How to Store Limes (Properly)

Published Categorized as Food
Anton Matyukha /Depositphotos

Give your limes the care they deserve. Here’s how to store limes, whole or cut, for maximum freshness.

Juicy, tart, and sweet, limes are many foodies’ favorite citrus fruits, and a staple ingredient in the cuisines of Mexico and along the West Coast of the United States.

As long as you can stomach the rising prices of limes lately, you can pick them up at any grocery store. They keep well and make for a delicious addition to a wide variety of both savory and sweet dishes—from salsa verde and guacamole to tacos and enchiladas to key lime pie and lime cheesecake.

If you want to know how to store limes, and how long they keep for with each storage method, then read on, because we’ve got you covered.

We will cover this, and more, in the Food & Groceries how-to piece of the day.

How Do You Store Limes?

You can store whole limes in a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, where they will keep for up to 7 days, or refrigerate them in the crisper drawer, where they will keep for 3-4 weeks.

Halved limes and lime slices should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a ziplock bag or food storage container with the lid closed. Sources differ on exactly how long cut or sliced limes can be stored in the fridge. Some say 3-4 days, others 6-7 days.

Discard bruised and spoiled limes, as well as limes that you have kept for longer than the above time periods, as they may no longer be edible.

Can You Freeze Limes?

Why, yes, you can freeze limes! As a matter of fact, freezing limes is the best way to preserve these tart citrus fruits for longer than a month.

Limes—whether whole, cut, or sliced—freeze well. Freezer temperatures put the bacteria that spoil our food and cause food poisoning into hibernation.

So, technically, frozen limes stay safe to eat forever. However, frozen limes dry out over time and lose their aroma and flavor, and they only retain their best quality for 4 to 6 months.

Lime juice should be drunk, cooked with, refrigerated, or frozen shortly after squeezing to preserve its freshness. Although lime juice is acidic, it shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours to avoid spoilage.

One of my favorite hacks for freezing freshly squeezed lime juice is to pour it into an ice cube tray. This way, you don’t have to thaw the entire juice, and you can use up the individual lime cubes as you like, be it in a drink or for adding to salad dressing.

Always Wash Your Limes

Since you don’t really know how your produce was handled during harvest and who touched it while it was on display, rinsing is an absolute must. This is especially important if you’re making lime zest.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or cooking with them, whether you bought them at the store, the farmer’s market, or grew them in your garden. Limes are no exception.

Before cutting limes, wash your hands with warm soapy water, then rinse the limes under cold running water (without soap). By doing so, you will prevent the transfer of bacteria from your hands to the limes, and you will rinse off any bacteria that the limes themselves may have been contaminated with on the farm or at the store.

Don’t Store Your Limes in Water

If you search the Internet for how to store limes, it won’t take you long to stumble upon the advice to refrigerate them in a plastic bag or food storage container with a little water.

On the face of it, the logic behind this hack seems sound: Limes, like other citrus fruits, are porous. So when they’re stored in the air, the moisture they contain escapes through the peel and they dry out. If you partially immerse them in water, the advice goes, they absorb it and stay moist.

And, technically, that’s true.

But there’s just one problem with storing limes in water—it may increase the risk of food poisoning.

If the limes are contaminated with disease-causing germs such as Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella, as was the case in a 2020 recall, these germs can pass through the peel into the flesh of the lime. By the time you eat a lime or drink its juice, it may already be overgrown with bacteria and the toxins they produce.

Many of us think that acidity kills pathogenic bacteria, but the studies are inconclusive, especially for the species that grow on produce.

This is especially risky if the lime is halved or sliced. Not long ago, the FDA warned Americans about a similar method of refrigerating sliced avocados in water, which had trended on TikTok, for the same reasons.

So play it safe and don’t store your limes in water, especially for long periods of time. Yes, they won’t dry out if you do, but you also won’t know if they’re safe to eat or not.

(That slice of lime in your Margarita cocktail? I hate to break it to ya… but according to this peer-reviewed article in Food Protection Trends, it poses a risk, too.)

In Conclusion

Limes keep on the kitchen countertop, but they last longer in the fridge. If cut or sliced, seal in a ziplock bag or food storage container with the lid closed and use up within a few days. Remember to wash your limes before eating or cooking with them and never soak your limes in water for storage.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.