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

Lemon gelato in bowl.

There’s nothing like gelato made in Italy! It’s an essential part of any trip to the country, in our opinion. Here’s our attempt to bring back memories and make lemon gelato at home!

What we love about this recipe: Now, 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’s so intense and refreshing, you’ll absolutely love it!

Our lemon gelato research

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. It was tangy, intense, lip-puckering lemon, so intense and refreshing that we ordered it frequently. Here’s our attempt at recreating it at home!

Ingredients in lemon gelato

With only three ingredients, lemon gelato is a simple concept. It does take some time to assemble, but it’s 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. Here’s what you’ll need for lemon gelato:

  • Lemons
  • Milk
  • Sugar
Lemon gelato in bowl with spoons

Tips for making lemon gelato

This lemon gelato recipe is laughably simple, but that’s what makes it so wonderful!

  • First, you’ll 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.
  • For a scoopable texture, freeze it for a few hours to harden it.

Storage tip

If you freeze the gelato overnight, it’ll become rock hard — but you can fix that by running it back through a food processor!

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

More frozen desserts 

Outside of this lemon gelato recipe, here are our favorite frozen dessert, including ice cream recipes, sorbet recipes, and sherbet recipes:

Dietary notes

This lemon gelato is vegetarian and gluten-free.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between lemon sorbet and lemon gelato?

Both are refreshing frozen treats, but gelato has a higher milk fat content than sorbet. This makes gelato denser, creamier, and often slightly sweeter compared to the lighter and more tart sorbet.

Is lemon gelato good for you?

Lemon gelato has healthy ingredients like lemon and milk. However, it also contains sugar, so enjoy it in moderation.

What does lemon gelato taste like?

Lemon gelato should have a bright, refreshing lemon flavor with a touch of sweetness. The creamy texture complements the tartness for a well-balanced taste.

How can I serve lemon gelato?

Scoop it into bowls, cones, or even waffle cups. You can garnish with fresh lemon zest, mint leaves, or berries.

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Lemon Gelato


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

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!


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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23 Comments

  1. Lori Rouch says:

    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.

  2. Ignacio Barcia says:

    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!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      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.

      1. Ignacio Barcia says:

        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! :)

  3. Anonymous says:

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

  4. Laura says:

    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!

    1. Sonja says:

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

  5. Choclate cake says:

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

  6. Christie says:

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

  7. missy says:

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

    1. Sonja says:

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

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