Meyer Lemons: Sweet Sunshine on a Cloudy Day
Posted by Julie on Feb 8th 2023
Winter is peak season for many citrus fruits, including perennial favorites like grapefruit and oranges. But Meyer lemons might be new to you. If you’ve spotted these deep gold beauties in the produce section, you may have wondered how they’re different from regular lemons and how you might use them. In this post, we’ll explain where Meyer lemons originated and how they gained popularity, and offer some recipes you can try.
Meyer Lemons: Not Your Ordinary Lemon
Meyer lemons were brought to the US from China by their namesake, agricultural explorer Frank N. Meyer. They’ve been grown in the US ever since, but it’s only been about 20 years that Meyer lemons have become a known ingredient. Not surprisingly, it was Martha Stewart who brought them into popular use. Now they’re found in both sweet and savory food and drink recipes.
We agree with The Spruce Eats on their description of Meyer lemons as “a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.” That covers both appearance and taste. Meyer lemons are often smaller than regular lemons, with a darker, smoother peel and a sweeter taste. While they aren’t as sweet as mandarin oranges, and they do contain seeds, they also have a thin skin that can be candied and used in recipes along with the citrus flesh. The juice is less tart than regular lemon juice, so less sugar is required to offset the bite of Meyer lemon juice.
Meyer Lemons: Buying and Storing
When buying Meyer lemons, apply the same standards you do with other citrus fruits. Choose lemons that feel heavy for their size, and that have smooth, unblemished peels, without any obvious bruises. Hold a lemon in each hand, and opt for the one that feels heavier -- it’s likely to be juicier. You can store them on the counter for a few days, or in the refrigerator for over a week. If you do keep them in the refrigerator, take them out a few hours before using them to allow them to warm up a bit.
Similar to other winter specialties like blood oranges and Sumo oranges, Meyer lemons cost a bit extra compared to their mainstream counterparts. We’d recommend having a plan for them before you splurge. Fortunately, we’ve gathered plenty of great ideas for you to try!
Meyer Lemon Recipe Ideas
There’s no shortage of recipes featuring Meyer lemons, including a whole assortment from Martha Stewart. We’ve chosen three individual recipes to feature here, along with two recipe roundups for you to browse.
Meyer Lemon Pudding
This dessert recipe from The View From Great Island takes 15 minutes and could be a great way to wade into the world of Meyer lemons. It’s simple and straightforward, and the reviews are glowing. The only caution we’ll emphasize is that you shouldn’t replace the heavy cream with a less rich alternative, like milk or half and half. But we always encourage our readers to follow the directions exactly when making a new recipe for the first time.
Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata
Just like regular lemons, Meyer lemons complement savory recipes too. This recipe from Plays Well With Butter is a classic chicken piccata using Meyer lemon juice in the sauce. The sweeter taste of Meyer lemon juice brightens this well-known dish and combines beautifully with the butter and capers.
A side note unrelated to Meyer lemons: Refer to our post on the benefits of mise en place before tackling this recipe. While it’s not difficult, it does come together quickly, and you’ll be glad to have all of your ingredients prepared and measured in advance.
Meyer Lemon Recipes from Epicurious
This roundup from Epicurious includes an impressive range of recipes, from salads to pasta dishes and from main dishes to desserts. We’re especially interested in the two pasta recipes -- pasta with brown butter and rigatoni with lemon chile pesto -- and the scones featuring a combination of blueberries and Meyer lemons.
What we really like about this assortment is how there are some recipes where Meyer lemons are clearly the star of the show, and some recipes where they only play a bit part. If you’re not sure how much you’ll enjoy cooking with these specialty fruits, you can start with a recipe that only calls for a single Meyer lemon, rather than investing in a whole bag of them.
Meyer Lemon Recipes from Martha Stewart
We couldn’t leave Martha out of this post, given her role in bringing Meyer lemons to the masses. Check out Martha Stewart’s recipe suggestions featuring Meyer lemons. We’ve already bookmarked the Brussels sprout salad and the lemon and hazelnut tart, which we ought to add to our post on flambé desserts.
Our Recipe Pick for Meyer Lemon Lovers
If you’re just as excited about Meyer lemons as we are, then this recipe from the Food Network kitchen is for you. This Meyer lemon tart is fairly involved, but it incorporates Meyer lemon curd for the filling and candied Meyer lemon peels for the topping. What a delicious way to add some sunshine to a gray winter day.