Introduction: Limoncello Recipe

Picture of Limoncello Recipe

Limoncello is a classic Italian liqueur. The process involves using the zest of the lemon peels, which are high in oils, and then steeping in alcohol to impart the lemony-flavour. Traditionally this lovely liquor is made from Sorrento lemons, but common Eureka lemons are just as good. 

You can easily make your own version on limoncello with lemons (or just about any other citrus fruit), splash of sweetener and a healthy dash of vodka.  What are you waiting for? Grab some lemons and follow along to make your own variant of this delicious mouth-puckering drink!

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello!

Step 1: Ingredients + Supplies

Picture of Ingredients + Supplies
  • citrus fruit / fruit
    • lemons
    • limes
    • grapefruits
    • (kiwi)
  • grain alcohol / vodka (any type)
  • sugar
  • cheese grater
  • glass bottles / jars



Grain alcohol is ideal as it's high in alcohol content and is flavourless, however it's not available in some places. Vodka works just fine.

Step 2: Zest Fruit

Picture of Zest Fruit

Using the fine grating side of a cheese grater, take the zest off your fruit. The zest of the fruit is the coloured portion of the fruit skin and the white portion below is called the pith, the zest holds the oil of the fruit while the pith is bitter. You want all zest and no pith. 

Each jar was filled with fruit zest. For the kiwi I sliced into small segments and then muddled the pieces in the jar. After, each jar was filled with vodka. The remaining fruit can be made into a citrus meringue, squeezed to make fresh juice, or maybe you can find some creative uses

Step 3: Wait

Picture of Wait

After filling each jar was capped and set aside to steep for about 10 days, shake every few days to ensure a good mix.

During this time the zest will infuse the vodka with flavour and colour. Ensure your zest (or fruit) is completely submerged in alcohol to prevent the fruit from rotting while it's steeping.

Step 4: Strain + Sweeten

Picture of Strain + Sweeten

After the zest has steeped in vodka for a few days it's time to strain. Using a cheesecloth and a funnel transfer the zesty-vodka to a clean bottle. I chose a decorative bottle, but any bottle with a resealable cap will work.
Make sure to squeeze the cheesecloth after straining to ensure all liquid is removed from the zest.

Next a solution of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) was added to the strained liquid, this will make the drink more palatable and less bitter. The amount of syrup to add depends on personal taste. I used about 90ml (3 fl.oz) pf simple syrup for 270ml (9fl.oz) of alcohol. 

Step 5: Serve!

Picture of Serve!

Limoncello is served chilled (in chilled glasses) and typically consumed after dinner as a digestif, but is great any time you want a tart refreshment. Try it over vanilla ice cream for a zesty twist on your dessert!


Did you make your own version limoncello? Post a picture in the comments below and earn a 3-month Pro Membership to!


RobPaige made it! (author)2017-08-12

Lemon and lime batches. Added the juice of the fruits, and made a sugar free simple syrup with Splenda and vanilla extract.

mikeasaurus (author)RobPaige2017-08-14

Looking great!

I think I see the zest in the bottle on the right. You might want to keep a eye on that to ensure the zest doesn't make it too bitter. I like how I can see the slight color difference between your two bottles. Yum!

Thanks for sharing a picture of your results. Enjoy the Pro Membership!

RobPaige (author)mikeasaurus2017-08-14

Thanks! My rigorous QA process has established that it's not too bitter, but maybe I should test more. You know, for science.

mikeasaurus (author)RobPaige2017-08-14

For science, of course! :D

RobPaige (author)2017-07-27

What about mixing the lemon juice in with the vodka and zest mixture?

fkipfer made it! (author)2016-02-10

Yum! I made this last week. I used lemons from my parents yard and steeped them for a month!

mikeasaurus (author)fkipfer2016-02-10

Local lemons and a personal touch probably makes the best limoncello :)

Thanks for sharing pictures of your success, I hope it was tasty. Enjoy the Pro Membership!

csreech made it! (author)2014-12-30

Used zest from 10 lemons and limes. I went with half as much vodka for the limes as they yielded half as much zest. Great instructable!

mikeasaurus (author)csreech2014-12-30

Yum, looks tasty!

Thanks for sharing a picture of your limoncello. Enjoy the 3-month Pro Membership!

csreech (author)mikeasaurus2014-12-30


Cheesecake104 (author)2013-04-22

So, if I'm using a 5th of Vodka (750ml), how much zest of a grapefruit would I need? And how much kiwi? And do I just experiment with how much syrup makes it taste best?

It really depends on your personal taste - for that much vodka I would start with the zest of two large grapefruits, and about one cup of simple syrup. You can always add more sweetener after if it's too bitter. Good luck!

anallie0 (author)2012-01-31

Being Italian I feel compelled to post the original recipe.

doses for 2 liters of limoncello
- 10 lemons (preferably from South Italy)
- 1 kg of sugar
- 1 liter of alcohol at 95 °
- 1 liter of water

--- Preparation:
1) Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler peels in a collecting container. Pour one liter of alcohol at 95 ° and close the container tightly, letting the dough rest for 15 days in the dark.
Occasionally stir the pot keeping it strictly airtight.
At this stage, the alcohol will remove all the color and scent from lemon rinds, charging flavor.

