How to Make Lemonade That’s Just Like Grandma’s

Learn how to make lemonade with lemon juice (no mix required!). Our Test Kitchen provides a helpful guide with expert tips to making summer's most refreshing drink.

Why make lemonade from scratch when the mix is so easy—and tasty—on a scorching day?

One sip and you’ll know why it’s worth a little effort. Real lemonade is so much better than that thin or syrupy drink you gulp at a little kid’s curbside stand. (If you wanna go store-bought, these are our favorite bottled lemonades.) Our fresh-squeezed recipe makes a thirst-quenching, tangy-sweet cup you’ll want to take to cookouts and store by the bucketful in the fridge. It may even tempt you more than a cold beer or a carbonated soft drink!

Without further ado:

How to Make Lemonade with Lemon Juice

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1-3/4 cups lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  • Large saucepan
  • Lots of thirsty friends

Makes: About 2 quarts

Step 1: Juice those lemons

person rolling a lemon against a wood counter with their hand

You can certainly use store-bought lemon juice, but juicing fresh lemons by hand is such a satisfying task. (Plus, it makes the kitchen smell amazing!) We swear by these two simple tricks to get the most from your citrus:

  • Firmly roll each lemon on the counter, using the palm of your hand.
  • Microwave the lemons on high 10-20 seconds just before cutting.

person using a squeezer to empty the juice from a lemon and into a bowl

Then, cut the lemons in half and use a juicer-or a spoon and your hand-to squeeze the juice from about a half-dozen lemons; set aside.

Test Kitchen Tip: Substitute limes for lemons to make limeade. It’s just as refreshing.

Step 2: Zest, zest, zest!

Zesting was an awkward task for me until I picked up a microplane grater. This nifty gadget will give you the finest lemon zest without any of the bitter white stuff from the lemon peel. Just grate that colored layer off the fruit. Don’t have a microplane? Try these zesting tricks.

Psst: Here’s what to do with those leftover lemon rinds.

Step 3: Cook it down

sauce pan heating up with the lemonade inside

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, 1 cup water and lemon peel. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tip: On its own, this step makes a useful lemon-flavored simple syrup. It goes great in drinks, like this Strawberry Basil Cocktail, or you can freeze it in an ice cube tray to make single-serve lemonade on-demand. If you’re feeling bold, play with flavors by adding fresh herbs, such as rosemary or basil, to the sugar syrup. Just be sure to strain the mixture once it cools.

Step 4: Cool and serve

person adding more water and lemon juice mixture to the cooling lemonade

Remove your simmering saucepan from the heat. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and remaining water. Then, pop it into the fridge until it’s cold. It’s best served over ice.

person pouring water over lemon slices in an ice cube tray

Test Kitchen Tip: You can freeze extra lemon slices in ice cube trays. They’ll look beautiful and cool your drink without diluting it. They also taste delicious in a glass of cola. Here are more pretty ways to perk up your ice cubes.

The big bonus of making homemade lemonade?

large glass pitcher half full of lemonade with slices of lime floating on top

You can vary the flavor endlessly for fresh new taste sensations. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Lavender Lemonade: Add 1 tablespoon dried lavender with the lemon peel in the syrup. Strain after cooling.
  • Ginger-Mint Lemonade: Add 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger and 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves with the lemon peel in the syrup. Strain after cooling.
  • Berry Lemonade: Substitute 1 cup pureed, strained fresh strawberries or raspberries for 1 cup water when making the simple syrup.
  • Grown-up Lemonade: Add 1 oz. bourbon or vodka to a tall glass of lemonade for an adult beverage.

Looking to get even more lemon in your life? Check out these lemon recipes, from tart to sweet.

Summer-Ready Lemonade Recipes
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Nicole Doster
Nicole is a writer, editor and lover of Italian food. In her spare time, you’ll find her thumbing through vintage cookbooks or testing out recipes in her tiny kitchen.
James Schend
As Taste of Home's Deputy Editor of Food, James oversees the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and manages all food content for Trusted Media Brands. Prior to this position, James worked in the kitchens of Williams-Sonoma and Southern Living. An honors graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.