Meyer Lemon vs Regular Lemon: What is the Difference?

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Discover the unique taste, appearance, and cooking differences between a Meyer lemon vs regular lemons. Can these lemon varieties really be that different?

Discovering the difference between Meyer lemons and common lemons.
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I’m not sure what it is but at the beginning of spring, I get a craving for all things lemon. 

Lemon recipes, lemon decor, lemon scents…anything lemon, I’m all in for!

Maybe it’s the deep yellow fruit or the tangy aroma that signals the arrival of warmer days and brighter flavors. Whatever the reason, there’s something undeniably refreshing about lemons especially coming out of winter.

I was recently researching a few lemon recipes for the blog and I discovered something that maybe I should have known long before now…Meyer lemons and traditional lemons are not one and the same. 

How did I not know this?! If this is news to you too, you should know you’re not alone. 

In this blog post, I thought I’d share the knowledge I’ve gained and all you need to know about the differences between a Meyer lemon vs a traditional lemon.

Grab a glass of lemonade and let’s talk lemons…

Meyer lemons have a thin peel and common lemons have a tarter flavor.

What are Meyer lemons?

I always assumed Meyer lemons were just another type of lemon. However, that is not the case. 

Meyer lemons are actually a special variety of citrus fruit that are thought to be a cross between a lemon (Eureka and Lisbon variety) and either a mandarin orange or a sweet orange. 

These special lemons were first introduced to the United States from China in the early 20th century by Frank N. Meyer, an agricultural explorer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Meyer lemons were named after Frank Meyer in recognition of his efforts to bring a new plant species to the western world.

Characteristics of a Meyer Lemon

Meyer lemons have several distinctive characteristics that set them apart from regular lemons…

  • Flavor: A sweeter and less acidic flavor compared to a traditional lemon. While they still retain the characteristic tartness of lemons, Meyer lemons are known for their sweeter flavor and floral taste.
  • Appearance: Meyer lemons have a thin skin that ranges in color from deep yellow to orange. Their shape is often slightly rounder than traditional lemons.
  • Fragrance: Meyer lemons are known for their floral and citrusy aroma. 
  • Seasonality: They are typically in season during the winter months, from late November to early March. Their limited season naturally makes them more expensive and harder to find than regular lemons.
  • Cooking Uses: Meyer lemons offer a sweeter, less tangy flavor compared to regular lemons. They are ideal for lemon bars, lemon cakes, infused cocktails, seafood dishes, salad dressings, and creamy pasta sauces.
Two varieties of lemons include the Meyer lemon and the common lemon.

What are regular lemons?

Eureka or Lisbon lemons are often referred to as regular or common lemons. 

These are the two most common lemon varieties you’ll find in the produce section of the grocery store.

Characteristics of a Regular Lemon

A few key characteristics of traditional lemons…

  • Flavor: Regular lemons are known for their sharp, tangy flavor and high acidity that will make your mouth pucker.
  • Appearance: They typically have a bright yellow, slightly textured skin. Their shape is oval or elliptical, with a pointed tip at one end. The skin may vary in thickness depending on the variety, but it is generally thicker than that of Meyer lemons.
  • Seasonality: These lemons are available all year long in most grocery stores. Lemons are harvested throughout the year, with higher production during the winter and spring months typical of most citrus fruits.
  • Culinary Uses: Common lemons are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. They are a staple ingredient in lemonade, lemon tarts, lemon meringue pie, lemon chicken, lemon pasta, and other lemon infused desserts.

What is the best lemon for cooking?

When it comes to cooking the choice of which lemon is best, often depends on your personal preference and the specific dish you’re preparing.

Regular lemons offer bold acidity and tartness, which make them ideal for cutting through rich or fatty foods and adding lemon zest to recipes. 

They are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and can be used in a wide range of savory and sweet dishes, from salad dressings and marinades to lemon tarts and lemon bars. 

On the other hand, fresh Meyer lemons offer a sweeter, floral flavor making them perfect for dishes where a gentler citrus flavor is desired. 

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They are great for desserts such as Meyer lemon cakes, Meyer lemon bars, and cocktails where their unique flavor can shine without overpowering other ingredients. 

Meyer lemons also pair beautifully with seafood, chicken, and salads, adding a fragrant citrus aroma and delicate sweetness to dishes.

The good news is that the best lemon for cooking depends on the flavor you’re aiming for and the specific requirements of your recipe. 

Basket full of special lemons like Meyer lemons and common lemons.

Can I substitute Meyer lemons for regular lemons?

You can substitute Meyer lemons for regular lemons in most recipes, but there are important differences in flavor and acidity between each type of fruit. 

Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons, so keep this in mind when adjusting your recipe.

In recipes that call for the distinct tartness of standard lemons, such as lemonade or lemon curd, you may need to adjust the sweetness or acidity to achieve the right balance. 

On the other hand, recipes where the sweetness of Meyer lemons is desired (desserts or cocktails) you can use them as a one-to-one substitute for regular lemons.

Experimenting with substitutions can lead to delicious results, but it’s always a good idea to taste as you go and adjust the ingredients accordingly to ensure the best flavor.

Where can I buy Meyer lemons?

Meyer lemons are available in many grocery stores, specialty food markets, and farmers’ markets particularly during their peak season winter to early spring.

I did check our local grocery store here in the Northeast for Meyer lemons with no luck (most likely was the time of year).

I did however, eventually find them fully stocked at our local Whole Foods.

You’ll typically find Meyer lemons here…

  • Grocery Stores: Larger chain supermarkets often carry Meyer lemons, especially during their peak season. You’ll find them in the produce section alongside other citrus fruits.
  • Farmers Markets: If you live in citrus-growing regions of the United States like Florida or California, many organic markets most likely sell Meyer lemons sourced from local growers. 
  • Online Retailers: If you’re unable to find Meyer lemons locally, you can also purchase them from online retailers that specialize in shipping fresh produce. Many online grocers offer Meyer lemons for delivery straight to your doorstep.

When purchasing Meyer lemons make sure that they are firm, smooth-skinned, and heavy for their size.

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What is the best way to store Meyer lemons?

The best way to store Meyer lemons (traditional lemons too) is in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for up to a few weeks. 

Place them in a sealed plastic bag or produce bag and store them in the crisper drawer to help maintain their moisture and prevent them from drying out. 

If you want to keep your fresh lemons at room temperature, just know that they will only last a couple of days on the counter. 

Frank N. Meyer discovered the Meyer lemon in the 1900's and brought them to the United States.

Are Meyer lemons worth it?

In my opinion, Meyer lemons are definitely worth it!

I’m so glad I did a little research and discovered that Meyer lemons are not just a “kind” of lemon, they’re a whole new experience. 

Their sweeter, more delicate flavor adds a special touch to dishes that regular lemons simply can’t match.

From tangy lemon bars to fragrant comfort food dishes, Meyer lemons bring a subtle complexity that elevates each bite. 

If you’re considering giving Meyer lemons a try, I highly recommend it. 

Their unique flavor and versatility makes them a delightful addition to the kitchen.

Trust me, once you start experimenting with Meyer lemons, you’ll never look back!

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xoxo, heidi

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Discovering the difference between Meyer lemons and common lemons.
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2 Comments

  1. I’ve always wondered what the difference was. Hubby and I just shared a meter lemon cheesecake today on our boat trip, and it was incredible! Thank you for the information Heidi. Have a great week!

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