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Learn how to make Preserved Lemons with step-by-step photos and instructions. Preserved lemons are an incredible way to add flavor to your recipes and are soooo easy to make!
This recipe was originally published in November 2018. It has been updated for content.
Preserved lemons are my new favorite thing. I preserved them a while ago for the first time, but only got around to using them now. And I'm sad I waited this long.
The flavor of these preserved meyer lemons is incredible. Just incredible. And with as easy as these are to make, there is going to be a lot of preserved lemon making in my future.
This post provides step by step instructions so you can learn how to make preserved lemons. Because you NEED to do this guys!!
This preserved lemons recipe makes 1 quart jar of lemons. Feel free to double, triple, quadruple the recipe. Once you start using these salt preserved lemons, you are going to want to have them at your fingertips all the time.
Try using preserved lemons in this recipe for Moroccan Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon.
Why This Recipe Works
Leaving the lemons at room temperature for 1-3 months allows them to ferment, adding to the flavor quality.
Covering the lemons individually with salt aids in the fermentation process, and keeps them from spoiling.
Submerging the lemons in their own juice allows them to ferment properly.
If you're a lemon lover, make sure to check out this Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Lemons.
It's a great way to use those excess lemons. You can also use them in these lemonade popsicles, candied lemon slices or to make lemon curd!
Step By Step Instructions
Making preserved lemons is so easy and totally worth the time guys. Start by sterilizing your jar(s). To be honest I am unsure if this step is totally necessary (there are so many mixed messages), so I sterilize it just to be safe.
Place the jar and lid (make sure there are no plastic or rubber seals - those can't go in boiling water - wash them in soapy water instead) in a pot of boiling water (jar should be covered) for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.
While your jar(s) are sterilizing, wash the lemons in a vinegar/water solution to make sure all traces of pesticide and any bacteria and dirt are washed off before using.
**Note: I love to use Meyer lemons in this recipe because they are slightly sweeter and have an great flavor. If you don't have Meyer lemons, regular lemons will work just fine.
Cut the ends off of the lemons.
Slice the lemons in quarters, about ¾ of the way down, so they are still connected at the bottom.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt in the lemon, covering the lemon flesh. Pour a layer of salt in the bottom of the jar. I like to use Maldon Sea Salt in this recipe, but any coarse seas salt will work.
Place lemon in the jar, open side down and press down firmly to squeeze out the juice.
Cover the lemon with 2 tsp. of salt and repeat the process.
Continue until the jar is full of salted lemons and covered in lemon juice. If the lemons are not covered by juice, you will need to add extra to make sure they are covered. Place one tbsp. of salt on top once your jar is full.
Place a lid on the jar and store at room temperature for 30 days. After the 30 days is up, feel free to use them. Once opened, they should be stored in the fridge.
I love to use Meyer lemons in this recipe because they are slightly sweeter and have a great flavor. If you don't have Meyer lemons, any lemons will work just fine.
Make sure each individual lemon is covered with at least 2 tsp. of salt.
Squeeze the lemon juice from the lemons as you go so they will be submerged when you get to the top. If there is not enough lemon juice to fully cover the lemons, add additional juice until the top of the lemons are fully submerged in juice.
Additional seasonings (see below for options) should be added along with the salt in the process.
Make sure to store the lemons in a cool, dry place. A pantry is ideal.
Recipe can be doubled, quadrupled, etc. The lemons will last for up to a year (probably more) in the fridge after they are opened.
This is a basic preserved lemons recipe. To spice up your lemons with some other flavors, try adding bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, thyme, ginger, the possibilities are endless. I recommend using about 3 teaspoons of whatever spice(s) you choose to use, and mixing it with the salt for even distribution.
How to use Preserved Lemons
A typical way to use them is in Moroccan chicken recipes, but they can also be used for so many other dishes. Just remove the pulp and dice up the peel for use in most recipes. Don't discard the pulp though - it is great used in cocktails and sauces.
- Dice up a little preserved lemon to use in salads instead of lemon zest. Try this Green Salad recipe from Food52.
- A perfect addition to salad dressings. Try this Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing from Saveur.
- Use in a pasta with some olive oil and garlic for an amazing sauce. Try adding a diced preserved lemon to this Creamy Shrimp Scampi Tortellini in place of the lemon juice.
- Use them in roasted potatoes. Try them in these Lyonnaise Potatoes.
- Any roasted chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc. It's especially good with roasted lamb. This Moroccan Roast Chicken is AMAZING!
- Add a touch to fish recipes. It would be great in ceviche, roasted fish or grilled fish and seafood. Try this Tangy Fish Tagine from Fine Cooking.
