Best Homemade Limoncello | Authentic Italian Lemon Liqueur (Vegan)


Try my authentic Italian recipe for homemade Limoncello – an easy to make vegan Italian Lemon Liqueur with only 3 ingredients. Drink it straight, make it as a homemade gift, or use it to create awesome limoncello desserts! 

Homemade Limoncello Italian Lemon Liqueur

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I had my first sneaky sip of limoncello when I was sweet 18 and traveling around Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast with my school class. My girls and I managed to get out of the campground and hitched a ride to town, where we had a little pizza feast with some local boys at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We finished our adventure with a round of ice-cold limoncellos as a courtesy of the house. I will never forget the bold flavor and intense color! The first sip was very strong but it got a lot mellower after that and we all took our time to enjoy it until the last drop. Until today, limoncello takes me back to these worry-free days in Italy, which is why I started to make my own limoncello at home!

What is Limoncello and where does it come from?

Limoncello is a sweet, bright yellow lemon liqueur made with lemon zest. Created in Southern Italy as an after-dinner drink, it’s both bold and light with just the right amount of zing! While limoncello is typically served straight, it also makes for a nice addition to summer cocktails and you can use it in many dessert recipes.

 

Homemade Limoncello Italian Recipe for Lemon Liqueur

Which ingredients do I need to make homemade Limoncello?

All you need for making great Italian limoncello at home are three ingredients:

  • sugar,
  • spirit,
  • and lemons.

As you can tell, this is a pretty easy recipe and it also happens to be vegan! Occasionally you might find recipes that use different citrus fruit like grapefruit, orange, pomelo, or limes but then you can’t call it limoncello as it comes from the Italian word for lemon “limone”.  I actually have a big old jar of lime-cello steeping in my basement right now and cannot wait to try that version!

Limoncello is generally clear but you might get a little cloudiness as you mix your lemon infused alcohol with the sugar syrup.

Tipps for the best homemade Limoncello (Italian Lemon Liqueur)

  • Pick the right lemon: Meyer lemons will make an especially fragrant, yet slightly darker limoncello. When you pick your lemons, make sure you get ones with smooth, thick skins – these are the best for zesting. I have also read, that underripe lemons deliver best results. Zest them thinly and try to get as little white pith as possible. It can turn your lemon liqueur bitter.
  • The recommended steeping time is 2 weeks, but I have also had great results in only one week. Longer steeping times generally lead to a more mellow flavor, and you can let your limoncello steep for months if you are that patient.
  • Strain your limoncello before bottling it! I fold a cheesecloth a couple of times and use it to line a sieve through which I strain the liquid. Not only does it make for a nicer appearance – small particles can also change the limoncello’s flavor over time. I like to store my homemade lemon liqueur in these Clear Glass Bottles

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

How do I remove pesticides from my lemons?

The alcohol will pull everything from those peels, including any pesticides or insecticides used on the lemons so the best case scenario would be using organic lemons for this recipe. However, standard lemons are just fine for making limoncello. Note that non-organic lemons are usually coated with wax which is why you’ll get a better extraction from organic lemons.

This is what I do when I use non-organic lemons for my limoncello: I wash the fruit with a vinegar-water-mix!  Mix water with vinegar, so that the ratio is 3: 1, so for example, put one cup of vinegar in three cups of water. You can leave the fruit to soak in the mixture for 10-20 minutes and then rinse them off with water. This is a great way to remove bacteria, chemicals, and wax from the lemons.

Which alcohol should I use when making my own limoncello at home?

As for the spirit, grain alcohol is generally used, as it gives you the cleanest and most lemony flavor. There are a lot of differing opinions out there about what proof to use. From my experience, I would recommend a high-proof spirit like Everclear. It will extract the flavors of the lemon peel most efficiently in as little as a week of steeping time. That said, in many parts of the world, it may be difficult to find anything over 100 proof, so feel free to use something else, like an 80 proof vodka. It will just take a little more time.

What can I do with my homemade Limoncello other than drinking it straight?

Once made there are so many uses for your homemade limoncello. Use it to spike your lemonade, to flavor cocktails or to splash it onto ice cream ( It goes especially well with my Basil Gelato and my Triple Coconut Ice Cream). Make a beautiful pound cake or marinate some fresh fruit in it. Here’s another link to a collection of dessert recipes using limoncello.

