How to Make Traditional Italian Lemon Sorbet – Recipes from Italy

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Video Ice cream maker recipes sorbet

Lemon Sorbet, or “Sorbetto al Limone”, is a non-dairy frozen dessert traditionally served between courses to help “clean your palate”.

Lemon Sorbet has a unique scent, perfect for cooling off on hot summer days. You can serve it as a drink between courses to help clean your palate or in cups like a dessert.

Sorbet is the dairy-free version of Italian Gelato, just as creamy but lighter and less caloric. The lack of ingredients of animal origin (such as milk, heavy cream and eggs), together with the generous dose of fruit, make the sorbet one of the lightest and most refreshing desserts ever.

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe

The most popular sorbets are usually flavored with fruit. Above all, Italian Lemon Sorbet is the most famous traditional Italian sorbet. Now we are going to show you how to make it at home, with and without the help of the ice cream maker.

So let’s start! Water, sugar and lemon, here are the ingredients to make homemade Italian lemon sorbet. You will be thrilled with the result!

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe


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Lemon Sorbet Recipe


  • 180 g (12 tablespoons) of granulated sugar
  • 230 ml (1 cup) of water
  • 4 lemons

Kitchen Tools and Equipment for Making Lemon Sorbet

The most useful tool for making authentic Italian Lemon Sorbet surely is an ice cream maker. There are various types of ice cream makers, but the best is the one that has a compressor that cools while blending the sorbet or the gelato. We recommend Whynter Automatic Ice Cream Maker.

This type of machine is very similar to the professional one. It’s a little expensive but with this ice cream maker you will have a perfect Italian Sorbetto and – above all – in quite a short time.

Other types of ice cream makers, without a compressor, plan to keep the special container of the machine in the freezer many hours ahead of time to cool the ingredients while mixing them, but its autonomy is quite short. We recommend Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker which in our opinion is inexpensive and practical.

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe

IMPORTANT: The Stainless Steel Container

Making sorbet recipe without an ice cream maker: the result will still be good if you follow really well our recipe step by step recipe. In this case you will need a stainless steel sorbet container.

THE SECRET: A juice Extractor

A juice extractor machine can be very useful for making excellent sorbets. With this appliance the juice is much more concentrated and tasty. There are also some models of juice extractor machine that have the specific accessory for sorbets: insert the previously frozen fruit into the machine, and voilà the sorbet is ready! Obviously this is not possible with citrus fruits but with other types of fruit.

A good peeler make it easy making lemon sorbet. In fact it’s very important to remove only a thin layer of lemon peel, without the white part that would make the lemon sorbet bitter.


Now we are going to show you how to make Lemon Sorbet WITH and WITHOUT the ICE CREAM MAKER. So follow our step by step recipe really well!

IMPORTANT: first of all, if you are NOT going to use the ice cream maker, remember to put a STAINLESS STEEL container (no plastic this time!) in the freezer a few hours beforehand. When you will pour the sorbet mixture, the container must already be frozen.

How to Make Lemon Sorbet WITH the Ice Cream Maker

How to Make Lemon Sorbet WITHOUT the Ice Cream Maker

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t worry! We are going to show you how to make a terrific sorbet without the help of an ice cream maker. It takes more time (4 hours instead of about 40 minutes) and more work but the result is still exceptional! Let’s see how to do it!


You can keep Lemon Sorbet in the freezer for up to a month.

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe

How to Serve Lemon Sorbet: as a Drink or as a Gelato?

Generally the sorbet is served as a dessert, but it can also be an excellent interval between two dishes, used “to clean the palate” and prepare it for the following course.

The consistency of the sorbet changes according to the use you want to make of it. If you intend to use the sorbet as an interlude between dishes or as a digestive, it’s better that the sorbet has a slightly more liquid consistency. So serve it in a flute with a straw, like a drink.

If, on the other hand, you want to serve the sorbet as a dessert, then it must have a full-bodied consistency like a gelato. So serve it in cups with teaspoons.

You can decorate your lemon sorbet with some mint or basil leaves and a few slices of lemon.

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe

These Ingredients Make your Lemon Sorbet Creamier

The main feature of the sorbet is that it’s creamy like a gelato but much lighter because dairy-free. The fruit sugars and the freezing method make the sorbet creamy.

However, there are some ingredients that, added to the syrup of water, sugar and fruit, speed up the freezing process and make the sorbet even creamier. So whisk until stiff about 30 g (1 oz) of egg white and add to the mixture before pouring into the ice cream maker or freezing.

Obviously the sorbet will lose in lightness and will be richer and more caloric.

Let’s see what are these ingredients.

Lemon Sorbet with Egg White

A secret for a lemon sorbet particularly creamy is to add the egg white whipped until stiff. The egg white prevents the ice crystals from thickening and allows the sorbet to have a fine and creamy consistency.

Another plus is that the addition of egg white makes the sorbet more easily amalgamated even after a long stay in the freezer. Obviously this method is not for vegans and adds calories to your sorbet.

Alcoholic Sorbet

Even the addition of alcohol prevents the formation of large ice crystals and facilitates freezing by shortening preparation times.

So, if the sorbet is not intended for children, you can add a shot (about 50 ml) of Vodka or Limoncello to the lemon juice and then follow the lemon sorbet recipe above. Your sorbet will be creamier and certainly more digestive!

traditional italian lemon sorbet recipe

Sorbet Recipe: History and Curiosities

The first to use the ice of the mountains to prepare gelato and sorbet were the Chinese, already in the seventh century BC. That usage then passed into the Middle East: the term “sorbet” derives from the Turkish “sherbet” (fresh drink), in turn taken from the Arabic “sharab”.

The first testimonies of a cold dessert in Italy, dating back to Sicily in the 1300s, speak of something very different. In fact, at the time, the Arab conquerors collected the snow that was deposited on the slopes of Etna during the winter and kept it in iceboxes until the summer.

The Arabs exported sorbet recipe to the lands they dominated, in Sicily and in Spain. From here to the rest of Europe. Especially in Sicily there is a great tradition of frozen desserts based on fruit and citrus.

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