Lemon Ice

This lemon ice, made with lemon juice, sugar, and water, is a summer classic. No ice cream maker required. (Doesn’t just looking at it make you feel cooler?)

Two small bowls of lemon ice, with a wooden popsicle stick resting on top of one.

This frozen treat has a texture somewhere between an ice pop and sorbet, achieved by pureeing the ice crystals after they’ve formed. It’s cool and bracingly refreshing.–Lucinda Scala Quinn


There are a few ways to change up the flavor of your icey. Mint (or any other herb you like, actually) is an easy way to add a little bit of a spark to this tangy little number. Just steep the leaves in the simple syrup while you’re waiting for it to cool and strain before freezing. You can also add a little boozy edge and make this into an adult treat by adding a teaspoon of your choice of liquor. It doesn’t sound like a lot but adding too much alcohol will change the way your icey freezes. Finally, you can change your choice of citrus juices—any combination of lemon, lime, or even grapefruit—to personalize your refreshments.

Lemon Ice

Two small bowls of lemon ice, with a wooden popsicle stick resting on top of one.
A favorite summertime classic found at summer camps, on street corners, and Popsicle stands.
Lucinda Scala Quinn

Prep 10 mins
Chill 7 hrs
Total 7 hrs 30 mins
6 servings
138 kcal
5 / 3 votes
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  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup ice cold water


  • Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove the simple syrup from the heat and let cool.
  • Combine the lemon juice and 1 cup simple syrup in an 8-inch square baking dish. Move to the freezer and chill, raking the mixture with a fork every 30 minutes, until flaky and frozen, about 3 hours total.
  • Pour the frozen mixture into a blender and puree with the water. Divide among six 4-ounce ramekins or disposable paper cups and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Remove from the freezer 15 to 20 minutes before scooping and slurping.
5 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Mad Hungry Cravings cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 138kcal (7%)Carbohydrates: 36g (12%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Sodium: 5mgPotassium: 43mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 34g (38%)Vitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 16mg (19%)Calcium: 5mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

The taste of this Italian lemon ice is delicious, bracing, and exactly right—it’s cool, sweet, and tart all at once. The texture is wonderful. I wondered when I first read through the recipe whether the blending would be worth the extra step. It is.

And it’s easy enough for a 9-year-old to put together. The only difficulty we had was waiting through the crystal-making and freezing time. We froze half the icey in Popsicle molds and served the rest in pretty bowls with a tiny spoon. We were mighty happy to have this on hand for 2 of the hottest days on record in our area.

This lemon ice was cool, tart, and wonderfully refreshing. No need to ever buy lemon sorbet again.

I made this using Meyer lemon juice, which I just love. After “raking” the mixture every 30 minutes, I also nibbled what clung to the fork each time. By the time I put the mixture in our blender, I was so pleased with the taste, I added only 1/2 cup cold water (instead of 1 cup) because I didn’t want to dilute the taste that much.

I made this lemon ice twice. The first time because I was trying to do too many things at once in the kitchen and didn’t make it according to the recipe. I made the simple syrup, added the lemon juice and cold water, and put it in the freezer. Remembered it about 2 hours later and just “mushed” it up with a fork.

Then I remade it according to the recipe.

Both were wonderful—light, refreshing, and simple to make with ingredients I usually have on hand. You could hardly tell the difference between the 2 methods. And it was a good thing I had 2 recipes because my 4 guests finished both bowls and probably would have eaten another recipe’s worth if I had made more. It was a very hot day and this was an absolutely perfect dessert to serve. Next time I may add some mint, but even as-is it was “yummo!” as a certain TV personality would say!

Tart, sweet, and refreshing were the words we used to describe this truly summery treat. It is simplicity itself to prepare, as the hardest part of the entire recipe was squeezing the lemons. I found the first taste to be very sweet, but then the tartness of the lemons came in and it was great.

The partial freezing and refreezing seems to give it a different texture than the normal type of iced juice pops we’ve made before. Very pleasant. I will be making these again and again for the summer. I think the next time I might try a mix of fresh lemon and lime juices or maybe add a little mint to the mix.

This lemon ice couldn’t have come at a better time as we're having a heatwave. It’s cool and bracing and so easy to make. Aside from the time involved in freezing, it’s much easier than getting out the ice cream freezer, putting it together, and cleaning up afterward. Just a little planning in the morning and this will be ready for the hot afternoon.

The ratio of ingredients makes everything easy to remember. A splash of limoncello, vodka, tequila, or rum would be wonderful in this. Can’t wait to try this with other citrus combinations.

When I was growing up, it was a summer tradition to walk to the corner store and buy Italian ice. We would use the small wooden spoon to scrape the ice and the color from the ice would dye our tongues wild colors. Everyone knew that the most intense flavor was found at the bottom of the cup.

This easy recipe was a way to walk down memory lane and make me feel like a little girl again. I was able to introduce Italian ice to my own kids and now they, too, know to flip the ice over to scrape up the lemony crystals.

Originally published August 20, 2013


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  1. 5 stars
    I still long for the Lemon Ice of my childhood. Right across the street from my grandmother’s, a little Italian man, not much taller than I, scooped a silky smooth yet icy, delectable lemon ice into small, fluted, paper cups. Never, as an adult, have I had an Italian ice that was even edible by comparison. Now that I’ve found your excellent recipe, alas, I cannot tolerate refined sugar. Do you think agave could be substituted? Normally, I’d use orgànic maple syrup and raw honey together, but the flavors might compete with the lemon, and I don’t know what it would do to the texture. Any suggestions? So glad to have found your website. I’ve seen other fabulous recipes here already. Looking forward to trying them.

    1. Hello, Mary. I did some research, and if you use Agave nectar (but only 1/2 as much as the recipe calls for), you should be ok. I say “should” because we didn’t test it this way. Please let us know what you think.

  2. So, would this do for the lemon “ice cream” in the Sgroppino? Cause it sure sounds like it would be aces. ;) If not, do you have another suggestion? Thanks!

      1. Thanks, Renee. I was passing the Sgroppino link to a friend when I remembered this recipe. I’ll send it along too. She will love it, but I bet she makes it with Hendricks instead of vodka. ;)

  3. I should add that there’s also a neat bit of chemistry going on here. Making a simple syrup rather than just adding sugar changes a portion of the sugar (sucrose) into an invert sugar (glucose & fructose) which helps retard crystallization and makes for a smoother final product. It’s a handy trick.

  4. 5 stars
    This looks wonderful. I need to try it soon. A trick I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated a couple of years ago is to add a little vodka (or other flavorless alcohol) to the mix—approximately 1 tablespoon per cup of sugar or 1 to 2 cups of fruit/juice. It lowers the freezing point a little and helps create much finer ice crystals for a smoother, creamier sorbet. As Robert M. noted above, limoncello would also make a great addition.

  5. 5 stars
    Oh, yeah! I am always disappointed by the frozen lemonade I buy at fairs and ball games. I’m not sure why I never thought to make my own. Going to the store to get lemons now!

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