How to make Preserved Lemons at home with 2 ingredients, and only 15 minutes of hands-on time! Use preserved lemons in dressings, marinades, Moroccan and North African dishes, stews and salads! With a video.

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons at home and 3 uses for preserved lemons! #preservedlemons

When we can do nothing, and be extraordinarily happy and at peace with that, we have found tranquility within ourselves. ~Adyashanti

Hey friends, I’ve been holding back on this for a while but thought with everyone spending more time at home these days, it may be the perfect time for a fun little kitchen project. Preserved Lemons!

What are Preserved Lemons?

Preserved lemons, if unfamiliar, are a staple in Moroccan and North African cooking, and are in essence, “brined” lemons that have been cured in salt and lemon juice for several weeks, transforming them into a silky flavorful condiment. Once preserved, the lemon flesh, the lemon peel and the salty lemony “syrup” can all be used in cooking to add brightness and flavor.

Preserved Lemons only take about 15 minutes of actual hands-on time, and  1-2 weeks of “preserving” time and requires only 2 ingredients – fresh lemons and salt– with a huge payoff at the end. Trust me.

Being down here in Santa Barbara for the winter, we have had access to the most beautiful local citrus fruit, and wow, has it been glorious! For this recipe, I’m actually using Meyer Lemons and I really love how tender their thin skin becomes with preserving. Regular lemons will work too. No time to preserve? I love these Villa Jarada Preserved Lemons.


Watch How to Make Preserved Lemons| 60-second video


What to do with Preserved Lemons?

Preserved lemons, as you can imagine, taste extra lemony and salty, adding a huge burst of flavor to dishes you are already making.

  • Finely chop and add to salad dressings and marinades.
  • Make this Preserved Lemon Gremolata and serve with grilled or meaty dishes
  • Blend into Aioli
  • Add to Moroccan Tagines
  • Chop and add to bean dishes or soups.
  • Use the salty lemony “syrup” to season soups!

Why this recipe works!

What I personally love about this recipe is how small and manageable the process is and how slicing the lemons, rather than wedging them (more traditional) shortens the overall preserving time, and also makes using them much easier!

The 1/2 liter weck jar I’m using here only holds about 2-3 cups.

A fun little project or gift!

Ingredients in Preserved Lemons:

  1. lemons and lemon juice
  2. sea salt

That’s it! Maybe some bay leaves and peppercorns if you want to get fancy. 😉

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons at home and 3 uses for preserved lemons! #preservedlemons

How to make Preserved Lemons (in a nutshell):

  1. Clean a 2 cup jar with hot soapy water.
  2. Slice 2 lemons into 1/8- 1/4 inch disks. (You’ll use 2 more for juicing)
  3. Salt the bottom of the jar, and begin layering the lemons, salting each slice, leaving 1 inch of room at the top of the jar. You’ll need about 2 teaspoons sea salt per 1 large (4-ounce) lemon.
  4. Once the jar is filled, press the slices down, compressing them, then squeeze the fresh lemon juice from the remaining 1-2 lemons to completely submerge the slices, again pressing down with your fingers. Weight the lemons down under the brine. Cover.
  5. Place this in a cool dry place for at least 1 week (or up to a month, or longer!) and feel free to shake the jar periodically, always making sure lemons are submerged under the brine. I find that 2-3 weeks is perfect.
  6. Once the flesh turns translucent and the skin tender, refrigerate!
  7. Preserved Lemons will last indefinitely as long there is brine covering them.

Seriously, how easy is that!?

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

Salt the lemons and layer.

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

Cover with fresh lemon juice. Tuck in a bay leaf if you like.

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

Press the lemons down under the brine. Weigh down with a fermentation weight,  or zip lock bag, filled with water. Lightly cover.

Place in a cool dry place and check after a week.

As the lemons preserve over time, their skin will tenderize and flesh will look translucent. The salty tangy brine will almost take on a syrupy quality. Delicious!

You can continue to preserve- I find that 2-3 weeks is the perfect amount of time.

Do preserved lemons go bad?

If the lemons rest under the salty brine, they will not develop mold or go bad. I

f you see mold, it is most likely because the lemons were exposed to air at the surface.

Once preserved, they will keep for a year (or longer!) in the fridge.

Can you reuse the brine?

Yes. Often I’ll add fresh lemon slices to the salty brine, under the older preserved lemon slices, while in the fridge.

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

The photo above is after 1 week.

