How Much Juice Is In One Lemon?

Here’s what you need to know before you start squeezing.

freshly squeezed lemon juice in small bowl
Photo: rez-art/Getty Images

Ever wondered just how much juice is in one lemon? You've come to the right place.

Bushel of meyer lemons on white background
Meredith/Blaine Moats

How Much Lemon Juice Is In One Lemon?

One regular-sized lemon contains about 2-3 tablespoons of juice. Since all lemons aren't exactly the same, we like to stay on the side of caution and assume that one lemon contains 2 tablespoons juice. This means, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, you'll need to use about ½ a lemon.

Of course, lemons come in various sizes. But, unless it calls out a specific size, your recipe is probably referring to medium lemons.

½ lemon = 1 tablespoon juice

pile of lemon zest next to cup with lemon juice and whole lemon
Jacob Fox/Meredith

How to Juice a Lemon

Before you start juicing, it's helpful to roll the lemon around on a cutting board or the counter for a few seconds, pressing with gentle pressure. This softens the fruit and makes the whole process easier.

Here are three ways to juice a lemon:

With a Juice Press

One of the easiest ways to juice a lemon is to use a hand-held juice press, which you can purchase for about $5 to $15. To use a juice press, just:

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Place one lemon half into the cup of the press (the exposed side of the lemon should face up) and squeeze over a bowl until the lemon is completely devoid of juice.
  3. Repeat with the other lemon half.

With a Citrus Reamer

Though it's not quite as simple as a juice press, a citrus reamer still gets the job done effectively:

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Over a bowl, push the blade into the exposed side of a lemon half and twist. Keep going until it's completely juiced.

With Your Hands

Squeezing lemons with your own two hands takes more elbow grease, but it's possible:

  1. Peel the lemon.
  2. With clean hands, squeeze the now-naked lemon as hard as you can over a bowl. Keep squeezing until it's completely juiced.

You can also cut the lemon in half and squeeze each half, preferably over a fine mesh sieve to catch any seeds.

What About Zest?

Lemon zest is the outermost rind of a lemon's peel. Zest is often used in cooking because the natural flavors are concentrated in its oils, making it taste more intense and aromatic than the juice alone.

One regular-sized lemon has about a tablespoon of zest.

So, if your recipe calls for the zest of one lemon, measure out one tablespoon.

1 lemon = 1 tablespoon zest

Zesting lemon with box grater
Corey Williams

How to Zest a Lemon

There are a ton of ways to zest a lemon, and you probably already have the tools in your kitchen.

With a Grater

The easiest method involves any kind of grater—you can use a box grater (like the kind you'd use for cheese) or a microplane.

  1. Over a cutting board, drag an unpeeled lemon in a downward motion along your grater.
  2. Repeat this motion in the same spot until the pith (the white part of the peel) is exposed.
  3. Continue this process all over the lemon.

With a Knife

If you don't have a grater, you can use a knife. This is especially helpful if the zest will be used to garnish a cocktail.

  1. Hold the lemon firmly in your dominant hand.
  2. Using a sharp chef's knife, carefully cut the yellow peel into strips. Start at the bottom of the fruit and work your way down.
  3. Once the lemon is completely peeled, finely mince the peel and you're ready to go.
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