Lemon Simple Syrup

Fresh Lemons. Photo © Molly Watson
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings
Ratings (26)

Lemon syrup is a lemon-infused sugar syrup that adds tons of lemon flavor to anything it's stirred into or drizzled over. It's super easy to make (lemon juice, sugar, some lemon zest, that's all you need!) and it adds both sweetness and lemon kick to cocktails and desserts.

Best of all, use it to sweeten lemonade or iced tea for the best versions of those summer thirst-quenchers you've ever had.

Lemon syrup keeps, covered and chilled, almost indefinitely. It's mainly sugar, so unless something truly funky happens, you're likely to use it up well before anything about it "turns." (Technically, people might say the syrup lasts up to six months, but it's possible for a jar of the stuff to last well over a year in the fridge.) Having a party? Go ahead and make as big a batch as sounds good!

What You'll Need

  • 2 to 4 lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar

How to Make It

Using a sharp paring knife, cut off and reserve the zest, or bright yellow part of the peel, of 1 of the lemons. You can also use a microplane zester, but then you'll have to strain the syrup at the end instead of simply lifting out the strips of zest—the choice is yours! However you zest the lemon, be sure to focus on the bright yellow part only, and carefully avoid the bitter white pith below. 

  1. Juice all of the lemons so that you have 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.
  1. Combine the juice with the sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the syrup is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the reserved lemon zest. Transfer the syrup to a small metal bowl and let it sit until cool, about 20 minutes.
  3. Lift out the zest, letting any excess syrup drip off and back into the bowl, and discard the zest. If you ended up with lots of small pieces of zest, strain the syrup through a sieve. The zest can turn bitter if left to sit in the syrup while it's stored, so remove and discard it! 

If you want to use the syrup while it's still warm, now is the time. (Don't worry, you can always warm it back up if you need to). Otherwise, cover the bowl and chill the syrup to add to cold beverages. Or, transfer to a clean jar, screw on the lid, and store in the fridge for months and months if you need to.

How to Use Lemon Syrup

  • Use the syrup warm on pancakes or waffles 
  • Drizzle syrup over pound cake 
  • Let drops of the syrup fall onto fruit salad (a little goes a long way!)
  • Use the syrup to sweeten lemonade and never have undissolved sugar at the bottom of your glass again
  • It's great in other beverages, too, such as this rosemary mint cooler
  • It's also lovely in cocktails such as a Lemon Drop  or to sweeten margaritas
  • Use in place of honey in marinades and dressings of all sorts for a lemon punch