Lemon Italian Ice

Lemon ice recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Freeze Time: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 5 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
162 Calories
0g Fat
42g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5
Amount per serving
Calories 162
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 17mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 41g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 7mg 34%
Calcium 11mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 43mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Lemon ice is a traditional Italian recipe. Sweet and tart, it's the perfect refreshment on a hot summer day. With just a few ingredients and a few hours' time, you will have a deliciously tangy treat that you can keep on hand when the warm weather arrives. In order to get that fluffy texture, you will need to agitate the mixture every once in a while as it is setting in the freezer. The smooth consistency is what distinguishes Italian ice from the more crystalized ice desserts called granita and shaved ice.

Easy enough for kids to join in the fun of making this lemon ice, and then enjoying the fruits of their labor. Get ready to pucker up!


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for lemon ice
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  2. Bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. 

    Bring water to boil
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  3. Allow the water to cool; then add lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. 

    Lemon in pot
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  4. Pour the mixture into a baking pan and place in the freezer. 

    Pour mixture into baking pan
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga  
  5. Gently stir the crystals every 30 minutes or so and leave until all of the liquid is crystallized but not frozen solid, and the mixture is smooth—about 3 hours. A fork may be necessary to scrape the mixture as it begins to freeze.

    Gently stir crystals
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  6. Scoop into small cups to serve.

    Scoop into bowl
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 


  • If you find that the lemon Italian ice has become too hard, use a large metal spoon or fork to scrape the mixture and break up the ice crystals. Serve immediately.
  • You can make this recipe ahead of time if you like and store in the freezer, covered, for up to 4 days. Either thaw a bit in the refrigerator before serving (until it is no longer rock hard and you can somewhat easily scoop with a spoon) or break into chunks and place in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • If you prefer your Italian ice slushy, remove from the freezer sooner once it has reached the desired consistency.
  • Do not use bottled lemon juice for this recipe, and when zesting the lemon be careful not to include the white pith; both will leave the Italian ice tasting very bitter.

Recipe Variations

  • You can add a bit of mint either to infuse flavor into the Italian ice, or as a garnish at the end. To give the finished dessert a bit of a mint flavor, add fresh mint leaves with the lemon zest and juice and allow to steep for 20 minutes or so. Remove the herb before pouring the mixture into the pan and freezing. For garnish, simply place a leaf or two on top of each serving. You can also top with a lemon zest twist.
  • If you would like to turn this recipe into an adult treat, include a bit of liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Add up to a teaspoon of the liqueur along with the lemon juice and zest.
  • Use this same recipe and technique with other citrus fruits including limes, oranges, and even grapefruit.