The Lemon Sorbet of Compromise

homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker

My daughter Charlotte started feeling sick Friday. As I left for the grocery store to fill up on supplies for my sourdough bread boot camp workshop, she asked me to bring her back sorbet, or sherbet or some other frozen dessert other than ice cream to soothe her throat. I said I would look.

In the frozen dessert aisle, I found a few things that matched her criteria—she really likes lemon sorbet—but most of them were packaged in plastic-lined cardboard tubs and one brand came in a hard plastic jar, shrink wrapped in yet more plastic. I pictured albatrosses feeding plastic to their young as I fed mine any of these sorbets.

But Charlotte really wanted a frozen treat. What a dilemma! I walked back and forth in that freezer aisle, pondering what to do. I could just buy the sorbet…These were special circumstances after all…I shouldn’t be so OCD…

I couldn’t just buy the sorbet.

You may judge me as a cruel, crazed, zero-waste zealot. My ill child asks for one little thing and I won’t buy it for her.

As I gazed at tub after tub, I thought to myself, “If only I had a solution to fulfill Charlotte’s request for sorbet, preferably lemon, while avoiding plastic…”

Our lemon tree

“Why is my life so difficult?”

Lemons my boss’ friend brought into the office recently

“I am a terrible mother and/or horrible person.”

A minuscule amount of lemons compared to the number on the tree

“If I don’t buy the lemon sorbet, I disappoint my daughter. If I do buy it, I am a fraud! I need a sign to show me the way!”

Five-gallon pail of lemons from the tree

“I wish I could just make Charlotte some lemon sorbet.”

Lemons sitting on my table back at home as I pondered my dilemma at the store

:O I could just make Charlotte some lemon sorbet!

I call this the lemon sorbet of compromise for a couple of reasons:

  • I compromised by making the sorbet rather than buying it. Thus I fulfilled Charlotte’s request, albeit not instantly. I made this while she napped and gave her some when it wasn’t quite frozen solid. So, she didn’t have to wait hours on end. (By the way, she liked this.)
  • I no longer have an ice cream maker. I will not lie. This turned out really well. But the consistency would have turned out smoother in an ice cream maker. The bowl of mine broke long ago and I never replaced it. A new one would also break—sooner rather than later.

If you have an ice cream maker, use that to make this sorbet. If you don’t have one, put a metal or glass dish in the freezer to chill. Follow the directions below to make the sorbet mixture, pull out the chilled dish and pour in the prepped, cooled ingredients. Take the dish out every half hour or so and give the sorbet in progress a good whisk. It will be frozen in about four hours.

Chilled pan
homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker
Pour in lemon-sugar-water mixture
sorbet in freezer
In the freezer
Pull out of the freezer and whisk well every half hour or so
homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker
More frozen
homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker
Nearly there
homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker
Ready to eat lemon sorbet

Lemon sorbet ingredients: water, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest

Lemon Sorbet Without an Ice Cream Maker


  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest


1. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put a metal or pyrex baking dish in the freezer to chill it.

2. Combine sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Allow your simple syrup to to completely cool.

3. Once the simple syrup has cooled to room temperature, stir in lemon juice and zest.

4. If you have an ice cream maker, pour mixture into it and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

5. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pull your chilled dish out of the freezer, pour the mixture in and return that to the freezer. Do not pour hot liquid into the cold dish! Make sure the ingredients haved cooled completely before pouring in.

6. Remove the dish from the freezer every half hour or so and stir it up with a whisk. It should be completely frozen after about four hours. Transfer it to a glass jar or other container and return to the freezer.

7. Sorbet melts quickly. For best results, serve it in a dish chilled in the freezer.


1. I don’t eat zest from fruit peels that have been treated with pesticides. Look for organic citrus.

2. Store-bought lemons—even if organic—often have been coated with food-grade wax. You cannot completely remove this. The farmers’ market is the best place to find lemons not coated in wax.

17 Replies to “The Lemon Sorbet of Compromise”

  1. Greetings from UK! Found your blog via what to do with sourdough excess and love the pancakes and crackers. Also love your popcorn recipe. I use (dare I say it!) disposable plastic shower caps to cover my oval shaped bannetons during retardation over night in the fridge. I am running out now so please do you have any suggestions what I can use instead. Looking forward to making your lemon sorbet recipe – when it gets a bit warmer here! Many thanks. Diana

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hello Diana. I’m sorry I haven’t responded until now. You probably proofed and baked your bread a while ago. What about covering the proofing dough with a dish towel? That’s what I use in the refrigerator for an overnight proof. If you have beeswax wraps large enough, you could use those. My meetup group might get together to make a pile of those next month. I’m glad you like the pancakes and crackers. I make them both often. And the popcorn. Those three things are staples around here 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  2. Lemons 🍋 are awesome and lemon sorbet is new to me..👍

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Ramya, I planted a few trees but the lemon is my favorite. Year after year it produces like crazy. The sorbet is very good–refreshing and intensely lemony. I hope you’ll try it 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

      1. It’s so great to know & I love lemon 🍋
        Will soon try one day

  3. Ms. Gail R Ruscetta says: Reply

    And do you think that the fancy-schmancy commercial sorbet in the plastic tub would taste as heavenly lemony and as authentic as yours? We all know the answer to that one. Loved this post. Of course it does help to have the lemon tree, very pretty. Living as I do in the far north of Northern Maine, those are in short supply, but that’s alright. We have sugar maples-cinnamon apple maple sorbet perhaps??

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Gail, That’s a GREAT point! No, it wouldn’t taste nearly as good. I put the juice of at least eight organic lemons into this and I used organic sugar and water I filtered with bamboo charcoal. If I tried to sell mine for a profit, I’d go bankrupt! Cinnamon apple maple sorbet sounds delicious! ~ Anne Marie

  4. Ah! This is what I will do! Three lemon trees and SOOO many lemons!!!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Beatrix, it uses up a bunch! I had been racking my brain for lemon recipes to use up my pile (and I have only one lemon tree!) and it never crossed my mind until my daughter had mentioned wanting sorbet. I hope this makes at least a small dent in your harvest. Enjoy! ~ Anne Marie

  5. I love that you care, that you agonise, that you think! thank you 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Julie! 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  6. Michelle Snarr says: Reply

    I kept chuckling as I read further along in your post. You are so blessed with all those lemons! All I have in my garden is snow.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Michelle :p

  7. What a wonderful compromise! You stayed true to your values AND fulfilled the sorbet wish! And the sorbet looks very yummy, too. 😀

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Lisa 🙂 It tastes really good and now I have another recipe to help use up my pile of lemons!

  8. Personally, I find the lemon zest to feel a bit pulpy when eating. So I tried it a second time, omitting the zest, and it was even better! What a keeper of a recipe! Thanks for sharing

  9. […] needed)If you’re looking for a sweet frozen treat with no packaging, Zero Waste Chef has a Lemon Sorbet Recipe that you can make without an ice cream maker! Alison gave this a try and it was delicious. It was […]

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