citrus flavor.
Freezing limes and other citrus fruit ensures you always have some on hand. As a bonus, it lets you take advantage of sale prices at the grocery store and helps you use more local and in-season fruit year-round, instead of relying on expensive off-season imports that may have a larger carbon footprint.
Multiple Citrus Freezing Options
There are several ways to freeze limes, depending on your planned use. You can freeze limes whole, wedged or sliced, or you can just freeze the juice. You can even freeze the lime zest.
The same techniques work for other citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruits and oranges. You’ll be ready to make everything from sangria to lemonade.
Before You Start Freezing Limes
Before you bring out the knives and open your freezer, wash your limes thoroughly. Ideally, use a rough cloth or scrub brush to ensure you remove all the wax that some limes are coated with. Dry the fruit before you slice it or put it whole in the freezer.
Limes, lemons and other citrus will remain in good shape in the freezer for about 12 months if you take care to protect them from freezer burn. This means keeping them in airtight containers. After about three months, the peel and zest will start to dry out a bit, but the juice will remain delicious.
How to Freeze Lemons and Limes in Wedges and Slices
Cut your washed and dried citrus into slices or wedges, as you prefer. Wedges should be no larger than a quarter of the fruit. Slices should be about a 1/4 inch thick.
Place the fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet or metal pie plate. Placing the pieces peel-side down, rather than on the edible side, will make them a little easier to remove after they’ve frozen.
Place the tray in the freezer until your fruit is frozen solid. Once frozen, take the citrus off the tray and pop them into a re-sealable freezer-safe bag. Press out as much air as you can from the bag before you seal it to prevent freezer burn and to keep the food as flavorful as possible.
Store your bag of frozen limes in the freezer and remove individual pieces as desired. Frozen citrus pieces will thaw in a few minutes on the counter or when immersed in cold water. Pop frozen lime or lemon wedges and slices into drinks for a flavorful ice cube replacement.
Freezing Lime Juice
If you’re planning to use just the juice of the limes, juicing the fruit first will take up much less space in your freezer.
Cut washed limes in half and juice them with a reamer. If the citrus seems very hard, you can make juicing easier by either firmly rolling the fruit on the counter before you cut into it or microwaving the fruit for about 15 seconds.
Remove any seeds from your juice and then pour it into ice cube trays to freeze. Transfer the cubes to a freezer-safe, re-sealable bag once frozen. For larger quantities, just put the juice directly into a freezer bag.
Freezing Lime Zest
Those who want super citrusy flavor should use citrus zest. Lime zest is the green part of the peel without the bitter white pith.
Use a grater, preferably a microplane, to zest a lime. The fragrant pieces can be frozen in an airtight container, but they do tend to dry out in a month or two. Freezing whole limes is your best option to preserve the lime zest.
The Pros and Cons of Freezing Whole Limes
It's possible to freeze whole limes and other citrus fruits. However, once you thaw them out, the fruit will be a bit mushy. The longer you wait to use them after defrosting, the mushier the fruit will be. A mushy lime or lemon is still easy to juice if that’s your goal.
If you want to use the citrus zest, freezing limes whole is a good option. Zesting a lime or lemon that is frozen solid is almost as easy as zesting the fresh fruit. Act quickly, though. Once your lime starts to thaw, it will get mushy, and it will be more difficult to remove the zest.
How to Freeze and Then Thaw Whole Limes and Lemons
Freeze whole limes and lemons by putting the washed and dried fruit inside a freezer bag. Ensure that you remove as much air as possible from the bag prior to sealing it. Store in the freezer.
To quickly defrost a lime, pop it into the microwave for a few seconds. Use the defrost setting in bursts of only about 10 seconds. Check frequently, as you don’t want to heat or cook the fruit. Your goal is just to jump-start the thawing process. You can do the same thing by running the fruit under warm water for a minute or so.
Once the fruit seems no longer frozen solid, leave it out on the counter or immerse it in cold water for about 15 minutes. Your frozen lime should be ready to cut and juice for your guacamole, cocktail or ceviche.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer, as well as a management consultant specializing in workplace wellness. She writes freelance for publications like USA Today, Fodor’s, Montecristo and Canadian Traveller. Follow her on social media (Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna). Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.