How to Make Preserved Lemons

How to make preserved lemons

I’m seeing more and more recipes these days calling for preserved lemons. Perhaps it’s the growing influence of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine on our diet. Should we called it the “Ottolenghi effect”? What’s tricky is that store-bought preserved lemons aren’t always easy to come by. Plus, the ones I’ve tried haven’t been particularly worthwhile. Lucky for all of us, they’re a snap to do it at home. If you’re wondering how to make them, all you need is a jar, a few lemons, salt, and month’s worth of patience. Plus, it’s darn satisfying to open the fridge and see a pretty jar of citrus preserving before your very eyes. Easy Preserved Lemons

Preserve Any Variety of Lemon

Below you’ll find the recipe. You’ll note it calls for Meyer lemons, those gorgeously scented, thin skinned, sweet beauties that are in markets right now. Not to worry if you can’t get ahold of Meyers, since any variety of lemon will do just fine. And any size will work, too. You just need to adjust the size of your jar.

How to Use Preserved Lemons

It takes about a month for the lemons and salt to work their magic and transform from salty lemons to preserved ones. When that time arrives, the question of what to do with them comes to mind. Really, they work well in many of the same savory dish where you would add lemons, lemon zest, capers or olives. I have an entire post on using preserved lemons, which may spark some ideas. My favorite use? Tuna salad. A tablespoon or two of preserved lemon in this Superfood Tuna is an umami bomb. I also like this pretty Chicken with Preserved Lemon over on Cooking Light.

For those of you who already know how to make preserved lemons, how do you use use them in your own cooking?

How to make preserved lemons
4.41 from 5 votes

Easy Preserved Lemons

Preserving lemons is neither complicated nor time consuming. Meyer lemons, with their fragrance and tender skin, are particularly well suited to preserving. However, conventional lemons work well too.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 pint of preserved lemons (3 to 4 Meyer lemons)
Author Katie Morford


  • 4 to 5 Meyer lemons , scrubbed
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 sterilized pint jar with a lid


  1. Spoon 1 tablespoon of salt into the jar.
  2. Cut 3 lemons into quarters, leaving the very bottom of each one attached (so that if you open it, it fans out like a flower and is still connected at the bottom).
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon salt into the center of the first lemon, close it, and put it into the jar. Continue with the 2nd and 3rd lemons, smashing them down firmly into the jar to make room for more, if possible. If some room remains, add another half or whole lemon, using 1/2 to a full tablespoon of salt accordingly. Fit as many lemons as you can as long as there is at least 1/2 inch of room at the top.
  4. Add another tablespoon of salt to the top of the lemons.
  5. Cut 1 or 2 lemons in half and squeeze enough juice so that the lemons are immersed in liquid.
  6. Put on the lid and store in a cool place. Turn the jar over every day for 4 days, then store in the fridge.
  7. After a month, your preserved lemons will be ready to use.
  8. Rinse well with water before using. It is typically the peel, not the flesh of the lemon, that is used.



01.29.2016 at 7:36 AM #

Deanna Segrave-Daly

Ahhh #ottolenghilove – and I am so jealous of your meyer lemon tree 🙂 Totally making these!

02.01.2016 at 4:18 PM #

Meal Makeover Mom Janice

This sounds so exotic! I love Meyer lemons but don’t see them too often in the grocery stores in Boston. 🙁

08.26.2017 at 4:07 PM #


Beware of meyer lemons because they are often coated. Preserved lemon recipes use the rind, not the pulp of the lemon. So organic is the only way to go. The Lemoneira-brand Meyer lemons I purchased tried to conceal this information by writing in almost invisible ink of yellow on a green background, in teenie tiny font the following: Coated with Food-grade Vegetable-Beeswax, and/or Lac-Resin-Based Wax or Resin Coating to Maintain Freshness. This ridiculous oxymoron is absurd on its face. Two rounds of boiling and scrubbing did not remove the coating, which was visible as a white film on the pan and colander used. Even scrubbing did little good. In the end, I just picked some lemons off my own tree. No clue why Meyer lemons are to be preferred for this recipe.

08.26.2017 at 4:07 PM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for the insight, Gail. It’s definitely worth noting, since it is the peel that is used, not the fruit. As for Meyer lemons, I just happen to love the taste when preserved and happen to have a tree in my yard, but other lemon varieties are tasty, too.