- Use it in roasted broccoli/Brussels sprouts/cauliflower recipes for an extra boost of flavor. They would be awesome in these Curry Roasted Winter Vegetables.
- Use the pulp in cocktails, sauces or even dips.
The shelf life for preserved lemons stored in the fridge (after the preserving period) is about 1 year.
Check out this recipe from NYTimes Cooking for how to prepare Freezer Preserved Lemons. You can also follow my recipe instructions up through the 30 day preservation period.
Place the preserved lemons in an airtight freezer safe container or bag for future use. Thaw in the fridge when ready for use. I recommend freezing in small individual packages because you will only need to use a couple at a time.
**Note that freezing the lemons will cause them to become mushier.
In recipe that call for preserved lemons, lemon zest and sea salt can be substituted. However, I highly recommend trying these preserved lemons out!
Can Preserved Lemons Spoil?
Given the extremely high salt content, the likelihood of the lemons spoiling is very slim. However, if you fail to cover the lemons fully with lemon juice, they have a higher chance of spoiling during the fermenting process. Once the jar of lemons is opened however, it will need to be refrigerated.
Why Use Them?
Because they are delicious. The skin has the most amazing umami flavor, and you're going to want to use these in so many dishes. You may even be sad if you only made one jar...
Rate the recipe and leave a comment to let me know how it turned out!
How to Make Preserved Lemons
- 6-12 lemons
- Coarse sea salt
- 1 sterilized quart jar
- Sterilize the jar and lid by boiling, covered, in water for 10 minutes. make sure not to boil any rubber or plastic in the lids.
- Wash the lemons in a vinegar/water solution to make sure all traces of pesticide are washed off before using.
- Slice the lemons in quarters, about ¾ of the way down, so they are still connected at the bottom.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt in the lemon, covering the lemon flesh. Pour a layer of salt in the bottom of the jar. Place lemon in the jar, open side down and press down firmly to squeeze out the juice.
- Add 2 teaspoon of salt on top of the lemon. Repeat with remaining lemons.
- If the juice doesn't cover the lemons when you are done, squeeze some more fresh lemon juice until the jar is full. Place a lid on the jar and store at room temperature for 30 days. Once opened, store in the fridge for up to 1 year.
- Recipe can be doubled, quadrupled, etc. Use as many jars as you would like. The lemons will last for up to a year (probably more) in the fridge after they are opened.
- Leaving the lemons attached at the bottom gives you a spot to pack them with salt.
- If there is not enough lemon juice to fully cover the lemons, add additional juice until the top of the lemons are fully submerged in juice.
- To spice up your lemons with some other flavors, try adding bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, thyme, ginger, the possibilities are endless. I recommend using about 3 teaspoons of whatever spice(s) you choose to use and mixing it with the salt to evenly distribute it.
- Rinse the lemons before using them in recipes. They will likely be slightly slimy before rinsing, which is fine.
Love all the tips and information you have put together. Those preserved lemons looks incredible.
Thanks so much Jo!
I've never tried preserving lemons, and this is something that I need to do with extra lemons in the backyard.
It's totally easy and a great way to use them up 🙂
I had no idea that preserved lemons was a thing until I saw a recipe on the Food Network and it looked so good. Thanks for sharing how to make these.
Preserved lemons are just sooooo delicious when used in recipes!
What a cool idea - I've never thought about making preserved lemons at home. I know lemons are traditional, but do you think it would work with other citrus (like limes or grapefruit) as well?
I haven't tried it but I can't think of any reason it wouldn't work. If you try it with a different citrus, I'd love to hear about the outcome!
I've always wanted to try this. Preserved lemons are hard to find locally but they're called for in several recipes I love to make. Thanks for all the tips!
There are so much easier to make than buy - plus it's a great way to use cheap lemons!
Oh! These sound great. They must add such great flavor to dishes! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you suggested. I have a bunch of lemons I need to use and this fits the bill!
Perfect! I hope you try them Lauren!
What a great way to preserve lemons from my garden. What a brilliant and tasty idea. I'm definitely trying this. I'm so glad i found this recipe.
I hope you try it Natalie!
I'm so glad I have came across this recipe Danielle! I've got some spare lemons and was actually thinking of trying to preserve them for the first time ever, so this could not come handier! Can't wait to try this!
How perfect! It's such a great recipe Anna!
I love how easy you make preserving lemons look! I am going to try this recipe at home soon so that I can have lemons whenever I want no matter what time of year.
It's soooooo easy Sharon! And they have such a wonderful flavor in so many different dishes.
Ooooh, these sound amazing! I've never tried preserved lemons, but I'm putting it on my list of recipes to try.
Once you try them you will fall in love Marie!