Preserved Lemons Recipe

Moroccan preserved salted lemons in glass jar on white wooden table
Lena_Zajchikova / Getty Images
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 8 lemons
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
24 Calories
0g Fat
8g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 24
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3781mg 164%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 45mg 223%
Calcium 24mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 117mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Preserved lemons are an essential ingredient in Moroccan kitchens, where they're used to enhance many traditional dishes, from tagines to salads, both as a garnish and as a key ingredient. Traditionally they are made with two simple ingredients—lemon and coarse kosher salt—with the salt acting as a curing and preserving agent. This results in a tender, mellow lemon peel with a salty kick, perfect for added lemony goodness to soups and stews and salads. They are well worth the 30 minutes it takes to cut them, salt them, and cram them into a jar. It's one of the easiest ways to get started preserving in-season fruit to use later in the year.

Start with fresh, firm, unblemished lemons that feel heavy for their size. If you have access to Meyer lemons, they're lovely to use here, but Eureka or Lisbon lemons are more traditional.

To make preserved lemons, you'll need a glass vessel with a tight-fitting lid, like a 1-quart glass jar with a sealable lid.

Moroccan preserved lemons have a unique pickled taste that cannot be replicated by simply adding freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Preserved lemons are especially good in many Moroccan recipes.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium lemons, rinsed well

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Cut off and discard the stem ends of the lemons.

    Remove Lemon Stem

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  3. Cut each lemon into quarters lengthwise, but not all the way through. Leave enough rind at the end to hold the fruit together, about 1/2 inch. If you do go too far and a lemon falls into quarters, don't worry. It's still completely usable; it just won't look as pretty sitting in the jar.

    Quarter Lemons Lengthwise

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  4. Over a large bowl to catch the juice, use your thumb to carefully squeeze out the juice from each lemon quarter. Go ahead and really smash the lemon to get all the juice out; remember, you will be discarding the "fruit" part of the preserved lemon.

    Squeeze Lemons

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  5. Over the same large bowl into which you've squeezed the lemon juice, sprinkle the inside of each juiced lemon with kosher salt, working as much of the salt as possible into the lemon flesh as you go. Pack the crevices with lots of salt, close the lemons, and place them in the jar.

    Salt Lemons

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  6. Put the juiced, salted lemons in the jar or ​another glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure the lemons are packed in tightly so that they can't move freely. Compress the lemons as you add them to the jar to squeeze them in and release their juices. Pour the salty juice you collected in that big bowl over the jarred lemons. Add more lemon juice, if necessary, to cover the lemons. Then add a generous sprinkling of the salt.

    Place Salted Lemons in Jar

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  7. Seal and set the jar on the kitchen counter or other cool, dark spot for 30 days, shaking and turning it when it occurs to you (daily, if possible).

    Jar of Preserved Lemons

    The Spruce Eats / Molly Watson

  8. Every two or three days, open the jar and compress the lemons to release more juices. If you have room to add another lemon, do so. The idea here is that tightly packed lemons won't be able to rise to the surface. Do this for the first week, or until the jar is packed as full as possible and the lemons stay submerged in juice.

  9. At this point, you now want to leave the lemons undisturbed. The lemons will be preserved and ready to use in about four to five weeks, once the rinds are very soft. You can continue to preserve them longer if you like, up to a year or more.

Lemon Juice Can Sting

The combination of lemon juice and salt is murder on even the slightest of scratches. If you have so much as a hangnail, don some gloves, even if that means just putting plastic baggies over your hands.

How Long Do Preserved Lemons Last?

You can store preserved lemons in the fridge for six months. Over time, the lemons will absorb the lemon juice that covers them and the peels will become softer and more unctuous.