12.02.2019 at 9:07 AM #

Hilary Maslon

I am confused as to why one would need to refrigerate. The whole point of preserving is because people did not have refrigeration and so they preserved. Paula Wolfert, the famous Moroccan chef, clearly says… let ripen in a warm place, shaking daily, for 30 days. No need to refrigerate after opening and they will keep for a year. ( page 32 from Paula Wolfert ” Couscous and other good food from Morocco)

12.02.2019 at 9:07 AM #

Katie Morford

Hi Hilary,

I’m sure you’re right that historically preserved lemons were kept in a cool place, not in a fridge. All that salt and lemon makes a pretty hostile environment for botulism, as long as the lemons are completely covered for the duration. As for me, I feel more comfortable storing them in the fridge once the preserving process begins, in part because they are front and center and I tend not to forget they are there!

01.30.2020 at 1:51 PM #


I have a meyer lemon tree that gives me so many lemons I have to share them with family and neighbors, this year I just preserved a ton and give them away as presents.

02.04.2020 at 5:51 PM #

Peggy Gilbert

I have made these preserved lemons before. They are great esp. for a Greek chicken recipe I have. I also ship a large box east to my chef son n law for his who will feature them in many recipes. Once you have a tree you find as many ways as possible to use them. Mostly, juiced and frozen in ice cube trays to use through out the year. However, Meyers are not great for grated lemon. Just too smooth.

02.04.2020 at 5:51 PM #

Katie Morford

Lucky you! Enjoy those lemons.

02.19.2020 at 6:50 AM #


Do you not use any type of liquid to preserve the lemons? You just put them in the jar without a liquid? Am I missing something?

02.19.2020 at 6:50 AM #

Katie Morford

Good question. What happens is that the salt draws out the juice and you sort of smash the lemons in the jar, which also draws out the juices. Then, you top the finished jar with a squeeze of more lemons (see step 5). In the end, the lemons should be immersed in juice. I hope this clears things up!

02.28.2020 at 3:29 PM #

Lydia B Fiedler

Made these today with locally grown Meyers – can’t wait!! Do you have recipes using them?

02.28.2020 at 3:29 PM #

Katie Morford

I don’t have recipes that specifically call for preserved lemon. I find I use them much like you might other preserved or pickled ingredients, like olives, capers, or cornichons. Once the lemons are preserved, I pull one out of the jar, discard the fruit part of the lemon, and chop up the peel. It adds wonderful flavor to grain salads, salad dressings, tuna salad, etc. Check out this post, which may have more ideas for you.

04.25.2020 at 1:48 PM #

Ka Grover

Marsha Kass Rogers “Best” Shrimp Salad Recipe

¼ cup good-quality mayonnaise (Duke’s or Hellmann’s)
1 Tbsp finely minced preserved Meyer lemon
1 tsp finely snipped fresh dill
1 pound cooked large shrimp, each cut into two of three pieces
3 celery ribs, each cut lengthwise into three strips, and then diced fine
¼ cup finely-chopped sweet onion
2 Tbsp finely-chopped pimiento pepper
Salt and finely-ground pepper
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
1 avocado

In a large bowl, whisk mayonnaise with preserved lemon and dill. Stir in pieced shrimp, diced celery & onion. Carefully fold in the pimiento. Add salt and finely-ground black pepper to suit your taste. Chill. Serve in lettuce cups with sliced avocado.

04.25.2020 at 1:48 PM #

Katie Morford

Thanks for sharing. Sounds delicious.

05.22.2020 at 12:30 AM #

Diane Andrews

What happens if you substitute regular iodized salt you have on hand for kosher salt you don’t have on hand?

05.22.2020 at 12:30 AM #

Katie Morford

That works. The saltiness of iodized salt versus kosher on a spoon for spoon basis is different, but it won’t matter here.

01.07.2021 at 7:46 PM #

Chris Herrmann

I make 20 quarts of these at a time and they last up to two years in a cool, dark place. You don’t need to refrigerate until after you open them. Makes great salad dressing, grind rinds up with fresh lemon juice, honey and water (you can add dijon if want.) Play with them. Use them Moroccan Chicken, any kind of seafood dish. make a chutney. I worship them!

01.29.2021 at 3:07 PM #


Hello. I am wondering whether or not the 1 Tablespoon of salt is a typo. Other preserved lemon recipes only call for 1 teaspoon. By that I mean 1 teaspoon in place of every Tablespoon that your recipe calls for. I appreciate your clarification.

Thank you, Anna

01.29.2021 at 3:07 PM #

Katie Morford

Hi Anna,

It’s 1 tablespoon. If you have really small lemons, you can scale that back. I imagine there’s lots of approaches to making preserved lemons, but this consistently works well for me! Thanks for asking.

02.04.2021 at 11:48 AM #


Can you use regular lemons instead of Meyer lemons?

02.04.2021 at 11:48 AM #

Katie Morford


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