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a vintage aluminum 1 teaspoon measuring spoon holding a scoop of lemon sugar above a bowl of freshly chopped deep red strawberries

Homemade Sicilian Lemon Sugar

When life gives you Sicilian lemons, make 2-Minute Homemade Lemon Sugar! If you’re a fan of using every part of a good ingredient, then this simple lemon sugar is one way to get the most out of your lemons. We use a lot of this citrus fruit around here for everything from adding a hefty squeeze to brighten up a salad, to perk up our favorite no-bake desserts, to add zest to smooth homemade hummus, or even to make good old-fashioned homemade lemonade.  But there’s more to a lemon than just its juice.  If you’re already familiar with this blood orange sugar, then you know how quick and easy it is to elevate your pantry and get the most out of this your citrus fruit. And don’t worry, if you don’t have Sicilian lemons lying around, just use the best organic lemons you can find.

What makes Sicilian lemons so special?

If you’ve seen my blood orange sugar post, then you already know why Sicily is so special and that it has some of the best fruits and veggies anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s called the “Lemon Riviera”. These lemons are intensely full of flavor because they grow in the volcanic soil around Mt. Etna and thrive in the hot sunny Mediterranean days that turn into cold nights — which equals lemon-making magic!

Sicilian lemons are slightly different than what you’re probably used to. They have a unique sweetness and fragrant flavor that can be hard to find anywhere else in the world and they have more juice than other varieties.  Plus, their zest also has more oil than other lemon varieties which is why luxury perfume and cosmetic brands source lemon essential oils specifically from Sicily. In fact, the Sicilians have a saying that “It’s not a real lemon unless it’s from Sicily” — and they’re just as good as they sound!

Always Fresh and Sometimes Frozen

We all know people who rave about Disneyland and Disneyworld’s frozen lemonade (and even Silver Dollar City and Dollywood too), but the “granita al limone” or lemon granita from Sicily cannot be rivaled. It’s THE best frozen lemonade I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating and drinking in my life. When we visit Sicily, I eat at least one every single day. So, it’s probably a good thing that authentic Sicilian breakfast starts with a granita topped with a heavy dose of fluffy whipped cream and a brioche bun.  The granita comes in all different flavors (coffee and lemon being my favorite).  You may ask yourself why for breakfast, Sicilians eat what we’d consider to be a dessert. The easy answer is that Sicily is H.O.T. and having an iced coffee or lemonade, plus a bun and a little fat from the heavy cream leaves you feeling energized, satiated, and ready to start the (sweltering day). I can’t imagine eating an American-style breakfast in Sicily. You’d probably spend the day in bed if you did.

What Kind of Lemons Grow in Sicily?

There are two different famous lemon varieties, the Femminello and the Monachello lemons.  They’re known for their balanced and brightly zesty taste without any of the usual bitterness.  They also have a slight sweetness to them. The best lemons are said to come from the winter harvest and this citrus fruit has been a mainstay in Italy’s cuisine for thousands of years. At least 8 out of 10 lemons sold in Italy today are grown in Sicily. Regardless of the harvest period, I’ll eat, drink and cook with any variety of Sicilian lemons.

Ways to Use Homemade Lemon Sugar

The uses for this lemon sugar recipe are endless and we hope you get inspired in your own kitchen. Use lemon sugar for things like :

  • lemon drop sugar cookies
  • to help sweeten up your tea
  • to sweeten a quick homemade strawberry jam sauce
  • homemade lemonade
  • sprinkled over freshly chopped strawberries
  • strawberry lemonade margaritas
  • plum cake
  • sprinkled on top of orange rolls or blueberry muffins just before baking
  • lemon-sugar butter crêpes

And if you’re wondering, yes, you can (and should) do this with oranges too!

The Zest of Life — Traveling to Sicily

If you ever get the chance to visit Sicily, do it! Eat and drink your way through the cities and little towns up the mountains and be sure to relax by some of the most beautiful clear blue waters in the world.  Santa Teresa, Taormina, Palermo, Catania, Messina are all blissfully beautiful places to visit but try and make a point of reaching some of the smaller towns along the way. The beaches are made up of small pebbles, rocks, and shells, with larger boulders jutting out on the shore and also further out into the ocean.  It smells amazing here. Head to a restaurant near the water, and order wine and freshly-caught seafood while you watch one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life. 