2) Meanwhile we can prepare a syrup, the juice from the lemons we get peeled, add 1 liter of water and sugar and mix together the ingredients needed to heat it will generate a real syrup.
To understand the proper density of the syrup can visually adjust, when we bring it to boil a few minutes to thicken. With this process we're pasteurizing the juice of lemon, to keep it intact for the time needed to the recipe.
Once formed the syrup let it cool and place in refrigerator.

3) After the expiry of 15 days of rest of the lemon peels in alcohol, it's time to unite, in a large pot alcohol (even with the lemon peel in it) and syrup. Close the container and let stand another day. The union of these two compounds in flavor blends in those 24 hours, in addition to the work of conservation that creates maximum alcohol with its 95 °

4) Prepare a funnel lined with cheesecloth and bottles that have a total capacity of 2 liters of limoncello. (I managed to fill 3 bottles, 2 x 1 / 2 and a liter)
Past the stage of filtering, filtered carefully through the limoncello into bottles funnel with gauze, the operation may be slow because the syrup is thick and lemon peels are soaked and retain the liquid.

5) At this point you have before you your bottles of limoncello, but beware! are not ready.
In fact, the lemon needs a further period of rest and filing to be effective.
Keep at rest for at least 1 month, you can keep in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

aje127 (author)anallie02012-02-02

What is 95°? Does that mean 95 proof or is it talking about the temperature? Do I need to heat the alcohol up to 95. I also checked out your sugar cubes and they look amazing. The liquid doesn't melt the cubes?

anallie0 (author)aje1272012-02-02

95 ° is the alcoholic strength, alcohol strength by volume of 95 %. the alcohol does not dissolve the cubes, only the water dissolves the sugar.

Blue Hawaii (author)anallie02012-12-30

95 "proof" is actually 47.5% alcohol by volume. "Pure" alcohol is 200 "proof".

danielozzo (author)anallie02012-02-08

this recipe is also wrong!
in real limoncello there's no lemon juice.

Here is my recipe:
1kg of ORGANIC lemons, better if still green
1kg of sugar
1 litre of 95vol. alcohol
1 litre of water

peel the lemons using a sharp knike, be careful peeling only the yellow part of the skin and AVOID the white part as it is bitter and will ruin the flavor.
place the skin of the lemons into the alcohol. wait for a week, then filter the alcohol using a wine filter cloth.
mix water and sugar together at room temperature till the sugar is completely dissolved. then add the alcohol.bottle and try to wait at least one week before drink it...

anallie0 (author)danielozzo2012-02-08

You are absolutely right. I apologize but I added the juice that does not

XofHope (author)anallie02012-02-02

So, that would make the final product about 47,5º? Is traditional limoncello usually that high in alcohol content?

anallie0 (author)XofHope2012-02-03

The gradation in the original recipe must not be less than 45 ° / 50 °

XofHope (author)anallie02012-02-03

Thank you for the recipe and for answering me.

anallie0 (author)XofHope2012-02-03

If instead of water add 2 liters of milk with 2 kg of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, you get a fabulous cream of limoncello

mikeasaurus (author)anallie02012-01-31

Neat, thanks for your recipe. You should make your own Instructable showing how you do it!

anallie0 (author)mikeasaurus2012-02-01

I will do. now you have to try this Italian specialty.

peaceinnature (author)2012-10-22

Have you tried grapefruit?

BLUEBLOBS2 (author)2012-05-27

This tastes wonderful!

mikeasaurus (author)BLUEBLOBS22012-05-27

It really is tasty stuff, I even had a long-time lemoncello drinker that they liked mine over the store bought stuff. A high complement indeed!

Do you have a picture of your lemoncello to share?

BLUEBLOBS2 (author)mikeasaurus2012-05-27

It IS very tasty, but no, I don't have a picture to share. I wish I did, but the stuff was so darn tasty, and I drank it really fast! ;) Next time I make some I'll share a picture.

RonnyK (author)2012-02-29

I made it using your recipe and meyer lemons. It turned out great! Thanks so much!

mikeasaurus (author)RonnyK2012-02-29

Great! For sharing your version of this you get a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership!

(what did you add to the mix to make it red?)

