How to Make Lemon Sugar

Lemon Sugar
Molly Watson

Storing sugar and lemon zest together creates a delightfully lemon-scented sugar perfect for sprinkling on treats and sweetening drinks. There are several ways to go about making lemon sugar, the difference between them is outlined below, but boils down to putting in a bit more work or a bit more time.

Remember, for all these methods, when removing the zest of a lemon you want just the bright yellow part, and as little of the bitter white pith attached to it as possible.

Method 1: Microplane

Put 1 cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Use a microplane to grate the bright yellow zest off of 1 lemon, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith underneath, into the sugar—doing this over the bowl of sugar ensures that you capture as much of the lemon oil released while grating as possible. Transfer to an airtight container and let sit for a few days for the sugar to pick up the lemon flavor.

Method 2: Food Processor

If you don't have a microplane, use a regular grater or paring knife to remove the zest—just the bright yellow part—from 1 lemon. Put the zest and 1 cup sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the lemon is fully incorporated into the sugar. This version is ready to use right away, but the flavor will mellow nicely if you let it sit for a few days in an air-tight container.

Method 3: Time

This method is as low-labor as possible. Use a paring knife to peel off the zest from 1 lemon; keep it in big strips. Put the zest and 1 cup of sugar in an airtight container and set aside for a month, shaking every few days if you think of it. The sugar will pick up the lemon flavor as they hang out together.

Storing Lemon Sugar

Keep lemon sugar in an air-tight container, just as you would sugar in general. It will keep more or less indefinitely, again, much like unadulterated sugar, but I find it isn't too much trouble to use it all up within the six months food safety folks might recommend.

I've Made It, Now What? (Or, How to Use Lemon Sugar)

Lemon sugar has many uses. A few that come to mind off the top of my head:

  • Serve with hot or iced tea
  • Use to rim cocktail glasses
  • Sprinkle on pancakes, waffles, or cereal
  • Scatter over classic crepes for a super simple dessert
  • Use to sweeten fruit salads
  • Sprinkle on sugar cookies or lemon-flavored cookies before baking
  • Use in place of regular sugar in lemon-scented recipes (like these Lemon Bars) for extra lemon kick
  • Citrus marinades for poultry or fish that need sweetening up