The 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade you can make at home

We don't know about you, but we sometimes make a special trip to Chick-fil-A just for their lemonade. They make it daily, squeezing the never-from-concentrate lemon juice in-house and mixing it up into a batch of perfection. It's our favorite way to douse the fire of their spicy sandwiches, and it's incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day.

Over the years, we've seen several copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade recipes around, but we never thought to try them. There's no way they could be as good as the original, right? After trying a few different versions, we were determined to make a copycat recipe that actually captured the sweet-tart flavor of Chick-fil-A's lemonade. So we picked up a few lemons, some sugar, and a bottle of distilled water. Did our 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade taste as good as the original? Could we use it to make a copycat Chick-fil-A frosted lemonade? Read on to find out.

Gather the ingredients to make 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade

Chick-fil-A lemonade's ingredient list is short and sweet: real lemon juice, cane sugar, and water. We thought about picking up bottled or frozen lemon juice to save time, but that's not how Chick-fil-A makes theirs. They specifically state on their website that the lemon juice is not from concentrate, and we've seen the juicer Chick-fil-A employees use to hand-squeeze the lemons daily (via a promotional video on YouTube). It made even more sense to start with fresh lemons when we read that Bon Appetit describes hand-squeezed lemon juice as brighter and more flavorful. So we picked up about ten lemons and prepared our arms for a minor workout.

When it came to sugar, we just used the granulated white sugar we had in the pantry. There isn't a significant flavor difference between the cane sugar and granulated sugar (according to Cook's Illustrated). Plus, it felt silly to run to the store to pick up a second bag when we already had some on hand.

You'll find the full list of ingredients for the 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade, including the step-by-step instructions, at the end of this article.

Getting the ratio right for 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade

The key to a perfect glass of 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade is all about ratios, or the amount of sugar, water, and lemon juice each batch contains. Lemons contain a high concentration of citric acid, which makes them tart and acidic. Drinking lemon juice by itself is not very palatable, but add water and sugar to the mix, and the flavors balance out.

According to Reddit, Chick-Fil-A uses a ratio of one part sugar, two parts lemon juice, and eight parts water. Those proportions match a recipe card we found that calls for seven cups sugar, two quarts lemon juice, and eight quarts water. (Before you question the math, the University of Illinois physics department reminded us that sugar takes up more space than water. Its molecules also get closer together when it dissolves, so those seven cups of sugar only take up about one quart of space.)

We didn't want to make such a massive amount of lemonade, so we scaled the recipe down to make a half-gallon. In the end, we adjusted our ratios slightly until our lemonade tasted just like Chick-fil-A's. We added a little more sugar and a little less water, and it turned into a ratio closer to one and a half parts sugar, two parts lemon juice, and seven parts water.

Use filtered water when making this 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade

In 2017, the blogger behind Recipes for Perfection called her local Chick-fil-A to ask a few questions about how they make their lemonade. After speaking with a manager, she confirmed that the restaurant uses a filtered water tap when making the lemonade. We used this crucial piece of information when developing our copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade recipe, and it totally panned out.

It makes sense when you consider that municipal water sources often come from lakes or rivers, and each water treatment plant has a unique set of processes. Even the pipes the water travels from the treatment plant to your home can affect the flavor. Filtering water takes out many of the chemicals or impurities that contribute to water's taste, giving it a more neutral characteristic.

With that in mind, we picked up a gallon of distilled water to make our 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade. If you have a water filter at home, feel free to use it. In a pinch, tap water will work just fine, but the end result may not taste exactly the same as Chick-fil-A's.

Chick-fil-A's lemonade tastes so good because they use Sunkist lemons

The final ingredient component for our 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade is perhaps the most important: the lemons. We already reviewed why we chose real lemons over lemon juice, but it turns out there are different types of lemons, and each variety has a unique flavor profile.

Chick-fil-A uses Sunkist lemons to make their lemonade. Sunkist farms several types of lemons, including Eureka and Lisbon varieties. They're perfect for making lemonade because they're extra juicy. They also have a bright, floral aroma that adds to the overall drinking experience.

We couldn't find Sunkist lemons at our local grocery store, so we used whatever lemons they had available. Because we adjusted the ratios for sugar, lemon juice, and water, we were able to replicate Chick-fil-A's lemonade even with our generic lemons. If you do get your hands on Sunkist lemons, or you use a sweet lemon variety like Meyer lemons, you'll want to play around with the amount of sugar and water to get it just right.

