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What Is A Meyer Lemon? Taste, Uses, Storage & More!

Have you ever wondered what is a Meyer lemon? If so, this complete FAQ guide is for you! Get to know this mild, sweet lemon!

I have loved Meyer lemons after discovering them at a friend’s house for dinner one night about 10 years ago in California. I love lemons of all kinds, but I didn’t know these were even a thing until she introduced me to a beautiful bowl of them out on her counter. She made a chicken dish that was beautifully fragrant and lightly lemony. 

So of course my curiosity got the better of me over the years and I’ve sought them out at the store to mixed success. Even today, when so many foods are available year round, I am still delighted as can be when I find them. 

So here you are, maybe getting some hype in one ear and out the other about Meyer lemons and you want to know if the extra cost is worth it. I am here to tell you…yeah, they are. Sweet, less acidic, very juicy Meyer lemons make for just a less sour lemon experience, and they have a place at your table, I PROMISE. 

Here’s some stuff I found out about the history, where they are grown, what makes Meyer lemons different, how to store the juice, how to store the peel, what makes them pretty darn special, and even a few recipes I found around the web that will highlight this beautiful citrus fruit. 

I love you, Meyer lemon. Let’s begin.

After hours of searching, you’ve finally found some sumptuous lemon-based dishes to make your dreary winter days more memorable and exciting.

But there’s one problem: most of these recipes call for an ingredient you may not be familiar with—Meyer lemons! 

Now may be scratching your head and wondering what is a Meyer lemon

What is so special about the fruit? 

What do they taste like? 

And what’s the difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon?
 
Find out the answers to these questions and learn more about this citrus fruit! 

Here are some juicy facts—from origin to its culinary and pastry applications.

What is a Meyer lemon?

Contents

Native to China but now cultivated throughout the world, Meyer lemons (Citrus meyeri) are a type of citrus fruit known for their unique taste and appearance. 

They’re believed to be a cross between a regular lemon (Citrus limon) and a mandarin orange, considered one of the sweetest fruits of the orange family.

The sweet little juice bombs were first introduced in the United States after Frank Meyer, a former USDA explorer, brought the citrus fruits to the states from Beijing, China, in the early 1900s.

They’re smaller and more round than regular lemons with a bright yellow, dark yellow pulp, floral fragrance, and thin, edible skin.

Meyer lemon flavor is less acidic and sweeter than a regular lemon.

Meyer lemons generally hold a bit more juice, too, than the average grocery store lemon.

In the 1860s, most Meyer lemon trees in the states were destroyed by the Tristeza virus that threatened the entire citrus industry. 

Fortunately, the California Department of Agriculture found some virus-free stock, which became the foundation stock for the newly developed “Improved Meyer lemon” tree today. 

Before the boom of Meyer lemon in the US market, the hybrid citrus fruit was merely used as a decorative houseplant in China. 

Today, Meyer lemons are praised by cooks who creatively apply the entire fruit (except the seeds) in their culinary journey.

The lemons are primarily used to brighten up sweet and savory dishes, but most people enjoy adding them to their salad and seafood dishes!

What’s the difference between a Meyer lemon and regular lemon?

We usually use Meyer lemon, and regular lemon belongs to the citrus family (Rutaceae). 

Since they belong to the same family, some people think that they are similar, but little did they know—these fruits have significant differences in culinary uses, taste, prices, appearance, and availability. 

AppearanceTasteAvailability and price difference
Meyer lemonsMeyer lemons are a hybrid fruit of mandarin oranges and lemons. 

So their flavor tastes like a mixture of sour lemon and juicy sweet orange. 

They’re smaller and rounder than a regular lemon with dark yellow pulp, and a thin deep-yellow to orange skin that’s entirely edible.
Meyer lemons feature a mellow, sweet flavor and are less acidic than typical lemons. 

Since these lemons have less bitter pith, it’s possible to enjoy them in dishes that require whole lemons.
Meyer lemons can be found in most grocery stores from December to May. 

The fruits are up to twice the price of typical lemons since they’re harder to find and less hardy.
Regular lemonsCompared to Meyer lemons, regular lemons are larger in size with thick, yellow skin, thick, white pith, and bright yellow inner flesh.Regular lemons have a strong taste that’s often described as sour, acidic, or tangy. 

But this distinctive sour flavor of lemon is the key ingredient in some refreshing recipes such as lemonade, lemon sorbet, and lemon vodka cocktail.
Meanwhile, you can enjoy regular lemons, like the Lisbon or the Eureka, all year round. 

They are inexpensive and can be bought in grocery stores or farmers’ markets.

Can you substitute regular lemon for a Meyer lemon?

Both regular and Meyer lemons are sour with an acidic, citric taste. 

You can substitute your regular lemon for Meyer lemon, but you will need some tweaks to get the same effect. 

Since Meyer lemons are sweeter, adjusting the amount of sugar called for in your lemon recipe is advisable. 

Or replace Meyer lemon juice with a mix of equal parts fresh lemon juice and orange juice. 

