How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar

Many of us are on determined quests to reduce sugar consumption. But what about summer's favorite drink, lemonade? Can lemonade be sweetened with fruit instead of processed sugar? The answer is a definite "yes". My experiments turned out so well, we're drinking fruit-sweetened lemonade nearly every day!

How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar, summer experiments with ♥ using pineapple, watermelon and more.

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Marie Kondo Would Not Approve


Marie is the Japanese woman who coaches us to banish life tension by tidying up and decluttering our lives, especially our (too much) stuff. She sparked a real movement and a glut of drop-offs at Goodwill.

Then again? Marie Kondo just might approve of our household's dueling lemonade pitchers because she also asks us to discover joy in our possessions.

No question. Ever so different, our his 'n' hers lemonade pitchers do bring joy.

How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar, summer experiments with ♥ using pineapple, watermelon and more.

"Where's my mother's pitcher?" my husband asks each year on the first summer-hot day. It's a decades-old, sturdy clay pitcher with a chip or two and a worrisome hairline crack. From then until fall, every day he chunks up a lemon or two, some times with a lime or two, then stirs in sugar and cold water. The pitcher sits out, we sip on lemonade all day. The sugar rarely fully dissolves so the last drops are thicker and sweeter than the first, good reason to keep sipping!

How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar, summer experiments with ♥ using pineapple, watermelon and more.

My grandmother's lemonade pitcher is also sturdy but the clear glass catches the summer light and reflects the leafy boughs above and the flowers blooming nearby. And her pitcher tilts, inviting another glassful!

If memory serves, Gramma's own pitcher shattered years back and mine is an antique-store replacement. No matter. In my (joyful?) heart, it remains "my grandmother's lemonade pitcher".


Four Ways to Sweeten Lemonade

Old-Fashioned Homemade Lemonade ♥, how to make real lemonade using the oil from the lemon peel for extra zesty flavor.

  • With Sugar What a treat, an icy glass of Old-Fashioned Homemade Lemonade. My recipe is less sweet than many sugary lemonades but remains plenty sweet. Still, many of us actively avoid processed sugar. (Has anyone else ever given it up entirely? Oh it feels good. I recommend it, just to feel the difference.)

  • With Sugar-Free Sweeteners For most people, the term "sugar free" means using one of the color-coded sugar substitutes: blue for aspartame (brand name Equal), pink for saccharine (Sweet 'n' Low), yellow for sucralose (Splenda) and more recently, green for stevia (Stevia in the Raw and Truvia).

  • With "Natural" Sweeteners For most people, natural sugars include honey, maple syrup and for some, agave.

  • With Fruit! Fruit is sweet. Fruit is a whole food. Fruit is a natural food. So why not try sweetening lemonade with fruit instead of processed sugars or even the pricey natural sweeteners? Let's experiment, shall we?
How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar, summer experiments with ♥ using pineapple, watermelon and more.

Experiment #1: Lemonade Sweetened with Watermelon

Just fresh lemon juice and chunks of watermelon juiced together in the blender. It remains lemonade, just a little fruitier and sweeter. With a sweet melon, no extra sugar is needed. With a bland melon, hmm, keep a squirt bottle of simple syrup nearby for a little touch-up according to taste.

  • PRO's Gorgeous color!
  • CON's Go for a seedless watermelon unless you're up for the tedious job of picking out the watermelon seeds before puréeing.

Experiment #2: Lemonade Sweetened with Canned Pineapple

Why canned pineapple? Because it's fast, it's convenient, it's consistently sweet. A pitcher of fruit-sweetened lemonade is just five minutes away!

Once again, the lemonade turns out really lemon-y just naturally sweetened. A special upside? After 24 hours, lemon + pineapple turns slightly fizzy.

  • PRO's No added sugar, just a can of unsweetened pineapple. Looks like traditional lemonade.
  • CON's You just might need to make room in the pantry for several cans of pineapple!