Sicilian Lemons tips + tricks + FAQ’s

  • What are the most popular Sicilian lemon varieties? The Sicilian Femminello St. Teresa lemons have unique characteristics that make them particularly alluring — they can be less acidic, juicier, and have more oil in their skin and they can have some seeds or no seeds at all depending on the strain. There’s also the Monachello and the Interdonato varieties (and it’s even been rumored that the British Royal family requests the Interdonato lemons to be used in their tea!)
  • Why was the Bay of Palermo called “Shell of Gold”? With over 36 square miles dedicated to growing citrus at one time, the plain of “Conca d’Oro” or Shell of Gold, was full of citrus groves filled with intense fragrances permeating the air from the blossoms of lemons, oranges, and tangerines.  And with yellow being a dominant color covering the landscape, it’s said that the Bay once shined like gold (hence the name).
  • Has Sicily always been a global exporter of lemons and other citrus fruits? We can thank scurvy for driving global demand for citrus fruit production in Sicily in the 19th century.  When doctors realized a little vitamin C could help sailors and undernourished populations avoid scurvy, the demand grew quickly.  Sicily’s climate was perfect and production increased.  We’re sorry that it took a disease to prompt the global demand for such tasty lemons, but we’re happy Sicily came to the rescue and planted even more hectares of lemons so that we can reap the benefits of those decisions today.
  • What are the health benefits of Sicilian lemons? Lemons have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties which makes them good for helping fight colds or eliminating over 90% of microbes and bacteria found naturally on shellfish, they’re full of vitamin c (so, if you’re a pirate there’s no risk of getting scurvy if you eat lemons), and you can even use it to reduce free-radicals that cause a lot of diseases and advanced aging. You can even stop apples, avocados, and other fruits and veggies from oxidizing by rubbing them with lemon juice.
  • What are good household uses for lemons besides cooking with them? You can use lemons to make vitamin C DIY facials, you can use lemon juice and kosher salt to clean a coffee carafe to remove burnt coffee, you can use lemon juice and vinegar as natural cleaners for countertops and smelly sinks or dishwashers. You can also use lemons to make your home smell good or dry them out to make holiday decorations.
  • When are Sicilian lemons in season? Sicilian lemons have a long growing season due to the perfect climate for growing citrus and are cultivated 3 times a year.  The first cultivation is the “primofiore’ or autumn period, the second is the ‘bianchetto’ in the Spring and the third season is ‘verdello’ in the summer between June and July.
  • Where do Sicilian lemons come from? In the 9th century, Islamic armies took control of the island of Sicily and they brought lemons! So, even after their armies came and went, the fruit became a mainstay and is a huge economic driver of the Sicilian economy still today.

Let’s get started!

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a vintage aluminum 1 teaspoon measuring spoon holding a scoop of lemon sugar above a bowl of freshly chopped deep red strawberries

Sicilian Lemon Sugar

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  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This Lemon Sugar will perk your baked goods or add a hint of lemony sweetness to your tea. It’s perfect to use in cocktail recipes or to rim your margarita glasses as well. You can even use it to make a quick strawberry jam sauce. It’s a pantry secret weapon that takes less than 2 minutes to pull together, and you can enjoy it all year round (or as long as it lasts).


  • 1 cup granulated sugar (pure cane sugar or white sugar)
  • zest from 3 to 6 Sicilian lemons (or other organic lemon varieties),


  1. Zest the lemons. Add the zest to a small bowl and add sugar in increments, stirring to combine the mixture well until you have the ratio of zest-to-sugar that suits your taste.

  2. Store the lemon sugar. Add the lemon sugar to a jar, seal it and keep it in the cupboard stirring periodically throughout the first week using a fork or spoon to break up the sugar as it dries. Store in the cupboard and use it to replace the sugar called for in your favorite baking or cocktail recipes Enjoy!


  • For a more intense lemon flavor, add more lemon zest.
  • For less lemon flavor, use less zest.
  • If you notice that your stored lemon sugar starts to look more like lemon syrup from all of the oils in the zest being released over time, add more sugar to help even the ratio of zest to sugar. Stir and seal!
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Category: Condiments + Sauces + Dips
  • Method: Mix & Stir
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 teaspoon
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