This Meyer lemon syrup recipe was created, explains the author, during a time of her life when she had discovered that you could mimic caramel sauce by using fruit in place of dairy. Though it’s every bit as luscious as caramel, the resulting recipe produces a syrup that, to us, is closer to honey with distinct bitter notes. [Editor’s Note: Kindly keep in mind that Meyer lemon zest is more bitter than regular lemon zest and adjust your expectations accordingly.]–Renee Schettler

What To Do With This Meyer Lemon Syrup

The magnificence of this bittersweet Meyer lemon syrup is, quite frankly, a matter of personal preference. For some it’s too tart. For others it’s too sweet. And for some it’s just right. This Goldilocks effect can be experienced in many ways, including the following…

Drizzle it over cake
Stir it into Greek yogurt
Incorporate it into cocktails
Lavish it on vanilla ice cream
Drown your waffles in it
Sweeten your tea with it
Gift it to everyone you know.

Kindly tell us how exactly you’ve been indulging in this sweet-tart Meyer lemon syrup by leaving a comment below.

A jar of Meyer lemon syrup with a spoon resting on top.

Meyer Lemon Syrup

5 from 1 vote
This Meyer lemon syrup is like a sweet-tart caramel and can be used to drizzle cakes, stir into yogurt, or wrap up and gift to a friend.
David Leite
Servings32 servings (2 half-pint jars)
Calories40 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes


  • Candy or deep-fry thermometer; 2 half-pint (250-milliliter) jars with lids and screw bands


  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups cold water
  • Zest and juice from 1 pound (460 grams) Meyer lemons, (about 4 lemons)


  • Combine the sugar, salt, and water in a deep-sided medium or large saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer or deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan. Place over medium-high heat and gently simmer, without stirring but instead gently tilting the pan on the burner to swirl the mixture, until the syrup reaches a honey-like consistency and darkens to an amber-ish color similar to that of a tarnished copper penny, 15 to 20 minutes. This should happen when the mixture reaches around 325°F (163°C). Be ready to move quickly when the mixture reaches this point.
  • Immediately remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. It will bubble, spatter, and appear to seize up, so take care but keep stirring until it returns to a smooth syrupy consistency. (Quite honestly, you may want to use a long-handled spoon and maybe even wear oven mitts for this part.) When the syrup becomes smooth again, return the pan to the heat. Continue stirring and cooking until the lemon syrup reaches 218°F (104°C), which could take as little as 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the lemon zest. (We suggest you start with 2 tablespoons zest and add more only if desired, keeping in mind that Meyer lemon zest is more bitter than that of a typical lemon.)
  • If keeping the syrup in the fridge and consuming it within a few weeks, divide the syrup between 2 half-pint (250-milliliter) jars, screw on the lids, and refrigerate. You can't leave the syrup at room temperature since it hasn't been canned using a traditional water bath, but this makes a small batch, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting through it. Keep in mind the bitter and sweet flavors of the marmalade will meld with time, so give it at least several days prior to sampling.
    If properly processing the syrup so it's shelf-stable, thoroughly wash 2 half-pint (250-milliliter) canning jars and their lids and screw bands. Place the jars, lids, and screw bands in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 15 minutes to sterilize them. Turn off the heat and leave the jars, lids, and bands in the hot water until ready to use. Place a small plate in the freezer for testing the jam. Lift the jars, lids, and screw bands from the water, using tongs if the water is still hot, and thoroughly dry them. Carefully ladle the hot syrup into the sterilized jars, leaving a 1/2-inch space between the syrup and the top of the jar. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let the jars cool overnight at room temperature. Label the jars with the recipe name and date. You can store them, unopened, for up to 3 months. Once opened, use within a week or so. Keep in mind the bitter and sweet flavors of the marmalade will meld with time, so give it at least several days prior to sampling.
Preserving by the Pint cookbook.

Adapted From

Preserving by the Pint

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Serving: 1 tablespoonCalories: 40 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 0.2 gFat: 0.1 gSaturated Fat: 0.01 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.002 gSodium: 37 mgPotassium: 20 mgFiber: 0.4 gSugar: 10 gVitamin A: 3 IUVitamin C: 8 mgCalcium: 4 mgIron: 0.1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Marisa McClellan. Photo © 2014 Steve Legato. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Wow. Just wow. This stuff is amazing. The first taste is a rich caramel with a subtle lemon flavor, and then the zest finishes it with such a bright pop! This really dressed up plain Greek yogurt, and I am already imagining it drizzled over plain cheesecake. I think it would make a wonderful gift, too. I processed 1 jar and popped the other one directly into the fridge, which I then proceeded to eat…possibly straight from the jar. The zesting of the lemons is kind of time-consuming, but the remainder of the recipe goes quickly. My 1-pound bag of lemons contained 6 lemons and yielded 1 cup juice and 1/3 cup zest. My syrup reached a dark copper color at 335°F, which took 18 minutes of boiling. I removed it from the heat at that point. I used a medium-large saucepan for this reason, and even with that, when I added the lemon juice, it almost filled the volume of the pot while “seizing.” I can’t even imagine how horrible it would feel to get burned by that. It took a good minute of stirring to fully mix the caramel and lemon juice so that no caramel chunks remained.