The photo below is taken after about 3 weeks’ time. See how translucent the flesh is? Look for this.

When your lemons look like this, translucent and syrupy- feel free to refrigerate.

And of course, you can let them go longer.

How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

In the coming weeks I’ll show you some of the many ways you can use your beautiful flavorful preserved lemons, but for now, get preserving!

How to use Preserved Lemons:

  1. Moroccan Chicken Lentil Soup with Saffron and Preserved Lemon
  2. Lemony Chickpea Quinoa Salad
  3. Preserved Lemon Gremolata
  4. Grilled Branzino 
  5. Moroccan Chicken 

More soon,

xoxo

Sylvia

 

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
How to Preserve Lemons- a simple easy way to preserve lemons that only takes 10 minutes of hands-on time before letting mother nature take its course. Use in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern Dishes and salad to add a burst of flavor. #preservedlemons

How to Preserve Lemons

  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups 1x
  • Category: preserved
  • Method: preserved, cured
  • Cuisine: Moroccan
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

How to Preserve Lemons! A simple easy step-by-step guide to making your own Preserved Lemons at home with only 15 minutes of hands-on time (plus 2 weeks preserving time). Use preserved lemons in dressings, marinades, Middle Eastern dishes, stews, and salads!


Ingredients

Scale
  1. 4 lemons (4-5 ounces each) Meyer Lemons are nice here but not imperative.
  2. 12 tablespoons sea salt
  3. a clean, 2-3 cup wide-mouth jar with lid
  4. optional additions: bay leaves, peppercorns, other whole spices.

Instructions

  1. Clean a 2-3 cup jar with hot soapy water, dry.
  2. Slice 2 lemons into 1/8-1/4 inch thick disks, about 8 slices each. (Use the ends for juicing)
  3. Salt the bottom of the jar with 1/4 teaspoon salt and begin layering the lemons, salting each slice or layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt leaving at least 1 inch of room at the top of the jar. You’ll need about 2 teaspoons sea salt, per 1 large ( 4-5 ounce) lemon.
  4. Once the jar is filled with the salted sliced lemons, press them down either with your fingers or a muddler, compressing them, then squeeze the juice from the remaining 1-2 lemons to completely submerge the slices, again pressing down with your fingers. Weight the lemons down under the brine. You can use a fermentation weight,  or a small ziplock filled with water to keep them submerged. Cover.
  5. Place this in a cool dry place for at least 1 week, feel free to shake the jar periodically, always making sure lemons are submerged under the lemony salty brine. After about a week they should start to look translucent and the peel should become very tender. I’ll often let them go 2- 3 weeks for extra tender. If you notice mold at the top, it is likely because lemons were exposed to air– not to worry. Just remove that top layer and make sure the remaining lemons are submerged under the brine.
  6. Once translucent and tender, refrigerate! ( see photo above).

Notes

  1. Lemons will last indefinitely in the fridge (up to or over a year) as long there is brine covering them.
  2. Use them chopped up in dressings, marinades, salads and grain or bean dishes, or whiz them up in the blender and make a paste to add to soups, stews, dressings, etc. Use the “syrup” to season soups and stews.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 25

Keywords: preserved lemons, how to preserve lemons, what are preserved lemons, how to make preserved lemons, preserved lemons sliced.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

Comments

    1. Hi Coral, you really need the lemon juice, unless have another citrus? That could work but may alter the flavor.

  1. Hi Sylvia
    I’m planning to try this out. Could you please post a pic of the preserved lemon bottle with the river rocks/fermentation weight on top? I’m a little confused.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Deborah, I’m sorry I don’t have a picture. You basically just need something to weigh the lemons down. In a pinch, you can use one smooth river stone that has been sterilized (slightly smaller than the jar opening), but the best bet is to use a fermentation weight. 🙂

  2. I have been making preserved lemons for over a year (3 batches so far!) and your recipe is slightly different. We love everything you make so I thought why not give yours a try!

    I have a couple of questions: Do you use the pulp in your recipes? I also see the one comment about not rinsing them. Every recipe I’ve used them in states to rinse well. How is your recipe different?

    1. I do use the pulp. Feel free to rinse, but I like the salty lemony brine so I ussually don’t rinse. It’s jsut a matter of taste- a personal preference. The brine will not make you sick.