I personally am quite partial to the combination of limoncello, prosecco, ice cubes, fresh basil, and strawberries!

Do you have any other ideas for limoncello recipes? Leave me a comment and feel free to share this recipe on your social channels!

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Homemade Limoncello Italian Recipe for Lemon Liqueur
5 from 9 votes
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Best Homemade Limoncello (Italian Lemon Liqueur)

Try my authentic Italian recipe for the best homemade Limoncello - an easy to make Italian Lemon Liqueur with only 3 ingredients.

Course Dessert, drink
Cuisine Italian
Keyword easy, homemade, Italian, lemon, limoncello, liqueur
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 bottles
Calories 100 kcal
Author Kiki Johnson

Ingredients

  • 9-10 big lemons preferably organic and meyer, see tips
  • 750 ml high-proof neutral grain spirit (such as Everclear 151)
  • 800 g sugar
  • 1 l water

Instructions

  1. Make sure you have a big, very clean mason jar with a tight-fitting lid at hand. If using not organic lemons, scroll up and read my recommendations on how to prep them.

  2. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove the yellow skin only with as little pith as possible.  You can trim away pieces of pith with a paring knife if you go too deep.

  3. Transfer the lemon peels to your jar and cover them with the spirit. Use a wooden spoon to mash the lemon peels a bit, then close the lid tightly.

  4. Store your jar in a dark, cold place and shake once for a day, for at least a week or up to one month.

  5. Once finished steeping, combine sugar and water in a pot and heat until sugar has dissolved. Let cool completely. 

  6. Line a strainer with a large cheesecloth or coffee filter and set it over a clean pot. Strain the infused spirit through the filter. You may need to stir the liquid in the strainer if the flow stops.

  7.  Pour the sugar syrup into the lemon- infused spirit. Stir gently to combine and. taste. Make sure you have 2 clean 1 liter bottles ready. 

  8. Insert the funnel into the neck of one of the bottles ( I like to use these) and fill with your homemade limoncello. Repeat with the remaining bottle.

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Homemade Limoncello (Vegan Italian Lemon Liqueur)


21 Comments

  1. I do enjoy limoncello – such a great flavour! I’ve never made myself, but would be something fun to try for sure 🙂 Bet this is also delicious as a base for cocktails.

    • Hi Dawn! Oh, it is such a fun and easy recipe to try! My favorite summer drink is a shot of limoncello mixes with 200 ml of Prosecco served with a lot of ice, some smashed basil leaves and some sliced strawberries! I am sure you would love it!

  2. Loving the bright color. Its a perfect drink for the summer party. Thanks for sharing !!

  3. I have never tried limoncello. This recipe looks easy. Will have to try it out.

  4. I still have yet to make my own limoncello, but you make it look so easy. What a special drink to serve or even give as a gift!

  5. We’ve been making limoncello for years. When my Italian cousin visited and we gave him a glass of our homemade — he loved it. You can’t beat the taste and we like it best right from the freezer. Good and cold — yummy. You give some great tips.

    • Hi Marisa! Thanks so much! Oh yes, nothing better than an ice cold sip of limoncello – especially when shared with family and friends! Have a great weekend!

  6. I love love LOVE limoncello. It’s my favorite for after dinner or to use in baking, and of course cocktails! Can’t wait to try making my own at home.

  7. The first time I tried limoncello was in in Tuscany. I can’ t remember which town. I loved it and searched for it when I got back home. I can find it locally here, imported from Italy. I would love to make my own, especially for the lower footprint. Saving this!

  8. Never tried this before. Looks so gorgeOus and refreshing. Pinning for later!

  9. I love the idea of using limoncello to soak fruit! I’ve always wanted to make it myself and your explanation makes it sound much easier than I thought.

  10. I love limoncello but really like the idea of being able to make it myself at home. Can’t wait to try this!

  11. I’ve never tried limoncello before, but it sounds amazing. I’m always looking for new summer drinks, so definitely adding this to the list!

  12. Michelle Blackwood

    I have never had limoncello but I bet it tastes delicious, loving the color!

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