You don't need a fancy juicer to make 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade

If you plan to make lemonade every day, you might want to invest in a juicer. Sunkist's commercial-grade juicer costs over $600, and that caliber of machine is definitely overkill for most homes. Fancy electric-powered juicers for home use can run in the $100 to $200 range, but you can find budget models for less than $30.

That said, don't feel like you have to buy a juicer to make our 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade. We used an inexpensive handheld citrus press to make our test batch (or you could use the lemon juicing hack that went viral on Tik Tok by poking a hole in the bottom of the lemon with a skewer). While our hands were a little tired after squeezing ten lemons, it really wasn't that bad. As a bonus, these handheld citrus squeezers don't have any moving parts, so they're significantly easier to clean.

Start by cutting your lemons in half and juicing them using either an electric or handheld juicer. Take care not to press them too hard. The peels and white pith are bitter, and no amount of sugar will balance out that flavor. When you're finished juicing, strain the lemonade through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any seeds that made their way through the juicer.

Mix the ingredients together to make 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade

Now that you have fresh lemon juice, it's time to make your 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a half-gallon container or pitcher. Stir with a long-handled spoon until the sugar is dissolved. If you're having trouble getting the sugar to dissolve, you can pour the contents into a blender and process for a minute.

When the sugar is dissolved, add the water to the container and stir to combine. Store the lemonade in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving to let the flavors come together. It will taste fine right after it's made, but it becomes pretty phenomenal after that quick rest.

If you're making the lemonade for a party or to feed a crowd, feel free to double or triple the recipe. Just be aware that a Reddit thread exposed the short shelf life of Chick-fil-A's lemonade. A Chick-fil-A manager confirmed that they're only allowed to serve the lemonade 24 hours after it's made. After that, it can spoil, and the flavor won't be the same, so they throw it away.

Turn this 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade into frosted lemonade

We were pretty excited to learn that it's super easy to make Chick-fil-A's frosted lemonade at home. According to a Redditor who reportedly worked at Chick-fil-A, the frosted lemonade is almost equal parts lemonade and Icedream by volume: six and a half ounces of lemonade and seven ounces of ice cream for the small version. We made ours with one cup of chilled lemonade and four scoops of vanilla ice cream (about two cups) and blended it in a high-powered blender for about one minute. It turned out perfect.

It's worth noting that this won't be a perfect replica, unless you grab a to-go container of Chick-fil-A's Icedream, of course. That's because their "ice cream" isn't technically ice cream. It doesn't contain any cream — it's made with whole milk and nonfat milk — so it doesn't contain enough butterfat. Using vanilla ice cream made our homemade version a little heavier and more fat-filled than the original, but we thought it tasted just as good.

How close did we get to the original Chick-fil-A lemonade?

We've often made the drive across town on a hot day to pick up Chick-fil-A's lemonade, but now we don't need to. Our 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade had that same not-too-sweet, not-too-tart flavor that was bright and inviting. The lemon flavor came through in a huge way, and the drink was slightly acidic but not in an overpowering way. It was perfectly refreshing, and it quenched our thirst as well as the ice-filled containers we get at Chick-fil-A. We only wish the lemonade lasted longer so we could have enough to last an entire week!

Our copycat Chick-fil-A frosted lemonade turned out equally impressive. While we did make it with regular ice cream instead of soft-serve, we thought the flavor and texture were pretty spot-on. The mixture was smooth and creamy: Thin enough to drink through a straw but thick enough to satisfy our milkshake cravings.

All in all, we'll call these copycat Chick-fil-A drink recipes an absolute success. We can't wait to serve them at our next potluck or backyard barbecue.

The 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade you can make at home
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We've seen several copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade recipes around. There's no way they could be as good as the original, right? After trying a few different versions, we were determined to make a copycat recipe that actually captured the sweet-tart flavor of Chick-fil-A's lemonade.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
0
minutes
Servings
1
/2 gallon
how to make 3-ingredient copycat Chick-fil-A lemonade
Ready in 5 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 cups lemon (8 to 10 lemons)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 5-1/2 cups water
Directions
  1. Cut the lemons in half and juice them using an electric or handheld juicer. Take care not to press them too hard, as the peels can add bitterness to the lemonade.
  2. Strain the lemon juice through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any seeds that may have passed through the juicer.
  3. In a 1/2-gallon container or pitcher, combine the strained lemon juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, using the blender if necessary.
  4. Add the water and stir to combine.
  5. Refrigerate the lemonade for at least one hour before serving to let the flavors come together.
  6. Enjoy within 24 hours for best flavor.
  7. To turn the lemonade into frosted lemonade, place 1 cup of chilled lemonade in a blender with 2 cups (about 4 scoops) vanilla ice cream. Blend until creamy and smooth and serve immediately.
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