What Is a Meyer Lemon?

What's the difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon? Here's what you need to know.

Winter might be cold and dreary, but it comes with one benefit: it’s peak citrus season! Most grocery stores pack their produce displays with juicy pink grapefruit, super sweet tangerines, vibrant blood oranges and Meyer lemons, a lemon-orange hybrid that’s only available a few months of the year. What makes this variety different from regular lemons, and is it worth its expensive price tag? Here are the juicy details.

What is a Meyer lemon?

Meyer lemons are a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon, which makes them smaller, juicier and sweeter than regular lemons. They were originally used as decorative houseplants in China until a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, Frank Meyer, brought them to the States. Because they have super thin skins, they’re difficult to ship, so they were confined to the citrus belt—California, Florida and Texas—for years.

Today, Meyer lemons are available in many specialty grocery stores, but the extra precaution in shipping makes them more expensive. They also have a very short harvest season, so you’ll likely only find them between December and March.

What do Meyer lemons taste like?

What makes Meyer lemons so unique is they’re more sweet than tart. They have a tangerine-like flavor, and lack the acidity and puckery finish of a regular lemon. Instead of being bright yellow, their flesh is a dark golden color and it produces more juice, too. The skin and flesh have an almost herbal aroma, and you don’t need to worry about removing the peels before slicing them; those thin skins are also edible. (Try Meyer lemon peel in this winter-perfect cocktail.)

What are Meyer lemons good for?

You can substitute Meyer lemons in any recipe that calls for regular lemons, but their sweet flavor makes them especially well-suited for baked goods and desserts (especially ones made with lemon curd). Try pairing them with fish or using them to make salad dressings. If you find yourself with an abundance of this winter fruit, use the extras to make a batch of preserved Meyer lemons.

Give ’em a try in one of these recipes to make with fresh citrus.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.