Experiment #3: Lemonade Sweetened with Canned Pears

Canned pineapple sweetened lemonade so well that we decided to try unsweetened canned pears. Ooops, no go. The pear flavor overwhelms the tart lemon, perhaps because pears are themselves more dense? or less sweet? or? I'm not sure exactly why but pears just didn't work for us.

  • PRO's Convenient, easy.
  • CON's So much pear flavor, tasty but not the lemon-y lemonade I was aiming for.

Future Experiments.

  • Mango?
  • Green grapes?
  • Honeydew? A golden melon? (Honeydew is my next target.)
  • Frozen strawberries?
  • Other unsweetened canned fruit?
Lemon Recipes ♥, from lemonade to lemon curd and so much more.

How to Squeeze a Bunch of Lemons Super-Fast.

Last year, we started making lime juice and mescal cocktails. It took forever to squeeze all those limes, extracting as much precious juice as possible with my grandmother's vintage green glass lemon juicer, it works like a champ. Here's a contemporary glass lemon juicer (affiliate link), it works for lemons, limes and oranges, takes up little space, doesn't corrode and is handy for occasional squeezing.

But to juice a bunch of limes or lemons? Amazon to the rescue!

This electric juicer (affiliate link) has been designed really well. It has a pouring spout, it has volume lines, it filters seeds and pulp at adjustable levels (I happen to love the pulp), it has two reamers that stack for storage, it pulls apart for easy cleaning, it doesn't slip on the counter. Really well thought through!

I pull it out whenever I need to juice a bunch of lemons or limes. It makes for quick squeezing.

What If the Lemonade Isn't Sweet Enough?

Our individual tastes for sweetness vary, not just from person to person but also over time. What tastes sweet to me might taste sour to you. What tastes sweet to any of us today may taste more puckery as we age.

But that's not all.

Moreover, fruit is a product of nature, not a factory. Modern industrial farming and food distribution makes the food most of us consume remarkably similar. Still, lemons and limes don't all have the same acidity, each and every time. Other fruits aren't equally sweet, one to the next. Acidity and sweetness vary based on variety, geography, rainfall, shelf life.

(Wanna geek out? You can actually buy an inexpensive device to measure sugars, it's called a refractometer which to me sounds like something from the Jetsons but is useful for places like St. Louis' wonderful Comet Coffee, especially their ice cream operation. Sorry, I digress!)

Even so, fruit-sweetened lemonade is definitely not as sweet as many of us might be accustomed to expect with lemonade. The easy fix? Stir in a little sugar until it dissolves.

But before you do that, here are some other ideas for those of us who are determined to consume less processed sugar.

  • Wait a Day The lemon and fruit mixture seems to lose some of its tartness after a few hours.

  • Add More Ice Coldness seems to counter the tartness. The colder the drink, the better it tastes, even less sweet. And after awhile, the ice will melt, diluting the drink.

  • Psych Yourself Out If you're used to sweet lemonade, don't think of this drink as lemonade, don't even call it lemonade. You're not used to drinking watermelon or pineapple so maybe your brain will accept something less sweet.

  • Add an Unsweetened Liquid I tend to think of these lemon juice + fruit mixtures as "lemonade concentrates" that are best diluted with water (my favorite), club soda, a sugar-free soda, etc. That said, do be careful of your choice of soda, Fresca, for example, totally takes over. My favorite is diet ginger ale.

  • Next Time Use less lemon juice.

  • Train Your Palate to appreciate things less-sweet. Over time, less sugar will become the norm and super-sweet things will have less if any appeal.

And Then There's Simple Syrup.

But if none of those ideas work in your taste world, turn to a liquified sugar called "simple syrup," a simple mix of sugar and water brought to a boil.

The usual proportion of sugar:water is 1:1, that is, for every cup of sugar, mix with a matching cup of water.

But I like a more condensed mixture called "Double Simple Syrup" or "Rich Simple Syrup". For these, the proportion is 2:1, 2 cups sugar for every 1 cup of water.

Funny thing? This is the same syrup we use for our hummingbird feeders!

Double Simple Syrup keeps for a long while and is handy to have on hand.

