Homemade Limoncello: To Sous Vide Or Not To Sous Vide?

Homemade limoncello tastes better than most store-bought limoncello. I have been making it myself for about 10 years now (click here for the recipe). Lemon peels, infused for 4 to 6 weeks in pure alcohol (95% pure), then add a simple syrup, and for best results allow to age for some further time. I’ve seen limoncello made in only 2 hours using sous vide unfusion online, but never paid much attention to it. Because it could never be as good. Or could it? I wanted to know for sure and therefore put it to the test and made some sous vide infused limoncello.

The ingredients are exactly the same whether you are making it sous vide or the traditional way: organic unwaxed lemons, preferably from Sorrento in Italy, 95% pure alcohol, sugar, and water. For 1.5 litres (6 cups) of limoncello you will need 5 large lemons, 500 ml (2 cups) alcohol, 750 ml (3 cups) water, and 600 grams (3 cups) sugar. You can also make limoncello using vodka instead, but I have never tried that.


First scrub the lemons thoroughly and dry them..


Then peel them as thinly as possible using a vegetable peeler.

The flavor is in the yellow part; the white pith is bitter. If there is some white pith attached to the yellow peel, remove it with a very sharp paring knife. That is the secret to the best tasting homemade limoncello, and one of the reasons why properly made homemade limoncello is better than most store-bought.

Vacuum seal the peels with the alcohol, and infuse sous vide for 2 hours at 57C/135F. Instead of using a chamber vacuum machine, you can also use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method.


In the meantime, make a simple syrup by bringing 750 ml mixed with 600 grams of sugar to a boil in a saucepan, and allow to boil for 1 minute, then allow to cool.

Chill the sous vide infused alcohol as well.

Mix the syrup with the infused alcohol, and chill this completely in the freezer. Limoncello is best when served ice cold from the freezer. Good limoncello with enough alcohol (about 30%) will stay fluid in the freezer.

For this experiment I prepared both traditionally made limoncello and the quick version using sous vide, to then taste them side by side. The sous vide version has a much sharper taste; the traditional version has a deeper, rounder and softer flavor. The sous vide version is a bit more fresh, but I definitely prefer the traditional version. The sous vide version is a bit more like store-bought limoncello, so perhaps heating is also used as a method to produce some of those. If you are in a hurry you can make an acceptable limoncello sous vide, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble compared to the store-bought version (and with the price of lemons and 95% proof alcohol I don’t expect it to be cheaper). The traditional homemade version is much better.

9 thoughts on “Homemade Limoncello: To Sous Vide Or Not To Sous Vide?

  1. I have made limoncello using the traditional method and an evaporation/maceration method and it is wonderful. Almost after every meal in a restaurant in Italy or Spain, we received complimentary limoncello (some places in Spain also offered coffee liqueur which was odd to us). I will check out your original recipe, hopefully, I still have time to whip up a batch to enjoy while we still have summery temperatures!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Stefan, are you sure pure alcohol is 95 proof? Or should we understand you use the term “pure alcohol” as one thas has nothing added but water?
    Pure (absolute) alcohol is a little less than 100 G.L. Wich converts to double that number “proof”.


  3. Have you ever tried making limoncello using an ISI whip ?
    This goes very quickly, put peels in 95% (cold) alcohol. Charge the whipper with N2O capsules and then release the pressure by keeping the whipper upright. Strain and mix with the syrup.
    I have never compared it to traditionally made limoncello; if it is sharper I would think that over time it would mellow.


    1. Hi Rudi, I have not tried that, but I can’t imagine the flavor extraction would be as complete as with a long infusion.
      It might indeed mellow over time, but what I wanted to try was the recipes I saw on social media that are ready within a day.
      Thanks for commenting!


  4. How funny to read your article today Stefan. Yesterday, I finished making my annual batch of limoncello, adding the syrup to the infused alcohol. This year’s batch is particularly delicious! I placed the nearly exhausted lemon peels in the simple syrup for a rest overnight and it is surprising how much more lemon flavor there still was in these little gems!
    I never would have thought to sous vide the infusion!


  5. Reading your blog post brought back memories from our time in Italy, and I wondered if I could also prepare it with limes? ?
    Local lemons are quite hard to get around here, but limes are available everywhere.


    1. You could make it with limes, but it will be quite intense. I’ve once tried it with kaffir limes and that was a disaster (too bitter), but with regular limes should work. Not sure if you can easily get untreated limes though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much for your feedback. ?
        I have a lime tree in my garden, if it one day decides to finally bear some fruit, the untreated limes won’t be a problem at all anymore. ?

        Liked by 1 person

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