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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.
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:
- lemons and lemon juice
- sea salt
That’s it! Maybe some bay leaves and peppercorns if you want to get fancy. 😉
How to make Preserved Lemons (in a nutshell):
- Clean a 2 cup jar with hot soapy water.
- Slice 2 lemons into 1/8- 1/4 inch disks. (You’ll use 2 more for juicing)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the flesh turns translucent and the skin tender, refrigerate!
- Preserved Lemons will last indefinitely as long there is brine covering them.
Seriously, how easy is that!?
Salt the lemons and layer.
Cover with fresh lemon juice. Tuck in a bay leaf if you like.
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.
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.
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:
- Moroccan Chicken Lentil Soup with Saffron and Preserved Lemon
- Lemony Chickpea Quinoa Salad
- Preserved Lemon Gremolata
- Grilled Branzino
- Moroccan Chicken
How to Preserve Lemons
- Prep Time: 15
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: preserved
- Method: preserved, cured
- Cuisine: Moroccan
- Diet: Vegan
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!
- 4 lemons (4-5 ounces each) Meyer Lemons are nice here but not imperative.
- 1–2 tablespoons sea salt
- a clean, 2-3 cup wide-mouth jar with lid
- optional additions: bay leaves, peppercorns, other whole spices.
- Clean a 2-3 cup jar with hot soapy water, dry.
- Slice 2 lemons into 1/8-1/4 inch thick disks, about 8 slices each. (Use the ends for juicing)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once translucent and tender, refrigerate! ( see photo above).
- Lemons will last indefinitely in the fridge (up to or over a year) as long there is brine covering them.
- 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.
- Calories: 25
Keywords: preserved lemons, how to preserve lemons, what are preserved lemons, how to make preserved lemons, preserved lemons sliced.
I like the idea of using slices–I I love the idea of using sliced lemons. I have made preserved lemons with whole lemons (cut into quarters that remain attached at the base) but they don’t fit well in jars–this is better! Thx
Thanks Bri- I like the slices too. 😉
Hello from New Zealand! 👋
We have an abundance of lemons right now (spring) and I have just made my first ever preserved lemons – can’t wait to taste the results 💛
Congrats Liz- it is so much fun!
Hi Sylvia, Love this idea! Can I refrigerate right away or do they first need to stay in a cool unrefrigerated place for a week before putting them in the fridge?
I would leave out for a week, then refigerate.
This was so fun and so easy. Your Moroccan dishes are phenomenal, so I can’t wait to use these lemons with them.
I just wanted to be sure: while this is given time to ferment, I need to cover the jar, but I should not use the air-tight seal until I transer it to the fridge. Otherwise, it may accidentally explode on me, right? 🙂
Thank you! I hope your new year is going well. ❤️
Hi Jennifer! So these are preserved in salt- not fermented. So air-tight lid is OK here; there is no bubbling action that could pop the lid.
Oh, I see! Well great, thanks for clearing up my confusion. 🙂
I am unable to find video?
Check that your adblocker is turned off Sally!
Hi Sylvia! Thank you for this recipe. I got a ton of Meyer lemons from a family tree and have been running out of recipes to use them up. Question – what kind of jar did you use in the video with the glass top? They are gorgeous!
I believe they are Weck Jars!