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When Life Gives You Lemons, Make These Zesty Recipes

Chicken Picatta by Spend with Pennies, lemon butter salmon by Cooking Classy, and garlic lemon shrimp by RecipeTin Eats.
Spend with Pennies/Cooking Classy/RecipeTin Eats

Like a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon can transform a dish from bland to bright! Adding a touch of sweet ‘n sour to any of these delicious meals will give your taste buds the perfect amount of zing.

A quick spritz of lemon or a small amount of zest can really change the taste of whatever is on your plate in the best way. The acidity in lemons gives many meals a clean, light taste, while also cutting down any heavy greasiness. That’s why you’ll often see it served with fried fish and other seafood dinners.

Before jumping into our favorite sweet and savory recipes, though, be sure to check out the tools we use every time we cook with lemons.

Tools of the Trade: Microplane

Two images of an OXO Microplane, demonstrating what the tool can do including zest lemons, cheese, chocolate, garlic and more.
OXO

It’s convenient to have the right accessories whenever you need to add some zest, a seedless juice, or a lovely lemon twist.

My microplane is one of the most important tools in my kitchen. It’s the perfect way to zest lemon, grated parmesan (and other hard cheeses), ginger, and garlic with ease. Anytime a recipe calls for lemon zest, I just pull out my trusty tool and get to grating.

Tools of the Trade: Mini Fine Mesh Strainer

Two images of a mini fine mesh strainer, filled with fresh fruit. The right image is of someone squeezing an orange over the strainer to catch the seeds.
LiveFresh

If you have a juicer (including the press-style), feel free to use it. I prefer using a small, fine-mesh strainer.

I typically just roll the lemon out on the counter and use my hand to get the juices flowing. Then, I cut it in half and squeeze. The strainer will catch the seeds for you, so you can move on with your recipe without fiddling around to find them.

Tools of the Trade: Zester

Two images of an OXO zester, demonstrating the types of zesting the tool can do, using lemon and lime.
OXO

So, if we grate for zest with a microplane, what the heck is a zester for, you might ask? Why, for gorgeous, frilly lemon strands to garnish with, of course!

The sharp holes make nice, thin lemon-peel strands, and the channel knife creates thicker twists that are perfect for cocktails. If aesthetics are important to you, you’ll love this inexpensive item.

Now that you have the right tools, you need some delicious recipes to try them out on!

Lemon Curd Tartlets

A few little lemon curd tartlets, topped with whipped cream, with scattered raspberries and lemon.
Natasha’s Kitchen

Learn to make gorgeous little tartlets from scratch with this unique Russian recipe. You’ll start by making rich lemon curd. Then, you’ll fill the crumbly, almost cookie-like tartlets using your trusty muffin tins.

From there, you’ll fill them up and top them with a lovely whipped topping (also from scratch). This recipe is a bit more involved, but the results are worth it.

Get the Recipe: Natasha’s Kitchen

Lemon Raspberry Scones

A lovely cake stand presenting lemon raspberry scones.
The Café Sucre Farine

We all know how rewarding a raspberry and lemon combo can be. With the right recipe, these two fresh ingredients will bring glory to your taste buds!

Well, folks, these scones are a lovely example. The author will teach you a really cool technique that omits the butter-cutting essentials in making biscuits or scones.

Instead, you’ll learn to make “globules,” as Cook’s Illustrated calls them. Read on to find out just what the heck that means.

Get the Recipe: The Café Sucre Farine

Salmon with Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce

A large oval plate, plated with four salmon filets, with a side of asparagus, all covered with lemon butter sauce and garnished with lemon wedges.
Cooking Classy

Lemon pairs just right with fish, as the acidity in the juice helps balance the salty oceanic flavors. A quick, pan-seared salmon dinner, followed by a generous drizzle of lemon butter sauce, is weeknight dinner gold.

Serve this deliciousness with a side of roasted asparagus or broccoli and a bed of rice pilaf or angel-hair pasta. Don’t forget the warm bread to sop up any extra sauce.

Get the Recipe: Cooking Classy

Tart Lemon Sorbet

Two images of Lemon Sorbet: The left image is of sorbet being scooped out of a tin baking dish and the right image is of two scoops of sorbet in a cup.
Leite’s Culinaria

Once you’ve enjoyed a hot salmon dinner, you’ll love cleansing your palate with a rich, smooth lemon sorbet.

Using just a few measly ingredients—like sugar, lemon, and water—you’ll learn to create a fun yet classy dessert that’s perfect for summer.

Get the Recipe: Leite’s Culinaria

Chicken Piccata

Two images: The left image is of chicken piccata plated, and the right image is of the meal in the skillet.
Spend with Pennies

Chicken Piccata is one of those classics that everyone should know how to make. It encompasses everything that a weeknight dinner should be, but can also make a lovely impression on date night.

The tender chicken is cooked in a lemon sauce, dotted with tangy capers, and then served alongside a bed of pasta. It’s light yet filling, with profound flavor packed into every bite.

Get the Recipe: Spend with Pennies

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

A loaf of lemon blueberry pound cake drizzled with a homemade glaze.
Once Upon a Chef

Lemon and blueberry together is another match made in heaven, and this pound cake is a prime example. Learn to make this decadent dessert using just a few pantry staples and your star ingredients.

From there, grab a good book and a hot drink to fully enjoy the moment.

Get the Recipe: Once Upon a Chef

Crispy Grilled Shrimp with Lemon-Garlic Butter

Two side by side images of crispy grilled shrimp with lemon garlic butter. The left image is a close up with garlic butter being drizzled over the top and the right image is a plate of shrimp, with grilled lemon.
RecipeTin Eats

By now, you’ve probably pulled that reliable old grill out of storage for summer, and these plump prawns are perfect for your next get-together. They have a crispy exterior and taste incredible bathed in lemon garlic butter.

Feel free to make this a full dinner with a side of rice or pasta. Otherwise, serve it with some warm crusty bread—you won’t want to leave behind any extra lemon garlic butter.

Get the Recipe: RecipeTin Eats

Simple Lemon Garlic Pasta

Two side by side images of creamy lemon butter pasta topped with parsley garnish.
Bowl Me Over

Simple is often best, and this pasta dinner is a prime example. To make this recipe, you just pull together a few mains, like garlic, lemon, parsley, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese.

Everyone will swoon over this comforting pasta meal. It’s the perfect way to end a stormy summer day indoors.

Get the Recipe: Bowl Me Over


It’s hard to believe, but a quick spritz of citrus or just a bit of zest can radically change the taste of a dish for the better. So, be sure to grab a few lemons at the store and the handy tools that we suggested above.

While you’re at it, you can save some cash by making your own tasty summer juices.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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