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How to Make Preserved Lemons

Preserving Lemons is easy! All you do is cut washed lemons in quarters, saturate them with kosher salt, and smash them in a clean jar! Let them naturally ferment on the counter for several days and up to 3 weeks. Stir bits of lightly salty bright preserved lemon into soups, greens, grains, and more and your taste buds will be forever delighted!

Preserved Lemons
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Have you come across recipes calling for preserved lemons, and either decided not to try the recipe or just leave out that ingredient? That used to be me. Not any more. Once I learned how easy they are to make, I keep finding more ways to include their unique bright flavor in my cooking!

Lemons preserved in a salty lemon brine are a staple in Moroccan, Middle-Eastern, and Southern Indian cuisines. Sometimes they are called pickled lemons. As the lemons ferment in their salty juice, the bitterness of the peel transforms into a softened bright intense lemon flavor that enhances all kinds of food!

Preserving Lemons with Kisher Salt

What kind of lemons can I use for preserved lemons?

  • You can use regular lemons or Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are the citrus hybrid of lemon and orange. They are tiny bit sweeter, and in my experience, a lot juicier than regular lemons.
  • I recommend organic lemons because any pesticide residue will be in the skin, and that’s what preserved lemons are–salt-fermented lemon skins.
  • Whatever lemons you choose, wash them well! The skins of almost all citrus, organic too, are waxed for longer shelf life.

How long do preserved lemons last?

  • Don’t feel like you have to hurry and use them up before they go bad. Preserved in salt, lemons will keep for about a year in the refrigerator. Start seeking recipes that would love a bright lemon flavor bump, and put those recipes in your menu plan.
  • In Morocco, preserved lemons are left at room temperature, but it’s safer to refrigerate the jar after the lemons ferment for a time. On the counter or in the fridge, always make sure the squashed lemons are covered with the salty lemon juice.

What can I do with preserved lemons?

Try adding bits of preserved lemon wherever you’d be using lemon zest. Heighten the flavor of soups, salads, sauces, dips, and dressings. *** Before chopping preserved lemons give them a quick rinse under cool water to remove excess salt.

Make it a flavorful day–get in the kitchen and try something new!

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5 from 3 votes
Preserving Lemons with Kosher Salt
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
0 mins
Resting time.
4 d
Total Time
4 d 20 mins
 

Preserving Lemons is easy! Cut pieces of preserved lemon into bits and add them to soups, sauteed greens, and grains, like quinoa or rice. Makes one quart-size jar. Preserved lemons in smaller jars make welcome gifts. The sodium level for preserved lemons is lower than the nutrition fact calculation because before using preserved lemons, we rinse them quickly in cool running water.

Course: Component
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keyword: preserved lemons, lemons, kosher salt
Servings: 50 servings
Calories: 1 kcal
Ingredients
  • 5 each lemons , preferably organic (see note)
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • Extra lemon juice , if needed
Instructions
  1. Use a clean jar. I immersed jar my in boiling water for a minute and turned it upside down on a clean towel. Use a new lid.
  2. Trim the ends off of the lemons. Slice them in quarters lengthwise, keeping one end intact. (see note)
  3. Pour kosher salt in the middle of the open lemons.
  4. Squeeze one of the salted lemons into the clean jar, pressing down to pack it in and release lemon juice. Add the other lemons, one at a time, pressing down until plenty of juice flows around the lemons. (I pressed using the end of my French rolling pin without handles.)

  5. Be sure your lemons are covered with juice. If you need to, top with extra juice.
  6. Screw the lid on tightly and leave on the counter for at least a couple of days. Turn the jar upside down several times a day to allow the salted juice to flow around the lemons. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  7. Preserved lemons keep a long time, up to a year.
Recipe Notes
  • Organic lemons are best because any pesticide residue will be in the skin of fruits and vegetables.
  • Some recipes say to cut the fruit completely in quarters, but I like to keep the lemons intact at their bottom. That way there's a little nest to hold plenty of salt.
Nutrition Facts
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Sodium 1698mg74%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin C 0.1mg0%
Calcium 1mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Recently I received a new, retro blue Ball canning jar, which inspired me to update this recipe, one I posted originally in January 2015!

7 comments

  • Dennis Halloran

    Would Meyer lemons make good, tart marmalade? Reply · 4 January, 2015

    • Letty

      Meyer lemons would make fabulous marmalade and I bet you have access to them! Reply · 4 January, 2015

  • Teri Thomas

    Quoi? You hadn’t seen a Meyer lemon? How did you miss coming by my place for a post-ski winter brandy toddy all these years? Meyers from Whole Foods (by the bag) make the best! Reply · 5 January, 2015

    • letty

      I need to have a brandy toddy your way. Rain check for March? Reply · 5 January, 2015

  • Gorgeous photos and I’m sure these will be delicious. HAve a great time in Mexico! xo Reply · 5 January, 2015

  • Anna

    Wow! Pickled lemons are something completely new for me. I tasted preserved cucumbers, tomatoes, even watermelons (it’s weird, I know 😀 ). But lemons… that’s very interesting. Maybe I’ll try it sometimes Reply · 24 September, 2019

    • Wild, right? Preserved lemons are common in the cuisines of the countries of North Africa, like Morocco. NOt so much here. They add a lovely flavor hint to so many dishes! Reply · 24 September, 2019

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