For the fruit-sweetened lemonades, it's nice that the whole pitcher isn't sweet. Instead, anyone whose taste demands a little more sweetness, well then, squirt away, aim for a teaspoon at a time until you know what you need without watering down the lemonade.

Simple syrup also works for adding a tiny touch of sweetness. Maybe for iced coffee? Or impromptu cocktails?!

How to Sweeten Lemonade with Fruit Not Sugar, summer experiments with ♥ using pineapple, watermelon and more.


Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time-to-table: 5 minutes
    Makes 4-1/3 cups
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh lemon (or lemon/lime) juice
  • 1 20-ounce can unsweetened fresh pineapple
    Makes 5 cups
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pounds (900g) seeded watermelon (from about half a large watermelon)
  • Ice
  • Lemon-Fruit Mixture
  • Tap water, sparkling water, club soda, etc., optional (my favorite is Diet Ginger Ale)
  • Double Simple Syrup (recipe below), optional

Combine lemon juice and canned pineapple or watermelon in a blender. Process for a minute or two to completely liquify. May be enjoyed right away, otherwise refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, stir the Lemon-Fruit Mixture and fill a cold glass with ice.

For full-strength lemonade, pour the Lemon-Fruit Mixture over the ice. Taste and if needed, sweeten with a squirt or two of Double Simple Syrup.

For a lighter extra-refreshing lemonade, pour 1/4 or 1/3 cup Lemon-Fruit Mixture over the ice and top off with tap water or another liquid. Taste and if needed, sweeten with a squirt or two of Double Simple Syrup.

ALANNA's TIPS The pineapple-lemon mixture is especially good made a day ahead of time, it turns slightly fizzy! Small lemons yield about 2 tablespoons juice per lemon so allow about 8 small lemons per cup of juice. Larger lemons or extra-fresh lemons will yield 4 or even more tablespoons of juice per lemon. A large watermelon will yield about four pounds of edible flesh. Don't let lemons or limes go to waste. If they're just beginning to dry out a little, throw them in the freezer, right in their pretty lemon-yellow or lime-green jackets. When you're ready to use one or more, just let them thaw for an hour or so. You can also throw them in the microwave for a few seconds. You'll never know they've been frozen! We keep a container in the freezer just for citrus, right beside the one for our evening treat, Healthy Choice Fudge Bars.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per 1/3 Cup (Lemon-Pineapple): 33 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 9g Carb; 0g Fiber; 7g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 2 & Freestyle 2 & myWW green 2 & blue 2 & purple 2

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per 1/2 Cup (Lemon-Watermelon): 26 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 7g Carb; 0g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 0 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 1 & Freestyle 1 & myWW green 1 & blue 1 & purple 1


Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time-to-table: 5 minutes
Makes 1-1/2 cups syrup (easily multiplied)
  • 2 cups (400g) sugar, preferably cane sugar
  • 1 cup water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring every so often to help the sugar dissolve. Once it boils, turn off the heat and let the syrup cool. Transfer to a sparkling-clean clear glass or similar container to last the longest in the refrigerator. For shorter storage but serving convenience, store in a squeeze bottle.

ALANNA's TIPS The potent sugar concentration does act as a preservative but do watch for formation of a loose fibrous-looking shadow. If so, toss the syrup. I suspect it's caused by the glass container not being quite sterile. The sugary calories can add up fast!
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Tablespoon: 64 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 17g Carb; 0g Fiber; 17g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 2 & SmartPoints 4 & Freestyle 4 & myWW green 4 & blue 4 & purple 4

Stay Hydrated!

~ drink & beverage recipes ~
Cucumber Lemonade ♥, simple and refreshing for summer.

Lemon Mint Cucumber Water ♥, a great way to stay hydrated.

Hibiscus Tea with Ginger & Vanilla, either cold or hot ♥, for anyone who wants to drink more water, great for Weight Watchers, Medifast and other diet programs.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ lemon recipes ~
~ pineapple ~
~ watermelon ~

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.