The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Lemonade (It Costs Zero Dollars)

This upgrade doesn't require any extra ingredients, just a smart (and easy) technique that coaxes all the flavor from your lemons. It even works for limeade.

The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Lemonade (It Costs Zero Dollars)
glasses of lemonade
Simply Recipes / Michelle Becker

Even from a young age, I had a discerning palate with a preference for assertive flavors. One of my favorite snacks (if you could call it that) were wheels of fresh lemons or limes that I’d sneak and eat like oranges. I couldn’t get enough of the floral, super tart flavor.

My parents (and dentist) were not particularly fond of this habit, but I’m still guilty of doing it from time to time (sorry, tooth enamel). Considering my affinity for the whole fruit, when it comes to lemonade or limeade, I mean business.

My ideal glass of lemonade is just sweet enough to highlight the heady and bright natural lemon flavor without overpowering it. 

My 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Lemonade

Over the years I’ve had to squeeze a lot of lemons in my pursuit of lemonade bliss, but it turns out that squeezing was only the beginning!

Thanks to a genius recipe from the team at Serious Eats, I learned that the one secret ingredient my lemonade was missing was the entire lemon, peel and all, which is where all the flavor is hiding! Let me explain.

How To Easily Upgrade Your Lemonade

The magic here is in a process called maceration: once you squeeze all the juice from your citrus, cut the whole fruit into small chunks and toss it with all the sugar in your recipe. Let this mixture sit for about three hours, or even overnight, stirring it occasionally.

As it sits, all of the essential oils in the lemon rind marry with the sugar, yielding a concentrated lemon syrup. To take this one step further, I usually add about one cup of filtered water to the mix and let it spin in my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to coax out every last drop of lemony goodness.

Then, I strain this mixture and combine it with the reserved fresh citrus juice and more filtered water until I achieve the perfect balance between sweet and tart. 

glass of lemonade with lemon slices
Simply Recipes / Getty Images

Tips for Using This Easy Upgrade

I’ve used this same method with limes, which makes for a great margarita base, or sometimes I use a blend of lemons and limes to mix things up. One thing to note: since you are relying on the bulk of the flavor to come from the citrus skin, make sure that the skin is super clean and free of any wax.

If I do not have organic citrus on hand, I usually soak the fruit in a big bowl of baking soda dissolved in warm water to help remove any impurities, then I rinse it well in cool water before using. I can promise you this citrus concoction will be the best on the block this lemonade stand season!