If your recipe calls for grated Meyer lemon peel, substitute it with equal lemon zest, orange, or tangerine parts.

When are Meyer lemons in season?

Meyer lemons are in season roughly from December to May; this makes the variety hard to find and more expensive than regular lemons. 

When buying in the grocery store or farmer’s market, you should choose Meyer lemons with an even deep-yellow to orange color and no soft or brown spots. 

True—they have a limited season, but you can extend the shelf life of the fruits by storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.

You may not always find them available at your local grocery store, so when you need to know where are meyer lemons grown, the top producers are India, Mexico, China, and Argentina.

What does a Meyer lemon taste like?

As mentioned earlier, Meyer lemon tastes like a mix of regular lemon and mandarin oranges.

They’re noticeably sweet with a slightly tangy finish.

In a pH test conducted by Cook’s Illustrated, the team found out that standard lemon is 1.3X more acidic than Meyer lemon (with 2.23 and 2.33 pH values, respectively)

You can take advantage of Meyer lemon’s unique flavor profile in glazes, sauces, vinaigrettes, salads, and sweet treats.

Are Meyer lemons sweet?

Yes, Meyer lemons are sweet and don’t have the same tang as regular lemons. 

Aside from their sweet flavor, the fruits are also prized for their thin, edible skin.

How to store Meyer lemons

The storage method you use depends on when you will use the fruits in your recipes. 

If you plan to use them within a few days of purchase, it’s best to store lemons at room temperature on the countertop. 

But in case you want to retain most of their flavor and juice, the best way to store the whole lemons is in your refrigerator. 

When stored correctly, you can enjoy the peak quality of the fruits for about a week or two.

Here’s how to do this: 

Tools needed:

  • Fresh Meyer lemons
  • Plastic bag
  • Refrigerator, airtight container

Instructions for storing Meyer lemons in the refrigerator:

  1. Use whole, refrigerated lemons for the best flavor for about a week or two. Wash the lemons thoroughly under running water, then pat them dry.
  2. Place your fresh whole Meyer lemons in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.
  3. Please put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

How to store Meyer lemons in the freezer?

I love Meyer lemons, but they have a shorter shelf life, meaning you can’t enjoy them all year. 

To solve this, I’m going to share the art of freezing Meyer lemons with you. 

But first things first, you need to gather some things in this preparation: 

Tools needed:

  • Fresh Meyer lemons
  • Handheld lemon squeezer
  • Ice cube tray
  • Freezer
  • Freezer bags

Instructions for storing Meyer lemon juice in the freezer:

  1. Wash the Meyer lemons thoroughly under running water.
  2. Pat them dry, then cut the lemons in half. 
  3. Place each in the squeezer with the cut side down. 
  4. Press it until all the juice comes out from the fruit. 
  5. Transfer the lemon juice to an ice cube tray, then freeze. 
  6. Once frozen, quickly transfer the cubes to a freezer zipper bag, then pop back in the freezer.

Cooking Chew tip: If you plan to save your Meyer lemon peels, PEEL THEM BEFORE JUICING. It’s a much easier task then the fruit is whole and firm. 

You can use the Meyer lemon peels in your limoncello base, add to soups or lemon sauces, or process in a food processor to use the zest. Just make sure you are avoiding the white pith and just get the skin of the fruit.

Instructions for storing Meyer lemon peels in the freezer:

  1. To store, thinly slice the peels using a kitchen knife or vegetable peeler, being careful to not remove too much pith (the white part under the skin). 
  2. Spread the peels on a small baking tray or cookie sheet in a single layer. 
  3. Place in the freezer. They should be fully frozen in two hours. 
  4. Quickly transfer the sliced peels to a freezer bag, then pop them back in the freezer for storage.

Ways to use Meyer lemons

Not only that Meyer lemons are known for their slightly sweet and less tangy note, but the citrus fruits are also pretty versatile. 

They can be eaten raw and work well in both sweet and savory dishes. 

Have you ever wondered what to do with Meyer lemons? 

Unlock some of these recipes in this section.

  • Make your favorite custard cakes tangier and lighter with Meyer lemons. 
  • This tasty ice cream recipe turns your Meyer lemons into a frozen dessert. 
  • Combine Meyer lemon zest with mustard and garlic to make a fish marinade.
  • Turn your bright Meyer lemons into classic meringue tart. 
  • Fuse them with aromatic spices like rosemary and thyme to create a lemony roast chicken.
  • Use both the juice and zest of the fruit to give this margarita its subtle sweet-tart flavor.
  • How about adding a lemony indulgence to pasta? Why not!

The bottom line

With this comprehensive guide, I’m in great hope that you get the correct information you need to know how to use the fruit in your future cooking.

They’re versatile and can help enhance many recipes such as salads, soups, marinades, or sweet and savory meals. 

If you’re looking for an alternative for regular lemons or want to switch things up, give Meyer lemons a try.

Just be sure to adjust your recipes as these fruits feature a sweet-tart flavor profile.