Lemon Italian Ice

Lemon Italian ice scooped into yellow bowls

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Freeze Time: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
101 Calories
0g Fat
26g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 101
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 11mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 25g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 4mg 21%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 27mg 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!

“This is a perfectly refreshing summertime treat! This dish is super-family-friendly and can be really fun for all ages to help with the freezing and mixing stages. I would definitely recommend this recipe.” —Tracy Wilk

Lemon Italian ice scooped from a pan into a bowl
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Lemon Italian ice ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

  2. Bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. 

    Water boiling in a pot with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

  3. Allow the water to cool. Add lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. 

    Lemon juice and zest added to pot with sugar and water

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

  4. Pour the mixture into a baking pan and place in the freezer. 

    Lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and water poured into a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / 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. When you can no longer stir the mixture, scrape it with a fork as it begins to freeze.

    Gently stir Lemon Italian ice in the pan

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga 

  6. Scoop into small cups to serve.

    Lemon Italian ice scooped into a bowl from the pan

    The Spruce Eats / 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.
  • If you prefer your Italian ice slushy, remove from the fridge sooner once it has reached your 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.

How to Store

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.