The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat lemons. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest.

ripe lemon fruits

What lemon etiquette is

Lemon etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat lemons. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow lemon etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.

If you are a guest, respect lemons’ etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy them.

What you should know about lemons

Lemon is a citric fruit. It is oval in shape, with a thick yellow rind. Its texture is juicy with a sour taste.

How To Serve And Eat lemons

Etiquette tips to serve and eat lemons

1) How to store lemons

You can keep whole lemons out of the fridge. Place them in a fruit bowl. Keep them away from sources of heat or direct light. They should last for around 7 days.

When you store whole lemons in the fridge, they may last for 3 to 4 weeks. Do not wrap them in plastic.

Store sliced lemons in the fridge. Place them in a sealed container. They will last for about 1 week.

In the freezer, lemons can last for over 6 months.

2) How to clean lemons

Wash lemons under cold running water before you prepare them. 

3) How to prepare and cook lemons

If you serve lemons as an accompaniment for other foods or drinks, do not serve them whole. Cut lemons in slices or wedges. Keep their rind on.

You can use lemons to prepare lemon water. Squeeze them and pour the juice into the water before serving. Squeeze lemons at room temperature to extract the maximum amount of juice.

Alternatively, you can make lemon preserves or lemon jam. 

Lemon can be used as an ingredient for savory and sweet dishes. Squeeze the juice on salads, sauces, roasts, or raw or cured meat such as bresaola.

4) How to serve & present lemons

You should serve lemons to accompany tea, seafood or fish dishes, salads, fried foods, or fruit salads.

Serve lemon slices or wedges on a small serving plate. Then, let guests help themselves. Alternatively, if you serve food already plated, you can place a lemon slice or wedge on each individual plate. Do not serve whole lemons.

Present lemon juice in a small jug.

Serve lemons at room temperature. Take them out of the fridge between 1 and 2 hours before serving.

5) Foods and beverages to pair lemons with

Lemon slices or wedges are a common accompaniment or dish decoration.

Lemon juice is ideal with raw or cured meat. With steaks and roasts. On fish or seafood, such as prawns, crabs, or oysters. With fried, grilled, or spicy food. Such as barbecue, Mexican cuisine, or grilled Halloumi cheese.

Squeeze lemon on salads and fruit salads. Lemons pair well with most fruits. Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries. Stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums. Water-rich fruits, such as melon.

Lemon juice is a common ingredient for drinks and cocktails too. It pairs well with many spirits. Tequila. Vodka. Gin. You can mix lemon juice with almost every other fruit juice. Do not mix lemon juice with wine or beer.

6) How to eat lemons

Do not squeeze lemons with your hand. Instead, hold the lemon facing down and close to your plate. Spear a fork in it, and gently squeeze the juice by moving the fork up and down. While squeezing, cover the lemon with your hand to avoid spraying the other guests. 

When lemon is served in slices, like for tea or as a decoration, do not squeeze it. Put the whole slice into your cup of tea. 

It is not common to eat lemon on its own, due to its sour taste.

lemon etiquette mistakes

Lemon etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst lemon etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Spitting lemon seeds.
  • 8/10. Serving spoiled lemons.
  • 8/10. Squeezing lemon the wrong way.
  • 3/10. Serving whole lemons.

Additional information for properly serving lemons

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Lemons contain about 29 calories per 100 grams. On average, one medium-sized lemon contains 17 calories. A slice or a wedge contains about 2 calories.

How to buy the best lemons

A crucial factor in lemon etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Season and availability 

Lemons are available all year round as they grow in several regions.

Choose the best

Ripe lemons are bright yellow in color, without any green spots. They should feel firm and heavier than they look. Pale yellow lemons are likely old and thus contain less juice.

Alternatives to lemons

The best substitutes for lemon are other citric fruits. Lime is perhaps the most popular. Oranges are another valid substitute for many dishes.


What is the best way to eat lemon?

There are 3 most common ways to eat a lemon. 1) As an accompaniment to other foods or beverages. Such as fish or tea. 2) Squeeze lemon juice into water or into another beverage. 3) Preparing a lemon preserve, which can become an ingredient for other recipes.

Can you eat lemon by itself?

Yes. However, it is very uncommon. Lemon is very sour. Thus, it can be unpleasant to eat by itself.

Can you peel and eat a lemon?

Yes. However, it is very uncommon. Lemons are usually served in slices or wedges, with their skin on.