DIY Italian Ice {Lime, Lemon, Orange}

Today I have a refreshing summer recipe for you!


If you’ve ever been to the North End in Boston, you’ve most likely tasted Polcari’s lemon ice. When the weather’s hot, Polcari’s hundred-year-old barrel of lemon ice appears on the corner of their family owned store. For around $2 you can purchase the best lemon Italian ice in Boston.


Authentic Italian ice is easy to make. It’s not like the rock-hard frozen cups you buy in the supermarket, and it’s not icy-crunchy like a snow cone. It’s smooth like a sorbet and has the consistency of a frozen lemonade. It’s also perfect on a hot summer night or on a sore throat.

So today I’m sharing my favorite Italian Ice recipe. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures! (Plus it’s pretty frugal to make!)


Today I made Lime Italian Ice, but you can substitute any citrus fruit.

Any Flavor Italian Ice

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

Bring to boil on the stovetop, and simmer for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then add

3/4 cup *freshly* squeezed lime juice, (about 8-10 limes) ( or lemon, or orange juice. Lemon and Lime juice should be freshly squeezed. Don’t use lemon juice that comes in a plastic squeezy lemon. You won’t like the results. You can use 100% orange juice with good results.)

2 cups water

2 T lime zest (lime, lemon or orange, depending on what flavor you are making.)

Combine well. Pour into 9X12 glass pyrex dish and freeze for 2 hours. Then “rake” the mixture every hour until the ice is snowy and smooth. This can take up to six hours. Transfer to a plastic container with lid for storage.

*Actual freezing time varies by freezer. Can take over night.

*”Raking” with a fork can take elbow grease! :) Use a large serving fork.

*The ice goes through several stages: slivers of ice, to a thick goo-ey mess that feels like you are stirring petroleum jelly, to fluffy, smooth ice.


Let me know how you like it!












  1. I like that this recipe is simple, frugal, and doesn’t require an ice cream maker. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      You are welcome! It takes a little elbow grease and time ( I make it on a day when I am home all day anyway)–but it is so refreshing!

  2. deeprootsathome says:

    Wow, Sarah, This looks amazing! Could one cut back on the sugar or use honey, do you think?

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I have never made it that way, but I think you probably could. I wonder if there is a healthier version on line. I bet there is! :) this makes a perfect dessert for company on a hot night because it tastes so fresh. :)

  3. Can’t wait to try this!!!! Boston’s italian ice is the best! I was always a Richie’s fan, but I’ll have to try Polcari’s next time, 😉

  4. jen says:

    Is this polcaris recipe? I always want to stop to try their slush but I am worried that it might have HFCS.


  5. you can cut sugar in half,use sweet low packs..tried it,works.. also seiva sugar substitute works,less calories, use kool aid too for kids, popciles..

  6. Megan says:

    Can the recipe be cut in half? Once made, how long can you keep it frozen?

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes. You can half it. I don’t know about storage time because it’s always gone in a day around here! lol 5 kids!!

  7. Sonia says:

    Quick question….is zest 1 teaspoon or tablespoon?

  8. Bonnie Crays says:

    How much sugar substitute would you use? Does it have to be equal to 4 cups water?

  9. […] as I now make this almost weekly since my kids ask for it frequently. I first started following this recipe from Joy-Filled Days and then tweaked it a bit according to our tastes. Enjoy this refreshingly […]

  10. Sherry says:

    When you rake it do you take the raked part and bag it as you go ( hard to ask this question how I’m thinking it I hope it came out to your understanding)

    • Sarah Beals says:

      No, you leave it all together. You just want to move it all around so it doesn’t become a big ice cube. 😂

  11. susan says:

    instead of raking could you break it up in small chunks and run thru a blender or food processor?

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I don’t think so. The raking makes it almost “sticky” and then it freezes feathery. I don’t think the processor would do the same thing.