  3. I am so glad that I found your recipe! I wanted to try making preserved lemons for a particular recipe, but I didn’t want lemon wedges. I was just going to try slicing the lemon to see if it would work and then I found your recipe. Now that I know it will work, I look forward to trying your recipe. Thanks.

      1. I have just put Meyer lemon slices in honey, but had to leave much longer than salt. Just experimenting, no measuring…turned out good, but took longer to candy than hoped.

        Question, when do you remove the weight/ziplock bag/stone etc.?

        Thank you,

        ~ Meg

        1. Interesting! I love the idea of that. I bet both salt and honey would be tasty too. Remove the weight after the first week, the lemons should start to sink and settle on their own.

    1. Great question- my guess is yes, this should be fine, but haven’t personally tried.

        1. After, I think. Actually, I bet either way would work. You should research on the web as I haven’t personally tried this.

  4. Hi! Thank you for the recipe. Can you please let me know if I need to cover them with something when I weigh them down with a plastic bag with water? I can’t quite picture it – do they stay without the lid or the time (when with the weight) or how? Thanks!

  5. Hi, Sylvia: I just made a batch of the preserved lemons and I used two clean river
    rocks as weights. So, when do you remove the weights? When you refrigerate
    them? I have always wanted to make preserved lemons but your recipe was too
    easy to not try!

    1. Hi Teresa, check after a week, but I like them to get really tender- so 2-3 weeks is usually optimal. Remove weights before refrigerating.

  6. I love this recipe. It is so easy and I love that the lemons are sliced rather than whole or half. They are easy to do and easier to clean and use. I find myself adding the lemon in lots of recipes and have even given jars as gifts.

  7. I made this because I thought of how pretty it would look sitting on my counter. After a week I opened it and tasted a lemon slice. I’m hooked! These are so delicious. I’ve eaten a 1/4 of the jar and have yet to use them in a recipe. They are so tart and salty, my favorite. We had a Meyer Lemon tree in our backyard growing up in Southern California and we used to eat raw lemons sprinkled with salt all the time. Takes me back. Now I will try them in some recipes — if I don’t eat them all beforehand. Great recipe!

  8. Hi , can I open the jars during the first week to add more juice if I don’t think there’s quite enough brine ?

  9. Do you rinse the preserved lemons before using in a dish? Mine have a week to go before I start using them!

  10. I made the preserved lemons a few weeks ago, and followed your recipe. I did find that in order to completely submerge the two sliced lemons I needed to squeeze more lemons to completely cover them. I think I squeezed about 4 lemons (and they were large juicy lemons) instead of the two you suggested in the recipe. I used a weighted plastic bag with water to keep the lemons submerged. After they were pickled, I did make a salad dressing; it was tasty, but found it to be a bit bitter. I am looking forward to trying these additional recipes to use the preserved lemons. Thanks for all your fun and creative ideas.

    1. How long did you preserve the lemons? Sometimes in dressings, the one thing that can be surprisingly bitter is olive oil. I always taste it before using now…

  11. Made these a couple of weeks ago. Look beautiful in jars stored in fridge! Used so far – in drinks, with salmon dishes and added to a lentil salad.

    Simple but delicious- thanks Sylvia x

    1. Yes- please just note that when the lemons are preserved there will be a pinkish film that may look like a mold, but it is your salt! 🙂

  12. Loved this recipe. I’ve always wanted to make these, but didn’t want to take the time. These were a snap and I love having them handy in the fridge. I add them to anything that could use a pop of lemony goodness. As my supply becomes used up I am now wondering if you can add to them or do you need to make a whole new bunch?

    1. Nanci I was wondering the same thing! I am experimenting with that now, tucked a few slices in my old brine along with the other older lemons, I’ll let you know!

  13. Can’t wait to try! I can only find huge jars of them at the Mediterranean grocery, that take up too much room in my fridge. It’ll be great to have some on hand.

  14. I am definitely doing this. Have wanted to for a long time and really have no excuse now!! Everything you do always looks so beautiful. It’s so important to have that beauty and also that Simplicity in our lives. Thank you for showing me how to do that XOXO.

  15. I love lemons and was so happy to find your recipe on how to preserve lemons. So easy! Looking forward to your recipes involving preserved lemons. Kindly, Sissy

  16. I have some preserved lemons that I’ve left for over 4 weeks, do I have to refrigerate or if they’re covered in brine is that ok to leave out? I’m excited to see your recipes with preserved lemons!

Share this with the world

Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

Subscribe
to get recipes via email