There’s nothing as refreshing as the perfect glass of Iced Tea. Freshly brewed. Perfectly sweetened – not too much, not too little.

Southern Iced Tea Recipe

Growing up in the South we do love our iced tea. While we’re surrounded by an endless supply of the sweet stuff at every corner, I prefer to have my own less-sweetened supply for home at my beck and call. So, in search of the perfect concoction I’ve tried many methods over the years and have found what I think works best. Mind you, you’ll find a bunch of (and when I say a bunch, I mean a kazillion) recommendations for making the perfect iced tea. I recently talked to a friend who can only make it in a mason jar in her microwave. This method is tried and true. It creates a strong flavored tea that taste like tea, not sugary water.

First, Luzianne is the brand we usually use when making iced tea. I like to use the family size tea bags as we make a gallon at a time.

Heat about 2 quarts of cold water (it should be cold – I don’t know why – just do it) to just before it begins to boil. If it starts to boil, no worries. Pour the hot water into a pitcher with the tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes of steep time is up, remove the tea bags. Do not squeeze them! My friend, Lynne G., shared that tip. It makes it too bitter.

Southern Iced Tea Recipe

Sugar, sugar? Stir the sugar into the warm tea water until dissolved. As I mentioned before we don’t care for our tea too sweet, if any at all, so we only add about 1/3 of a cup per gallon when making sweetened iced tea. Only 1/3 cup? I know – the horror! I have friends who do indeed add up to 2 cups per gallon! To each his own. You can easily adjust the sweetness to your preference.

Fill the pitcher up to the gallon mark with ice or cold water, or a combo of both. Stir to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate.

Your homemade iced tea will have a shelf life of about 2 days – if it lasts that long! Just an observation, but it seems to me that the more sugar added, the quicker it goes bad. It may be my imagination. I’ve never run any official test or anything, but we have noticed that when we make unsweetened iced tea it doesn’t go bad as quick.

Tips for the best Iced Tea:

  • The type of water does make a difference in taste. Maybe try to use bottled or filtered water if you’re having problems achieving the desired taste. Also, hard water tends to make cloudy tea when it reacts with the tannins.
  • Remember to begin with cold water. Again, I don’t know why, but it works.
  • Non-reactive teapots or pans are important for heating the water for iced tea. Stainless steel and enameled are the most common and preferred.
  • Try a little sugar at a time. You can always add more sugar but it’s a bit difficult to get those sugar crystals out after they’re dissolved. 😉 Another option is to make unsweetened tea then make a simple syrup by combining 1 part sugar to 2 parts boiling water, then refrigerate to have on hand to be able to sweeten each glass to personal preference. Randy and I have really grown accustomed to drinking unsweetened iced tea.
  • Grab a tall glass fill it with ice and tea and enjoy!

Iced Tea Recipe

Southern Iced Tea Recipe

Iced Tea Recipe

Yield: 1 gallon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

A classic cold southern drink that is easy to make at home.


  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 5 family size tea bags made for iced tea (i prefer Luzianne)
  • sugar (adjust to preference)
  • more cold water and/or ice


Heat 2 quarts cold water to a just before boiling. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Let steep for minutes.

Remove tea bags. Pour into gallon sized pitcher. Stir in sugar to dissolve.

Add cold water and/or ice to pitcher to fill to gallon amount. Refrigerate covered.

Did you make this recipe?

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Originally posted August 5, 2009. Updated July 30, 2015.