Preserved Lemons Recipe

Preserved Lemons in a bowl

The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Rest Time: 720 hrs
Total: 720 hrs 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
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.

To make preserved lemons, you'll need a glass vessel with a tight-fitting lid, like a 1-quart heat-proof glass jar with a lid. Be sure to sterilize the container in boiling water or run it through a dishwasher cycle. 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.

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.

"It’s quite satisfying to create traditional ingredients like this in your own kitchen. Preserved lemons add a salty kick of brightness to anything you add them to. I used Meyer lemons because their skin is a bit thinner, and their color is simply beautiful. This recipe might take some time, but it’s definitely worth it." — Diana Andrews

Preserved Lemons/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 8 medium lemons, more as needed, scrubbed

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt, more as needed

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Preserved Lemons ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

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

    Lemons with the ends cut off, next to scissors

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  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.

    Lemons with cross cuts

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  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.

    Lemon juice in a glass bowl and lemons on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Over the same large bowl into which you've squeezed the lemon juice, sprinkle the inside of each juiced lemon with kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon per lemon), working as much of the salt as possible into the lemon flesh as you go, packing the crevices with lots of salt.

    Lemon with salt above the bowl of lemon juice

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Close the lemons, and place them in a quart-size sterilized glass jar 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, squeezing them in to release more juices.

    Salted lemons in a jar

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Pour the salty juice you collected in the bowl over the jarred lemons. Add more lemon juice, if necessary, to cover the lemons completely. Then add a generous sprinkling of salt (about 1 teaspoon).

    Lemons with salted lemon juice in a jar

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  8. Seal and set the jar on the kitchen counter or other cool, dark spot for 7 days, shaking and turning daily.

    Salted lemons with juice in a closed jar

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  9. After 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 until the jar is packed as full as possible and the lemons stay completely submerged in juice.

    Preserved lemons in an open jar

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  10. Transfer the sealed jar to the refrigerator and leave undisturbed. The lemons will be preserved and ready to use once the rinds are very soft, in about five weeks. You can continue to preserve them longer if you like, up to a year or more.

    Preserved Lemons in a closed jars

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

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 1 year. Over time, the lemons will absorb the lemon juice that covers them and the peels will become softer and more unctuous. Be sure to keep the lemons completely submerged in the liquid in the jar.