Lemon Gelato

This lemon gelato recipe is made with just 3 simple ingredients and it requires less than 15 minutes of hands-on prep work. Super easy and delicious!

What inspired this lemon gelato recipe

Gelato is an essential part of a trip to Italy, at least for the trips we take. This fluffy, Italian-style ice cream is so intensely flavorful that it’s hard to pass up, especially when there’s a shop on every corner. On our recent trip to Rome, we spent one afternoon visiting five different gelato shops to sample flavors (I mean, we had to find out which was best!).

I usually go for chocolate flavors if I have the choice, but surprisingly, Alex and I found that our favorite gelato flavor was not a rich chocolate, but lemon. And this isn’t just any lemon gelato. This is tangy, intense, lip-puckering lemon, with just the right hint of sweetness that doesn’t taste a bit sour. It was so intense and refreshing that we ordered it frequently.

Of course, there’s nothing like gelato made in Italy, but this is our attempt to make lemon gelato at home. With only three ingredients, it’s a simple concept, but does take some time to assemble (mostly hands-off). It’s actually closer to a sorbet made with fruit and water, which is how most of the fruit-flavored gelatos in Italy are made. Interestingly, we found it was best made with milk, which gives it a slightly creamy consistency.

Give it a try and let us know if you’re transported to Italy, or if you have a favorite gelato flavor or recipe!

How to make lemon gelato

This lemon gelato recipe is laughably simple, but that’s what makes it so wonderful! For this homemade gelato, you’ll need fresh lemons, 2% milk, and white sugar. You’ll first need to heat the milk and sugar on the stove just until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the lemon juice and pop that into the fridge to chill for at least three hours.

Once chilled, churn the mixture in an ice cream maker (read the manufacturer’s instructions for this part). For a soft serve consistency, serve the lemon gelato immediately. Or freeze it for a few hours to harden it slightly. If you freeze the gelato overnight, it’ll become rock hard — but you can fix that by running it back through a food processor!

Looking for more frozen desserts? 

Outside of this lemon gelato recipe, here are our favorite frozen desserts on A Couple Cooks:

This recipe is…

This lemon gelato is vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Lemon Gelato

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (56 votes, average: 3.96 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


This lemon gelato recipe is made with just 3 simple ingredients and it requires less than 15 minutes of hands-on prep work. Super easy and delicious!


  • 6 to 7 lemons (enough for 1 ½ cups lemon juice)
  • 1 ½ cups 2% milk
  • ¾ cup white sugar


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups milk and ¾ cup sugar. Over medium heat, heat until the sugar fully dissolves when stirred; do not boil. Transfer to a bowl and bring to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, juice enough for 1 ½ cups lemon juice (about 6 lemons). Stir the lemon juice into the milk mixture, then place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
  3. After the mixture is chilled, churn it in an ice cream maker. Serve immediately for soft serve consistency, or freeze for another 2 hours for a firmer consistency. (Freezing overnight makes the gelato become rock-hard; if this occurs, you can bring it back to the soft serve texture by running it through a food processor.)
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Frozen
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: lemon gelato, homemade gelato

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness
    July 30, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Gelato is my favorite, but I had NO idea how to make it myself. You just saved my life..and my wallet. Pinned!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth
    July 30, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I had my first gelato in Rome. It was called Zuppe Englaise (I probably just butchered the spelling of that!) and it converted me from ice cream. Thanks for sharing the recipe – sounds delicious!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    July 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I usually go for the chocolate too but I love anything tangy, and I’m sure this is great. Must get an ice cream maker!!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    July 30, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    This gelato look perfect! Such a refreshing flavour too – I crave lemon in summer!

  • Reply
    Dena Norton
    July 31, 2014 at 6:30 am

    I’ll never forget the sight and smell of the citrus-lined streets and football sized lemons around Naples/Sorrento….and, oh, the limoncello gelato!! Thanks for the walk down memory lane, and for the recipe – pinned!

  • Reply
    Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health
    August 1, 2014 at 11:28 am

    this is so simple and pure looking gelato.

  • Reply
    kristie @ birchandwild.com
    August 1, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Whoah, this looks so good! Your trip was good to you, and now it is good to us. I can’t wait to make this!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Wow! That looks really great!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life
    August 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I have such fond memories of wandering through Rome with a cup of pistachio gelato (my favourite) or lemon sorbet. Thank you for giving me the inspiration to recreate these at home! (and hopefully talk my boyfriend into a trip to Italy one day!)

  • Reply
    August 18, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Is it possible to make this without an ice cream maker? if yes, please share…. thanks!

    • Reply
      August 18, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Hi! I’m sorry, we don’t have a method without an ice cream maker :)

  • Reply
    April 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    as I added the lemon juice it started to get lumpy?

    • Reply
      April 25, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Interesting! Did you cool the milk and sugar all the way down to room temperature before adding the lemon juice?

  • Reply
    August 10, 2015 at 5:24 am

    very good. Maybe I will try it with limes or raspberries next time.

  • Reply
    Choclate cake
    March 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    It looks delicious . . . . In summer these type of recipes always refreshes me . . . Thank you for sharing :)

  • Reply
    April 8, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Our favorite gelato in Rome is called Old Bridge and it is right outside the Vatican Wall. Great taste and large portions! Yummmy. Can’t wait to try this!

    • Reply
      April 22, 2019 at 9:37 am

      Ooo we haven’t tried that one! We’ll have to try next time :) Let us know what you think of the recipe!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Very, very lemony. I had to mix the gelato with water to cut the tang.

  • Reply
    Ignacio Barcia
    May 13, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    First of all a big thank you!!! I looked into many recipes and suspected yours to be the one I was looking for!

    Is amazing and I couldn’t believe I got it right first time! I added a ssplash of single cream and one egg white because I was concerned it was going to harden too much on the fridge but at the end that happened none the less. Any ideas as to how to address this? I used and Ice cream maker.

    I also used the base to to do a strawberry one and it was equally amazing! I ended up cutting with a pineapple slicer of the frozen pot and it worked just fine. Not crystalized. Just very very hard. Any ideas welcome and again thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 13, 2020 at 6:02 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! There’s not much you can do with this recipe to avoid over-freezing since it’s not high fat. Ideally you eat it all just when it reaches the perfect consistency.

      • Reply
        Ignacio Barcia
        May 13, 2020 at 8:34 pm

        Fair enough! Because is truly the taste and texture I love. For what is worth… I used the same milk and sugar base and processed 300grms of ripe strawberries and the juice of 1 lemon and it was a killer too! Many thanks! :)

  • Reply
    Lori Rouch
    December 31, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    What if you don’t have an ice cream maker or that other thing to make ice cream? How would you make it? I really would like to try it.
    My boyfriend was given something Italian while in the hospital he said it was kinda like ice cream and when he bit into it it tasted like Sprite. What is it he called it Italian Dessert.

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