This tart lemon sorbet is, true to its name, lip-puckeringly sour and exceptionally refreshing. Make no mistake, it’s not going to satisfy a craving for absurdly sweet ice cream. But it is going to give you an adult reprieve from the summer heat. We’re betting you’ll want to keep a stash of it in your freezer all summer long. We certainly do.Angie Zoobkoff

An ice cream scooper with a red handle filled with Tart Lemon Sorbet.
A metal container filled with tart lemon sorbet and a metal ice cream scoop resting inside.

Tart Lemon Sorbet

5 / 3 votes
This tart lemon sorbet (and we do mean tart!) is made with just sugar, lemons, and water yet makes a sophisticated dessert or palate cleanser. Definitely puckery and for those who love all things lemon.
David Leite
Servings5 servings | 2 1/2 cups
Calories158 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Chill4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time5 hours


  • Ice cream maker


  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 6 to 9 ounces superfine sugar* (or blitz granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground)
  • Zest and juice of 8 lemons, preferably organic (about 1/4 cup zest and 1 1/4 cups | 300 ml juice)


  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water, sugar, and lemon zest to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  • Increase the heat to bring the syrup to a rolling boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and let the syrup cool completely and become infused with lemon, 2 to 3 hours.
  • Pour the syrup through a fine sieve or strainer and into an ice cream maker. Discard the zest.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: There’s no need to chill the syrup prior to processing it in an ice cream machine.

  • Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions until you have a soft set or until the blade stops, 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Spoon the tart lemon sorbet into an airtight, freezer proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the container from the freezer 10 minutes before scooping and spooning it up.


How To Make This Tart Lemon Sorbet A Little Less Tart

We quite like the extreme tartness of this lemon sorbet. But we’re not going to lie to you. It’s lip-puckeringly, eye-twitchingly tart. If you prefer a little less tartness and a little more sweetness, amp up the amount of superfine sugar, using up to 9 ounces when making the syrup.
Jude's Ice Cream & Desserts Cookbook

Adapted From

Jude’s Ice Cream & Desserts

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Serving: 0.5 cupCalories: 158 kcalCarbohydrates: 43 gProtein: 1 gFat: 0.4 gSaturated Fat: 0.04 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01 gSodium: 5 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 36 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Chow and Alex Mezger. Photo © 2019 Yuki Sugiura. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I chose this recipe because it’s been so incredibly hot outside and because this was the summer I was going to learn to make ice cream! A 3-ingredient Tart Lemon Sorbet seemed like a good way to start.

This is a simple and straightforward recipe with a very flavorful and elegant outcome. During the process, I tasted it at various stages, and wow, it was really tart. I was worried it was going to be too much so. But after it froze overnight, it mellowed to a perfect, yet still tart, lemon sorbet. It’s an icier texture (not as creamy as other sorbets) but it does scoop into nice balls for serving. It’s absolutely perfect for after a heavy or fatty meal that needs a nice light lemony finish. A little bit would go a long way.

I had a question as to whether or not to chill the mixture for a few hours prior to churning. The good news is that it turned out perfectly, without having to chill the mixture. This is a time-saver bonus!

It turns out you can leave this mixture out overnight before churning it in the morning. It was an error for me to make this at night as I fell asleep and didn’t churn after the 3 hours. It was left out overnight. But leaving it out overnight could be very convenient for some.

It took 40 minutes to churn in my Cuisinart Ice-100.

The texture was slightly icy, but nothing unexpected for a lemon sorbet which I was not expecting to be creamy. It scooped into nice balls.

A small glass serving bowl with two scoops of tart lemon sorbet.

This tart lemon sorbet lives up to its name—wow! It is tart and the fresh lemon taste is front and center. Great as a palate cleanser between courses or served for dessert with fresh fruit (berries?) as a contrasting flavor and texture. I am saving a portion for my granddaughter who loves all things lemon and tart.

This is simple to prepare with only 3 ingredients. Maybe ten minutes to prep—zesting the lemons and measuring sugar and water and another few minutes to dissolve the sugar and boil. The rest is hands-off infusing, time in the ice cream machine, and in the freezer. The texture was fine and not grainy.

I used granulated sugar finely ground in the food processor

A little housekeeping note: Throw the lemon shells in a jar, immerse in white vinegar, and in about a week, you have yourself a natural kitchen cleaning spray that actually smells great!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I made a double batch of this sorbet and used half regular lemons and half Meyer lemons and it was fantastic. My sister asked me if I had put lavender in it. I told her no, it was from the floral notes the Meyer lemons added. It paired perfectly with a raspberry sorbet I had made to serve with it. Both had just the right sweet/tart balance to be refreshing and tasty.

    1. We’re so thrilled that you loved it, Jill. Terrific suggestion to use Meyer lemons in it.

    1. You’re welcome, Susan. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know how much you enjoyed it.