We are passionate about anything Meyer lemon. This Meyer lemon syrup is swoon-worthy. Caramel-y. Even buttery. (How can that be?) We absolutely will make this again. The entire project took about 75 minutes, but it won’t take this long for most cooks—the timing was due to our lack of experience. We had never used a candy thermometer, nor had we made a sugar syrup caramel before, so we hovered near the stove pretty much the entire time, which may have been a bit fussy on our part. We boiled the syrup for a very long time, much longer than the suggested 15 to 20 minutes, and after about 40 minutes of boiling, the caramel was a gold color and had reduced quite a bit. So we decided to proceed. We placed the entire pot with syrup in the sink and tilted the pot slightly away from us as we carefully poured in the lemon juice. Indeed, lots of sputtering, so take care and wear oven mitts. Then, once back on the stove, it took less than 2 minutes of cooking before the temperature was at 218°F degrees. Very exciting! We stirred in the zest and poured the syrup into clean Mason jars (we didn’t follow the water bath method). We’re not patient people, so we poured a pool of the syrup onto a plate so it could cool quickly. We swirled the syrup into plain Greek yogurt. It was everything I said at the beginning of this review. The recipe made about 1 3/4 cups, which is plenty to save and plenty to share. We stored the syrup in little Mason jars in the refrigerator.

This was a simple syrup to make. A little effort with the zesting and juicing for a tart but pleasant syrup. I had several tasters and some loved it and others found it to be too tart. This could be easily fixed by using less or more juice and zest. If you enjoy things a little sweeter, I would wait until the syrup cools to add the zest if needed. I served it on fresh fruit, strawberries and blueberries.

A wonderfully simple but delicately delicious syrup that captured the essence of Meyer lemon almost like a marmalade, though with considerably less effort or time. My sugar was approaching amber and hit 325°F at 13 to 14 minutes. I used a pan with rounded sides and plenty of space so I could swirl it safely. It yielded just under two half pints and I will be using them in short order so I simply am keeping them in the fridge rather than processing them for canning. While it can be a wonderful alternative to a traditional dairy-based caramel, where I really think it shines is in seizing the flavor of Meyer lemon which is just my most favorite citrus in any form. This has the freshness of the Meyer uniqueness, using sugar rather than honey (which would dominate the flavor and mask it), and it can be used in many places. It was perfectly lovely over Greek yogurt and on waffles but also over homemade vanilla ice cream and it made a stunning substitute for a runny marmalade in the Breakfast Martini. I just love this flavor so much that I shared a round of the Breakfast Martinis made with this syrup with the owners of my much beloved Meyer lemon tree, which is promising like a phoenix to arise and abundantly fruit again this year! It got a round of five thumbs up. I used 485g lemons (3 1/2 medium-large Meyer lemons) which yielded 2/3 cup juice and 2 tablespoons (7.2g) zest from a microplane, packed to measure. Terrific results in about half an hour effort plus time to cool (and the syrup thickens in the fridge, yet the zest remains nicely in suspension).

I am not a big fan of lemony sweetness generally but I do have a soft spot for Meyer lemons because of their mandarin flavor. But the thing about Meyer lemons is the insane bitterness of the rind, which I was afraid would totally ruin this recipe for me. And it did the first time. When I remade this recipe, I added 1 cup Meyer lemon juice from 1 pound of lemons (4 large). The thing I did differently this time was to use the rind from 4 REGULAR lemons. With this rind, I found the syrup to be just the right amount of sweet and tart, with only a hint of bitterness from the rind. Maybe it’s just me, but I really do find Meyer lemon rind to be unbearably bitter.

A few days after making the first batch, I asked for some opinions on both syrups. The regular lemon syrup was passable, if slightly boring, but the Meyer lemon syrup got rave reviews. I don’t know if the bitterness mellowed after a few days or if I was just completely off my flavor game originally but it was now delicious and smooth, with a much richer and complex profile. In fact, I gave one jar away but kept one for myself and have used it on fresh crumpets, in yogurt, and as a glaze for lemon poppyseed cake.

My first attempt at making this Meyer lemon syrup was a complete fail. I let the sugar and water mixture simmer until a beautiful amber color which took about 22 minutes, but as I took it off the heat and was about to add the lemon juice, the syrup quickly turned from an amber colour to burned sugar. Not pretty! I think I may have had the heat on too high and perhaps I let it simmer just a few minutes too long. You really need to watch the cooking of the sugar water as it can go from a lovely amber to burnt sugar very quickly.

Attempt number two was a success. I didn’t have the heat on as high, more of a medium heat rather than a medium-high. Cooking time was closer to 28 minutes, but as the color started to change I watched the pot like a hawk! And I also put in the thermometer so I could gauge the temperature as it cooked. When it reached a light amber, I removed it from the heat and the temperature reading was 325°F. I used a splatter screen as a shield when adding the lemon juice. The mixture did bubble up, spatter and seize, but once stirring began, the mixture relaxed.

It was an interesting flavor. Sweet with a tang of tart lemon. I can imagine using this syrup in a variety of ways: alcoholic cocktails, dessert drizzle, jazzing up ice cream, lemonade.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. I was caught in a paradox: nothing on med-high heat boils gently. I gently boiled it forever and it never turned amber. It turned out fine. I had the same problem when I made Meyer lemon marmalade. Med-high is correct, not gentle boil.

    1. Barbara, I so appreciate your letting us know that paradox. A lot depends on the particular stovetop and the size of the pan in terms of what type of heat it takes to boil. And I think the boiling at a more vigorous pace may have prevented the color turning amber, but am relieved that it still turned out fine. We always encourage doing exactly what you did, which is trusting your instincts. Again, thank you for letting us know it didn’t quite work as expected but still turned out magnificent. We’ll try to recreate your situation in our home kitchens so we can rewrite the recipe to be more accurate.