Preserved Lemons

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Also know as lemon pickle, Preserved Lemons are a staple condiment in Indian and North African cuisine. Discover how to make Preserved Lemons through fermentation or cook to make quick Preserved Lemons.

Preserved lemons in a bowl with a spoon.

Preserved Lemons are essentially citrus pieces that are pickled in a solution of salt and their own juices. You can make Preserved Lemons the classic way, through room temperature fermentation; these will last a remarkable 18 months (if you don’t eat them all before then!).

If you like, I’ll also share how to speed up the process by cooking Preserved Lemons, which will last about 1 month in the refrigerator.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for preserved lemons.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Meyer lemons: Compared to conventional lemons, this citrus fruit (native to China) tends to be slightly smaller, with a smoother skin, and may look a bit more yellow-orange than vibrant yellow. Meyer lemons are sweeter than the typical lemon at the supermarket. While you wouldn’t want to eat them by the wedge like an orange, they add a lovely sweet-tart pop to recipes.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wash and pat dry the lemons. Trim both ends from the lemons. From the top of the lemon, make a slice as if you were going to cut the lemon into half, stopping right before the base. Make a cut in the other direction, also stopping before the base so the lemon wedges remain attached. Remove any seeds.
Quartered lemons on a wood cutting board.
  1. Place lemons in a large bowl and add salt, generously rubbing the salt into the lemon.
Quartered lemons with sugar in a glass bowl.
  1. Sanitize a 2-quart jar, and pack lemons into the bottom of the jar. Press on the lemons so the juice will rise to the top and remove any air bubbles between the lemons.
Quartered lemons and sugar in a clear mason jar.
  1. To ensure lemons are submerged, fill with lemon juice to the brim of the jar. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt on the surface of the brine. Place spring in jar, ensuring the fruit is submerged completely, and tighten lid. (If not using a fermentation kit, top the jar with a quart-sized zip-top bag filled with water to ensure lemons stay submerged.)
Preserved lemons in a mason jar.
  1. Set aside on a baking sheet in a cool, dark place out of sunlight, until lemons are softened and brine is infused with a zesty flavor, 21 to 30 days, checking occasionally to make sure the lemons stay submerged. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 18 months.
Preserved lemons in a casserole dish with a spoon.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 4 cups of preserved lemons.
  • Storage: Preserved lemons will last for up to 1 year at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark place.
  • Preserved Lemons, pronto: If you don’t want to wait the three to four weeks for the lemons to marinate, speed things up by cooking Preserved Lemons in the oven. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wash and pat dry the lemons. Trim both ends from the lemons and cut each lemon into 6 wedges. In a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, toss the lemon wedges and salt together. Add lemon juice to baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil, and bake until lemons and their rinds soften, about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Cool lemons and their cooking liquid. Transfer lemons and liquid to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator up to 1 month.
Preserved lemons in a bowl with a spoon.

Recipe FAQs

What are preserved lemons good for?

Preserved lemons are wildly versatile and can lend a complex and mellow tart element to a wide variety of recipes. Shake a preserved lemon with your cocktail ingredients before straining into a glass, blend into a homemade dressing recipe for an extra pop of flavor, chop and toss with roasted vegetables for a pleasant acidic element, use as a condiment for grilled meats (or classic tagine-cooked proteins) to cut through the richness, or finely chop and mix into grain salads instead of garnishing with a lemon wedge.

How long do preserved lemons last?

Preserved lemons will last for up to 1 year at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark place.

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Preserved lemons in a wooden bowl.

Preserved Lemons

Also know as lemon pickle, Preserved Lemons are a staple condiment in Indian and North African cuisine. Discover how to make Preserved Lemons through fermentation or cook to make quick Preserved Lemons.
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 5 mins
Servings 32 servings (2 tbsp each)
Course Pantry
Cuisine Moroccan
Calories 10

Ingredients 

  • 8 lemons preferably Meyer lemons (see note 1)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (8 ounces)

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wash and pat dry the lemons. Trim both ends from the lemons.
  • From the top of the lemon, make a slice as if you were going to cut the lemon into half, stopping right before the base. Make a cut in the other direction, also stopping before the base so the lemon wedges remain attached. Remove any seeds. Place lemons in a large bowl and add salt, generously rubbing the salt into the lemon.
  • Sanitize a 2-quart jar, and pack lemons into the bottom of the jar. Press on the lemons so the juice will rise to the top and remove any air bubbles between the lemons.
  • To ensure lemons are submerged, fill with lemon juice to the brim of the jar. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt on the surface of the brine.
  • Place spring in jar, ensuring the fruit is submerged completely, and tighten lid. (If not using a fermentation kit, top the jar with a quart-sized zip-top bag filled with water to ensure lemons stay submerged.)
  • Set aside on a baking sheet in a cool, dark place out of sunlight, until lemons are softened and brine is infused with a zesty flavor, 21 to 30 days, checking occasionally to make sure the lemons stay submerged. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 18 months.

Notes

  1. Meyer lemons: Compared to conventional lemons, this citrus fruit (native to China) tends to be slightly smaller, with a smoother skin, and may look a bit more yellow-orange than vibrant yellow. Meyer lemons are sweeter than the typical lemon at the supermarket. While you wouldn’t want to eat them by the wedge like an orange, they add a lovely sweet-tart pop to recipes.
  2. Yield: This recipe makes about 4 cups of preserved lemons.
  3. Storage: Preserved lemons will last for up to 1 year at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark place.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tbspCalories: 10kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1769mgPotassium: 45mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 6IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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