RonnyK (author)mikeasaurus2012-02-29

Thanks, mikeasaurus!
It's actually a pretty translucent pale yellow. It just looks red because of the low light and camera app I used.

stormy0314 (author)2012-02-01

Here is my limoncello. Also a coffee liqueur. I made them both before Thanksgiving last year. I will try the limoncello on Valentines Day and the Coffee liqueur about two months later. After watching "Under the Tuscan Sun" I tried my first batch. Used the whole skin of the lemon. It was really bitter and It took me two years to drink it. I was hoping it would get rid of the bitterness of the pith, not knowing any better. This batch is the zest of 7 lemons and 8 limes. I plan to make nocino this summer and want to try pecan liqueur this summer also. Look at the picture and take a guess as to what my next project is going to be.

stormy0314 (author)stormy03142012-02-01

Tried again to add pics with no success. Here we go again.

stormy0314 (author)stormy03142012-02-01

Well, it mostly worked. Thanks for the 'ible by the way. I also liked the bottles.

stormy0314 (author)stormy03142012-02-19

Don't know what went wrong. Not the "sharp" lemon taste I desired. Maybe too much vodka for the mix. Have added more lemon zest and will let it rest for another month or so. Will keep up the experiment until it comes out right. Now have it in the freezer for this stage. Will see if the lemon flavor intensifies.

mikeasaurus (author)stormy03142012-02-01

Wow, those look great! I would love to hear how yours taste when you crack them open!

stormy0314 (author)mikeasaurus2012-02-02

I'll keep you posted. I am anxious myself.

azbuddyboy13 (author)2012-02-09

Ok you "purists" are going to hate this but........I watch my sugar intake and I like my limoncello with a stronger lemony taste. So I've started cutting back on the sugar and adding some Torani Sugar Free Lemon syrup. I know, I know sacrilege! But honestly I had friends taste test my two batches and 3 of the 4 preferred the more lemony one. Just sayin...

fefede (author)2012-02-03

The recipe in this instructable it is not limoncello !!!
The recipe from analli0 is much similar to limoncella, but it is too strong in alchol content.

nissim.hadar (author)fefede2012-02-03

I often make Limoncello in a similar method to anallie0.

Note that 95 proof alcohol is quite dilute - only 49.5%. I use 96% (yes - percent) and 50% more spirit

We always drink straight from the freezer - only warning is never use square glass bottles - that burst in an instance !

I pity people living in places where you can't buy alcohol :)
In Israel I can buy 96% alcohol in any supermarket.

A last point - it is much better to use lemons from your garden. Who knows what sprays and waxes bought lemons are covered with? They should be washed with soap!

lessthan (author)2012-02-02

Hi! This looks delicious, but I have a question about the steeping step. Just leave it out on the counter? Or refrigerate it? Do you mix them all together? If so, before or after steeping?

mikeasaurus (author)lessthan2012-02-02

I had mine all separated, and left them on the counter to steep. Also, you could totally mix them together and come up with your own custom combination of citrus-cello!

lessthan (author)mikeasaurus2012-02-02


austinquick (author)2012-02-02

How do you think this would work with 190 proof everclear?

romar1581 (author)2012-02-02

Adding the half of a vanilla bean (vanilla pod) or a teaspoon of vanilla extract greatly enhances the citrus flavor.

Also a great recepie...
Frozen raspberries with equal amounts of sugar and vodka, 1 pound berries, 1 pound sugat 16 fl oz. vodka (1 vanilla bean) and 4-6 weeks......

The lemon was a tease... the raspberry sounds sinfully good!

Thoth (author)2012-02-02

I've known Italians to use Grappa as the alcohol to do the extraction, but here in the US vodka is much easier to get and cheaper.

Though for extraction try to keep the alcohol between 30-45% (60°-90²) because any lower and you'll not get adequate extraction. More importantly not to go much higher because then it becomes more likely you will extract bitter and astringent compounds present in the material extracted.

Did this once with habenero peppers, great adding a spice kick to cocktails like a bloody mary or just playing a bit of a joke.

jungkurth (author)2012-02-02

Use 100 proof Vodka or grain as they will prevent glass breakage if you plan to store in the freezer. Also: Amalfi coast lemons are the best if you can find them. This is always best served as cold as possible, so drinking it right out of the freezer, over ice, or drizzled over french vanilla ice cream will bring out the summer when the snow is on the ground. Been making this for years as Christmas presents - the great fun is in the experimenting. Keep the pith out at all costs, as it will seriously mar the flavor with a bitterness that is not good - I don't care of you like bitter flavors - you won't like a bitter limoncello. The bottles can be pricey (I make gallons of this every year) so I have an agreement with recipients - bring me back the bottle, and I'll give you another filled when the next batch comes out. Last thought - don't be in a hurry. I let my alcohol sit (always out of direct sunlight) for many weeks - even months - before mixing into the syrup. Shake it every couple days while it sits. After mixing with the syrup, let it sit for at least a week or two before final bottling. Enjoy!

Josehf Murchison (author)2012-02-02

Nice I like your bottles.
They look like the ones we get maple syrop in.
I should due my rum recipe.

gasparn (author)2012-02-01

In the pictures you have the zests in separate jars... did you combine them in the end or do them separately?

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
More by mikeasaurus:Router Planer10 MORE Woodworking Tricks the Pros UseSliced Wood Coasters
Add instructable to: