I attended a business meeting in the Midwest and one of our clients took our management team and a few other business partners to dinner at an awesome Mexican restaurant. When the appetizers were served I commented that it was a wonderful presentation and that everything looked very fresh, including the avocado slices.

Speaking to the woman seated across from me I said that even though I use a good amount of lemon juice, whenever I prepare avocados they still turned dark pretty quickly. This happens whether they are sliced, used in guacamole, etc. She responded that the secret is to use lime juice. She proceeded to tell me that she was born and raised in Central America and that it is customary there to use fresh limes or juice rather than lemon.

I have tried it and lime seems to work much better than lemon, so it would stand to reason that they are more acidic. However, I never thought there was that much difference. So, on to the questions.

Are limes more acidic than lemons? Are there any other differences in their properties that could make a difference?

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    They have virtually identical levels of citric acid, with limes actually having slightly less. Other than higher levels of calcium and phosphorous in lime juice there's very little difference between the two. An experiment is needed, I think! We'll leave it in your hands :) Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 15:02
  • Well, Elendil, I do that experiment a lot. Or do I have the wrong kind of lime tree? Bearss limes are very nice, but my avod=cados still turn brown.
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 6:14
  • Chemical means are pretty poor at stopping avocado browning. What works best are physical barriers to keep them away from oxygen: wrap tightly in Saran Wrap (and make sure it's real air-tight saran, not some other more permeable plastic wrap), or better yet, vacuum seal. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


I'm culling a lot of information from one of my favorite cocktail books for this one.

Yes, limes have a slightly higher acid content (on average) than lemons do - about 6% for limes, compared to 4.5% for lemons. More importantly for their flavor, lemons have about 2% total sugar, while limes have somewhere between 0.5% and 0.75%. Sugar/sweetness has quite a suppressive effect on the perception of sourness, so lemon juice will most likely taste a bit less sour than lime.

The composition of acids in the two also differ. The acid in lemon juice is almost entirely citric acid, which also makes up most of the acid in limes. However, limes include about 10% each of succinic acid and malic acid which have an effect on their flavor. Malic acid is most recognizable as the sour flavor from tart apples and rhubarb. About succinic acid, Wikipedia states:

It lends to fermented beverages such as wine and beer a common taste that is a combination of saltiness, bitterness and acidity.

Personally, I think the difference is perceptible in beverages, but less so in cooking.

Culturally, lime would most certainly be the traditional choice for Latin American cuisine. Lime is much more readily available in Central and South America (three of the biggest producers in the world are located there). How the difference in acid content would contribute to the browning of avocados is more questionable.

EDIT: Here's an interesting paper, suggesting that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is more effective at preventing avocado browning than citric acid. Which is an interesting wrinkle, because lemons contain significantly more vitamin C than limes do...

EDIT 2: And along comes Jolenealaska, with an experiment that seems to undermine the entire assumption that acid reduces browning of avocado at all! Seems like the real secret may just be keeping your avocados either uncut, or refrigerated and tightly wrapped if you have to cut them ahead of service.

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    Thanks for the great information! I got so interested that I've spent my entire lunch break trying to follow up and get more info. I wasn't able to find anything that would add to the information you provided. If you learn more I would be most interested.
    – Cindy
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 18:11
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    @CindyAskew and Logo meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1961/…
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 11:12
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    @Jolenealaska I read your post on the meta site. I am totally blown away by the results you got. I am going to ask at some restaurants and see if they have any tips, tricks, or ideas they would be willing to share. In the meantime, I will vacuum seal immediately after preparation and repeat for storage of any leftovers (although that usually isn't an issue). By the way, thanks for taking the time to experiment and for sharing your results.
    – Cindy
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 11:43
  • @CindyAskew Heehee, my pleasure, just don't forget to upvote when I finally bring the results back here! :)
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 15:13
  • @Jolenealaska You got it!
    – Cindy
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 15:20

Well I live in Mexico, and here we eat lime and almost every dish, but here is known as lemon even is not (some misconceptions when got to traduce on the very begininig it arrived to Mexico).

When I make guacamole I use lime and extra virgin oil, and if u put some virgin olive oil on a cut avocado will last longer. However, we used cilantro and onion (not everyone) and that may add some more browning reducers. And if u add a jalapeño and make it more as a avocado sauce that makes it last like 2 weeks (well refrigerated of course).

  • Hello Chocoretto. Welcome to Seasoned Advice!
    – Cindy
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 10:14

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