Rich, Tart Lemon Sorbet Recipe

The title says it all: this is a smooth, sweet-tart sorbet that's perfect for summer. Or dinner.

Photograph: Robyn Lee

A switch has flipped in me—now all I want to do is eat spring vegetables and drink lemonade. Of course, in the Serious Eats office, ricotta is considered a vegetable and most of our fruit comes in macaron form. So I've resigned myself to pigging out at the office and eating dinners of repentance at home.

As often as not, that dinner has been lemon sorbet, because it's tart and light and delicious and I'm lazy and hey, stop looking at me like that. Even if you don't approve, my deviant behavior is your gain, because this lemon sorbet is pretty sweet.

Actually, it's not. Sweet, that is. There's enough sugar to keep the lemon's tartness in check, but the flavor is definitely on the light, refreshing, Italian ice side of the spectrum. The texture, though, is a lot like a plush French sorbet: luscious, smooth, and crystal-free. Usually when making sorbet you have to choose between bright tartness or super-smooth rich texture, but with this recipe you don't have to.

How? Well, you may not be happy with the answer. But here goes: corn syrup. A lot of it.

One of the reasons you find corn syrup in so many processed sweets is because it's so good at keeping things smooth and creamy. This is especially true for water-based sorbets that are low in natural fruit pectins, like lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Corn syrup makes these sorbets much smoother and less prone to forming ice crystals. It also makes them more stable, so they'll be at their freshest and best for longer. I really can't recommend it enough.

If you've been frustrated in your search for a fresh-tasting sorbet that doesn't ice up, this should be your go-to. It is for me. And it makes a decent dinner, too.

Recipe Details

Rich, Tart Lemon Sorbet Recipe

Active 15 mins
Total 45 mins
Serves 8 servings
Makes 1 quart

The title says it all: this is a smooth, sweet-tart sorbet that's perfect for summer. Or dinner.


  • 1 cup fresh juice from 6 lemons, chilled

  • 1 tablespoon zest from 1 to 2 lemons

  • 1 1/2 cups water (preferably filtered or distilled bottled), chilled

  • 2 cups light (clear) corn syrup

  • 1 tablespoon vodka or gin

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Whisk all ingredients except salt together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Add salt to taste. If water and lemon juice are not chilled, chill in refrigerator until cold.

  2. Churn in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and chill in freezer until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Special equipment

ice cream machine

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
252 Calories
0g Fat
68g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 252
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 134mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 68g 25%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 66g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 13mg 64%
Calcium 15mg 1%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 34mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)