Preserved Lemons

I just began my second batch of preserved lemons.  The first was started right before Thanksgiving, aged a month, then quickly began to disappear.

Homemade Preserved Lemon

Homemade Preserved Lemon

Preserved lemons are salty, lemony, flavor bombs that can rev up a bland dish and give it some exotic nuance. According to Wikipedia:

Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine… Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well.

For my first foray into using my preserved lemons, I diced some and added it to sautéed Swiss chard for a distinct flavor boost. Next I made Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon–which turned couscous into something delicious rather than a dish my family considers bland enough for torture. I then tried a Moroccan lamb neck dish which was delicious–other than the lamb neck–so I am waiting to see if it’s better with chicken.  And Tammy from Agrigirl suggested pizza with preserved lemon and arugula–doesn’t that sound good!

Preserved lemon on plate

Preserved lemon on plate

Preserved lemons are easy to make.  I started with two bags of Organic Trader Joe’s lemons (a steal at $1.69/bag!), a big container of sea salt and a quart canning jar.  Since the lemon peel is a big part of the recipe, try to use organic if you can.  

My jar held six (small) whole & one quartered lemon and I topped it with the juice from four more lemons.  Fifteen minutes later, I had a jar ready to set into my preserving cupboard (where I keep my baby vinegar and vanilla marinating in bourbon) to ripen for spring. 

Making preserved lemons

Making preserved lemons

Traditionally the lemons are cut in a distinctive manner–left whole but partially quartered lengthwise.  Erica of Northwest Edible Life suggested that fully quartering them would make preparation more efficient and assist packing tightly into a jar.  I have grown kind of attached to the unique shape, so I stuck with that for the most part, but quartered one lemon to fit it a couple empty spots.  Best of both worlds!

Ready for my next preserved lemon dish!

Preserved lemon with fresh

Preserved lemon on plate

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are salty, lemony flavor bombs that can rev up a bland dish and give it an exotic twist.
Author: Inger
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Wait time 28 d
Total Time 28 d 15 mins
Course Condiments


  • 4 lemons or more fresh, washed
  • 2 lemons juice only
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sea salt or other non-iodized salt--1-2 T per lemon


  • Remove the stems and cut off the tips off the lemons. Cut each lemon lengthwise into quarters, but not cut all the way through – you want to leave them attached at the base (or fully quarter them if you wish).
  • Pack the cut sides with lots of salt, close the lemons and place them in a jar. Compress the lemons as you add them to the jar to release some of their juices.
  • When the jar is nearly full (or as full as you'd like), squeeze in fresh lemon juice to almost cover and top with a generous sprinkling of the salt. Cover the lemons, and set aside in a cool, dark place. A cupboard or food pantry is fine.
  • Every two or three days, open the jar and compress the lemons to release more juices. Do this for the first week, or until the lemons are submerged in juice.
  • The lemons will be pickled and ready to use in about four to five weeks, once the rinds are very soft. You can continue to preserve them longer if you like. Once opened, transfer the jar to the refrigerator, where they should keep well for several months.


Calorie count is for full batch, since it is not feasible to compute for unknown recipes.
Adapted from Christine Benlafquih
I am not a health professional and nutrition data is calculated programatically. Accuracy may vary with product selection, calculator accuracy, etc. Consult a professional for the best information.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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12 thoughts on “Preserved Lemons

  1. cakewhiz

    My mom makes these every summer and they taste soooo good, especially with rice and spicy lentils.

    btw, i love the angle of your first picture!

  2. Kathy

    I just made a jar of those lemons the other night! I saw your post on the Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash, and was impressed. And since I had a bag of Meyer lemons and a recipe that I saved from last year, I thought why not! Thanks for the inspirationI

    1. Inger Post author

      I am so glad you tried making preserved lemons too! I always find it interesting what finally moves us to try something that’s been on a list for awhile. Hope you enjoy them Kathy!

    1. Inger Post author

      Oh that’s sad :(. I was almost there with my onion jam though (in fact one of my jars did go bad, before having, like three sent me on a research project), so I know how it goes.

  3. ivysew

    Hi Inger, I have pickled lemon too and this is extremely good for sore throat!!! Besides pickled lemon, I did try lemon enzyme too and it’s so refreshing. Your preserved lemons look so appetizing and love it during the current hot and humid weather over here in Malaysia! Mix it with cold water and some crushed ice! Yummy and refreshing… You have a great day ahead and cheers 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      What an interesting thought. I suppose the saltiness helps in hydration when it’s hot. You don’t sweeten it at all?

    1. Inger Post author

      Then I will have to try to post my lemon curd too! I am starting to appreciate them more and more.

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