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Preserved Lemons

shantihhh's picture
Preserved Lemons are quite expensive to buy - often running $8 for a very small jar. Why not make your own? This is so easy with either home-grown lemons off your tree or from produce market purchased lemons. I use Meyer Lemons and also Eureka lemons which are large and tart. Improved Meyer Lemons have a sweeter less pungent tart flavour.
Scrub the organic lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.

Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there's a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you've incised the lemon with an X shape.

Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don't be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.

Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want. (Or a combination of any of them.)

Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight.

The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren't too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until their submerged, as I generally have to do.

After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they're ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.

To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.


Wash lemons being careful to remove all dirt and dust and throroughly dry them.

Pare off the hard stem area. Cut from the blossom end lengthwise of the lemon into quarters but leave attached by about 3/4".

Pack coarse salt into the cut sides of the lemon. I use 2-3 teaspoons of salt per lemon.

Place the salt-filled lemons in a sterile large glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid. I prefer plastic lids. I actually use kim jars that are larger and flatter than a quart. The leons look very pretty in these jars.

Add a few whole dried chiles, a bay leaf, some corianger seeds or whole cloves, whole 5 colour pepercorns,and a whole cinnamon stick. Be creative use what you like.

Pack the lemons firmly in the jar to help release the lemon juice. Cover and let stand overnight. The next day press the lemons down in the jar to release more juice. Add fresh or bottled lemon juice to cover the lemons. I rotate my jars top bottom once a week for 4 to 6 weeks.

Now they are ready to use! Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 6 months. I often use bottled lemon juice which is pH balanced. Then I don't refrigerate the lemons. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.

Various ways to use the preserved lemons include in stir-fry veggies, diced and mixed with couscous or pilaf. Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scoup out out the pulp with a large spoon.

I cut the lemons into small juilennes or dice. I generally use a little of the pulp as well in dishes.

Recipe Summary

Difficulty Level: 
Very Easy
Everyday, Gourmet, Healthy
Preparation Time: 
15 Minutes
One of my favourite ingredients to use in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes is finely diced preserved lemons and mix them with sautéed vegetables, such as with garbanzos, fava beans, and in soups, stews, tajines. They are wonderful in marinades, especially with seafood. Minced preserved lemon mixed with fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley or cilantro makes a marvelous garnish! Be sure to use organic lemons as you are eating the peel.

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Preserved Lemons Recipe