Mayer Lemon & Basil Sorbet

As a consumer, my weakness is novelty. Instead of growing red tomatoes, I grow purple ones; instead of listening to No Doubt in junior high, I was obsessed with Pavement. I’ve always been slightly contrarian by nature and I think my appreciation for all things new and different stems from that.

When it comes to citrus fruit, this time of year is pretty good for novelty. I’m not much of a citrus eater the rest of the year, but winter is different. There’s Satsumas and Minneolas and Blood Oranges and they’re all readily available and affordable. And unlike regular oranges and tangerines, I like these kinds of citrus.

When I saw Meyer lemons at the grocery store, I knew I wanted to try making a sorbet with them. Their deep yellow rind was so bright and cheerful and it made the regular lemons a few bins away look so boring and blah.

The darker rind comes from the fact that Meyer lemons originated by crossing lemons with oranges. Although the appeal of Meyer lemons is that they’re sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons, I’ve found that they’re still a little too sour for my tastes.

So yes, there’s lots of sugar in this recipe. Not only is it needed to balance the tartness of the lemon juice, but also keep in mind that freezing anything will dull the flavor; the sweetness of the sorbet mixture is toned down once it’s frozen.

If you’re put off by the inclusion of basil in this recipe, don’t be–the basil is infused into the simple syrup, so it only imparts a little hint of flavor.

On the other hand, if you’d like to intensify the basilyness (it’s a word if I say it is!), try adding Thai basil instead or simply cut the basil leaves into ribbons before immersing them in the syrup and don’t strain the syrup before combining it with the lemon juice.

The sad thing about this Meyer Lemon & Basil Sorbet is that it’s totally perfect for summer, but you have to make it when Meyer lemons are in season, in the middle of winter. But really, you should buy them while you can–they are tasty.

Meyer Lemon & Basil Sorbet

Prep Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 6

A sweet and tart basil-infused Meyer lemon sorbet. Substitute regular lemons if Meyer lemons are not available.


  • 2 c. water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. basil leaves, packed
  • 1 c. fresh Meyer lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp. Meyer lemon zest


  1. Combine water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, continuing to whisk, until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add basil leaves to syrup and cool to room temperature. Once mixture has cooked, transfer to a large bowl and cover. Place syrup in refrigerator and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  3. Strain syrup through sieve to remove basil; squeeze out remaining liquid from basil leaves and discard. Whisk lemon juice and zest into basil syrup.
  4. Add lemon-basil mixture to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once sorbet is solid, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

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