Lemon Granita

We can't think of a better way to cool off.

Southern Living Lemon Granita in glasses to serve

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 15 mins

Ditch the ice cream and the popsicles: This summer, we'll be cooling off with this easy, low-maintenance Lemon Granita.

"The balance between sour citrus and sweet sugar is what makes this recipe a winner. The [combination of] water, sugar, and lemon juice is just right to provide subtly-contrasting flavors without any element overpowering the granita. The mint adds another dimension of freshness," says recipe developer Aysegul Sanford of Foolproof Living.

This Lemon Granita is a perfectly refreshing treat to help you cool down on a hot summer day.

What Is Granita?

This frozen dessert hails from Sicily, Italy, where granita was originally made with snow from Mt. Etna topped with flavored syrup.

Nowadays, "granita" refers to a mixture of water, sugar, and flavoring, all frozen until it reaches a snow cone-like texture. Lemon is one of the most common flavors; other popular flavors include coffee and almond.

Frozen Treat

The texture of this Lemon Granita is light like a snow cone, melting while you eat it to yield a texture similar to frozen lemonade.

Southern Living Lemon Granita ingredients

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

How To Make Lemon Granita

The full recipe for lemon granita is below, but here's a brief recap.

Step 1: Make lemon juice: Start by prepping your lemons. Use a peeler to scrape 10 lemon peel strips away from whole lemons. Next, juice lemons until you have a cup of fresh juice. If you have extra lemon peel, make some thinner strips and set them aside for garnishing.

Step 2: Make syrup: Next, add water, 1 granulated sugar, and lemon peel strips to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let the syrup cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the syrup reaches a simmer (this should take about 5 minutes).

Step 3: Cool syrup: Pull the saucepan off of the hot burner, and pour the syrup into a large bowl through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the lemon peels, and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Once it's cooled (after about 15 minutes), whisk the lemon juice into the syrup until it's fully combined.

Step 4: Freeze and fluff: Use a rubber scraper to transfer the syrup from the saucepan to a glass baking dish (2.5 quarts is the recommended size). Freeze for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the edges begin to set. Use a fork or a whisk to "fluff" the granita by scraping, stirring, and breaking up larger clumps of ice.

Put the dish back in the freezer, and repeat the "fluffing" process every 20 minutes. You want the ultimate texture of the granita to be halfway between a sorbet and a frozen lemonade, and it should take about 4 hours of freezing and fluffing to get to that point.

Before serving, give the granita a final fluff with the fork or whisk. Scoop it into serving glasses, and garnish with lemon peel and mint leaves.

Top Tips

Stirring and scraping the granita while it freezes prevents the development of large ice crystals. Using a glass dish helps with even freezing—if you use a metal pan, the edges will freeze much faster than the center.

How To Store Lemon Granita

Lemon granita doesn't contain dairy, so its lifespan in the freezer can be fairly lengthy. When covered tightly in an airtight, freezer-safe container, Lemon Granita will keep in the freezer for up to two months.

That said, granita's texture can become compromised after a long period of freezer storage, as the ice crystals become more prominent and harder to break down.

The longer it sits, the more likely it is that you'll have to refresh the granita by putting it in an immersion blender. Even after zapping it in an immersion blender, a "dried-out" granita will likely have a watered-down flavor, as opposed to the bright and lively flavor of a fresh granita.

To keep your Lemon Granita in its most enjoyable state, store it in the freezer for no more than one week.

How To Serve Lemon Granita

In Sicily, granita is commonly eaten for breakfast, either sandwiched in or served alongside a pillowy brioche. Another breakfast-appropriate way to serve Lemon Granita (which can also work beautifully as a healthy dessert or as an afternoon snack) is "to serve Lemon Granita over a vanilla yogurt," says Kentucky-based dessert chef Jason Smith of HUNGRY.

Because Lemon Granita is so fresh-tasting and lightweight, it also works nicely as a refreshing palate cleanser.

If you'd like to serve Lemon Granita as a dessert, try this very in-season option from executive pastry chef Anne White of Oak Steakhouse in Highlands, North Carolina: "Serve over a fresh summer fruit salad (peaches, nectarines, pineapple, oranges, mango, fresh chopped thyme) for a cool, refreshing treat!"

Another dessert idea for this Lemon Granita from Smith is to put a scoop atop a nice piece of vanilla butter pound cake that's been cubed and toasted on the grill.

Variations for Lemon Granita

To make the best possible version of this bright summer treat, try these variation ideas:

Replace regular lemons with Meyer lemons.

Meyer lemons are sweeter and less bracingly acidic than standard lemons, and they feature an aromatic, almost floral flavor. Using them instead of regular lemons will make for a sweeter granita with a more intriguing blend of flavor notes.

Add almond extract.

Hearken back to the Sicilian granita tradition and add a quarter teaspoon of almond extract to the recipe. The nuttiness really complements the bright citrus flavor nicely.

Lemon zest will boost the citrusy flavor of Lemon Granita.

"I would add some lemon zest to the mix to bring out some more citrus flavors," Sanford says. "This will ensure the lemon can't get lost and also lets you use the entire fruit, making for a waste-free recipe."

Editorial contributions by Taylor Tobin.


  • 3 cups water

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 10 (1-x 3-inch) lemon peel strips, plus 1 cup fresh juice (from 3 lemons)

  • Thin lemon wedges

  • Fresh mint


  1. Make syrup:

    Cook water, sugar, and lemon peel strips in a medium saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup starts to simmer, about 5 minutes.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita simmering the lemon syrup

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

    Remove from heat, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, discarding peel. Let syrup cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita straining the syrup

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

    Whisk lemon juice into cooled syrup.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita whisking the lemon juice into the syrup

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

  2. Freeze and fluff:

    Pour mixture into a 2½-quart glass baking dish. Freeze just until edges start to set, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from freezer. Using a wire whisk or fork, scrape up and stir frozen parts, breaking up large ice crystals.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita beginning to scrape the granita mixture

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

    Return mixture to freezer, and repeat scraping and stirring process every 20 minutes, until consistency of mixture is in between that of a frozen carbonated beverage and that of sorbet, about 4 hours.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita continuing to scrape the lemon granita mixture

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

  3. Serve:

    To serve, fluff with a fork, and spoon 1 cup granita into each individual serving glass. (For a smoother texture, remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving, and pulse with an immersion blender until it reaches the consistency of soft snow.) Garnish with a thin lemon wedge and fresh mint.

    Southern Living Lemon Granita in the freezer dish with some in glasses to serve garnished with lemon wedges and mint

    Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely  

Additional reporting by
Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin

Taylor Tobin is a freelance food and lifestyle journalist based in Austin, Texas. She has been covering home cooking and home bartending for over five years, with bylines in publications like Eater, HuffPost, Insider, Allrecipes, Wine Enthusiast, and The Spruce Eats. She's an avid home chef who's always eager to try new recipes, and she's constantly inspired by the culinary traditions of the exciting city of Austin, which she calls home. 

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