18 Ideas for How to Use Preserved Lemons

basket of lemons and how to use preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are a staple of my fridge that I pull out from time to time to add a pop of flavor to a wide variety of dishes. It’s an ingredient common in North African cuisine made by preserving whole lemons in salt and their own juices. They’re salty, briny and citrusy with a pleasingly fermented funk (that fermentation process also means preserved lemons are a source of gut-healthy bacteria). Preserved lemons are sold in specialty markets, some supermarkets, and even Trader Joe’s. That said, I find homemade to be superior, cheaper, and ridiculously easy to make (you can find a preserved lemon recipe here). Then the question becomes, how to use preserved lemons.

How to use preserved lemons

How to Use Preserved Lemons

It might be helpful to think of preserved lemons along the lines of other briny, preserved foods, such as olives or capers. You can use preserved lemons in many of the same dishes where you’d add those ingredients. Most recipes call for using just the peel of the preserved lemon, though the pulp is entirely edible. The preserved peel itself is soft enough to easily slice, chop, or pound into a puree, which is how I typically use it in my cooking.

How to make preserved lemons

18 Ways to Use Preserved Lemons

Below are 18 ideas for how to use preserved lemons. Start by pulling a preserved lemon from the jar (or as much as you need). Slough off the pulp (unless a recipe calls for it), give the remaining peel a quick rinse under the tap, and cut it into slivers, chop, or mince. The amount you’ll need will vary depending on your palate, but figure a few teaspoons for a vinaigrette to a whole lemon for roast chicken or tagine. These are just ideas to get you started, feel free to riff as you see fit.

  • Toss it into a sauté pan along with garlic and olive oil when cooking leafy greens, such as this sautéed kale
  • Toss with steamed broccoli or other vegetables and a splash of olive oil as soon as it’s cooked
  • Add it to beef or other stew as it simmers
  • Use it for added flavor in simple pasta dishes, from spaghetti and clams to garlic and olive oil pasta
  • Use it in pasta, rice, or other grain salads (it would be terrific in this farro)

Need a preserved lemon recipe? Find it here!

If you have ideas for how to use preserved lemons, please share in the comments below!


03.09.2022 at11:39 AM #


My sister gives me a box of fresh lemons every year and I always make a batch of preserved lemons. I so needed to expand the ways I could incorporate them into our diet. Thank you for the suggestions and for lunch I am looking forward to putting some in my tuna fish. All the best!

03.09.2022 at11:39 AM #

Katie Morford

Hope you like it as much as I do 🙂

03.09.2022 at4:18 PM #

Pam Hochman

Last night I made Ottolenghi’s “Double Lemon Chicken” (NYT cooking) which has a recipe for what they call a “Cheater’s Preserved Lemon Paste”. Worth checking out if you need some preserved lemon fast and don’t have a month to wait!

03.09.2022 at4:18 PM #

Katie Morford

Great tip. Thanks Pam. How was the chicken??

07.10.2022 at3:05 PM #


This is SO helpful. I made some and didn’t have a clue what to do with them!!!

08.02.2022 at3:44 PM #

Mary Elstein

check out Cook’s Illustrated preserved lemon aoli.. excellent over grilled fish & veggies

06.27.2023 at3:24 PM #


Are preserved lemons something you could add to water to flavor it??

06.27.2023 at3:24 PM #

Katie Morford

They’re very savory and salty, so I’d stick to fresh lemons.

10.25.2023 at3:18 PM #

Robert Walton

Thank you for the ideas! I got a bunch of big lemons in March and made limoncello and preserved lemons. I knew what to do with the limoncello!

10.25.2023 at3:18 PM #

Katie Morford

Great! (homemade limoncello sounds wonderful).

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