Skip to Content

Why Use Lemon Juice in Cheesecake (Plus Easy Alternatives)

Why Use Lemon Juice in Cheesecake (Plus Easy Alternatives)

Share this post:

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cheesecake is one of the most delicious desserts around, and it’s amazing to be able to make some that the whole family can enjoy. If you’re just getting used to baking your own, you might be interested to know that most people use lemon juice in cheesecake.

Some people are surprised to hear that lemon juice is a common cheesecake ingredient, but others will totally get it. Why do people use lemon juice in cheesecakes, and is it necessary to use it if you don’t have any?

Read on to explore this subject further so that you can learn more about cheesecakes in general. You’ll be able to learn why lemon juice works so well in cheesecake as well as what you can do if you don’t have any to use right now.

It’s Necessary to Keep the Cheesecake Together

Lemon Juice

Without getting into too much baking science, you should know that people use lemon juice because it is an acidic ingredient. This gives cheesecake what it needs so that it can stay together and have the right structure to be enjoyed.

If you bake a cheesecake without lemon juice or some type of lemon juice substitute, it’s likely going to be very runny. The acid of the lemon juice will react to the fatty proteins and give you that nice thick texture that you’re looking for.

You need an acidic ingredient like this to ensure that the cheesecake tastes like cheesecake and retains its shape like it’s supposed to. This is why most of the popular cheesecake recipes call for lemon juice.

It’s also nice that you can use lemon juice without throwing off the flavor of the cheesecake. Generally, people think that lemon juice adds to the flavor instead of making things worse.

Providing Extra Flavor

Cheesecake is very tasty, and part of the reason why it tastes so good is that it uses lemon juice. Lemon juice is capable of adding a bit of extra flavor that can make a cheesecake stand out.

If you’re looking to ensure that your cheesecake has the necessary bite, you’re going to want to use lemon juice. When you think about the way that standard types of cheesecake taste, you might not immediately think of lemon juice, but it is usually there adding flavor anyway.

When you go to bake a cheesecake that calls for lemon juice in the recipe, it’s definitely going to be important to use it. The cheesecake might not taste the way that it was intended to if you decide to forego using it.

Lemon Juice Substitutes

There are substitutes that you can use that will give you a similar type of taste, though. Read on to get more information about what you can do when you don’t have any lemon juice that you can utilize.

Use Vinegar

Pouring Vinegar Into A Small Bowl

Vinegar is probably the most common substitute for lemon juice when it comes to baking. This works well when you only need a small amount of lemon juice in your recipe.

This has the acid that you need to keep your cheesecake together, and you can use it to provide a bit of flavor, too. You just have to be careful because vinegar is strong, and using too much is going to throw things off with the cheesecake.

You should be able to use vinegar as a one-to-one substitute for lemon juice in a standard cheesecake recipe. This will make things easy on you, and the results should be very good even if it isn’t completely the same as using lemon juice.

Lemon Zest or Lemon Extract

You can use lemon zest or lemon extract to get a similar effect if you’re out of lemon juice. Lemon zest can easily give you the acidity that you need in the cheesecake, and it’s also going to be able to provide a bit of that lemon flavoring that you’re looking for.

This is going to be perfect in cheesecake, and it might be the substitute that you should try to use first. You might need to add a bit of water to the lemon zest to get things to turn out just right, and this might make it trickier than using vinegar as a substitute.

Lemon extract is even more highly concentrated, and this means that you need to use it sparingly. Use too much lemon extract and your cheesecake is going to taste far too lemony.

White Wine

Close Up Of Glass Of White Wine

White wine can actually work pretty well as a substitute for lemon juice in a cheesecake. So long as you aren’t trying to make a cheesecake that is specifically lemon-flavored, it’s going to be easy to use white wine in your baking.

This is another instance where you will have a one-to-one replacement for lemon juice, and that makes it easy to just pull out the white wine and follow your recipe. Just substitute the lemon juice and use your white wine to get very good results.

Some people prefer using white wine to using lemon juice, and there are recipes that utilize white wine very well. Consider trying this out if you don’t want to use lemon juice.

Citric Acid

Citric acid might make for a good lemon juice substitute in a cheesecake depending on what type of cheesecake you’re trying to make. This is the acid that is found in lemon juice that helps it to keep the cheesecake together, after all.

You can use one teaspoon of citric acid to replace 1/2 cup of lemon juice in any baked good. The only downside to this is that you won’t be getting the flavoring that you would if you had used lemon juice.

In some ways, using citric acid is inferior to using lemon juice because it doesn’t help to give the cheesecake the same tangy taste that lemon juice does. However, it isn’t a bad substitute, and you can make up for the lack of flavoring with your other ingredients.

Cream of Tartar

Scoop Of Cream Of Tartar

Some people have used cream of tartar when making cheesecakes, and it turns out very well. You can make a great New York cheesecake using cream of tartar that will definitely make your tastebuds happy.

Cream of tartar is just another acidic ingredient that can be used in baked goods instead of lemon juice. In many cases, there are specific recipes that call for cream of tartar instead of using lemon juice.

If you don’t have any lemon juice handy, it might be better to switch things up and find a recipe that utilizes cream of tartar instead. That is assuming that you have cream of tartar at home, of course.

Final Thoughts

Lemon juice isn’t necessarily a required ingredient to make cheesecake, but a lot of cheesecake recipes call for it. This is because cheesecakes need to have an acidic ingredient that can hold things together and give the dessert the thickness that people want.

You can definitely find lots of cheesecake recipes that use ingredients other than lemon juice, though. The information above gives you the most popular options, and you can get good results if you find the right recipes.

It might be best to just look up recipes that will make good use of the ingredients that you do have. For example, using a cream of tartar cheesecake recipe would be better than trying to replace lemon juice with cream of tartar in a recipe that called for lemon juice.

You know a lot more about why lemon juice is a common cheesecake ingredient now. Use that knowledge to make good decisions so that your cheesecakes will turn out deliciously from here on out.

Share this post:


Tuesday 12th of December 2023

how much lemon juice to use as a replacement for 1 tsp vanilla


Sunday 19th of June 2022

What about no bake cheesecake? Does it need the lemon juice or is it just so it tastes like cheesecake?

Sarah B.

Thursday 14th of July 2022

Hi Kat!

Yes, you'll want to use lemon juice in no bake cheesecake for the same reasons! It'll likely be runny if you don't. Hope that helps!


Saturday 29th of January 2022

Thanks lemon allergy


Sunday 28th of November 2021

No comments? I'll be your guinea pig and I'll let you know what I used and how it turned out.