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This Preserved Lemons recipe has just two ingredients: lemons and salt. Most people think of North African and South Asian cuisine, like Morrocan tagines, when they think of preserved lemons (also called lemon pickles). But they can be used in so many dishes from soups and salads to marinades and dressings – that magic touch of tangy salt that can make a meal extraordinary. With 10 minutes, lemons and salt, you can make a big batch of these to enjoy for months.

Preserved Lemons being made

In doing some research for this post, I came across the Wikipedia page for Preserved Lemons and was surprised to learn that they were called for in some early 19th century English language cookbooks. The page included this recipe from A New System of Domestic Cookery, a cookbook by Maria Eliza Rundell, first published in 1806:

They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.

Preserved Lemons in a glass jar

Even though I prefer a super-simple version of preserved lemons, just lemons and salt, I agree with Ms. Rundell that ‘the pickle’ is useful for many things!

Beyond the traditional recipes that call for preserved lemons, I love to chop them up and toss in to soups, pastas and risottos or smatter them over fish or chicken. You may remember my Kale Salad with Tomatoes Bacon and Preserved Lemon Dressing – the one that tastes exactly like a BLT? That recipe is all about the preserved lemon. The brine is also useful, add a little of it the next time you make a Bloody Mary and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve tried several recipes for making preserved lemons and this is my favorite – entirely reliable and made with just two ingredients and a few minutes. Watch the recipe video below to see how simple they are to make!

How to Make Preserved Lemons

1. Cut ends off of lemons and cut from one end in quarters, leaving bottom section in tact.

2. Scoop kosher salt into the center of each lemon and transfer to clean quart jar. Repeat with remaining lemons, pressing them firmly into the jar. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark plate overnight at room temperature.

3. The next day, press lemons down to compress and cover with additional kosher salt. Transfer to refrigerator for one month, pressing lemons down occasionally to keep submerged in brine.

4. Use as needed for up to one year.*

Recipe Video

Preserved Lemons

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 31
Servings: 5 lemons
With 10 minutes, lemons and salt, you can make a big batch of these to enjoy for months.   

Ingredients  

  • 1 quart glass jar cleaned thoroughly
  • 5 medium organic lemons scrubbed
  • 1 cup kosher salt or more

Instructions 

  • Cut ends off lemons. Standing one lemon on end, cut in quarters lengthwise, leaving bottom section in tact. Repeat with remaining lemons.
  • Scoop kosher salt in the center of a lemon and transfer to quart jar. Repeat with remaining lemons, pressing each in with the back of a spoon. Cover and let stand in a cool, dark place at room temperature overnight. The next day, press lemons down again with the back of a spoon and top with additional kosher salt to cover.
  • Transfer to refrigerator for one month, pressing down lemons occasionally to keep them below the brine. After the month, keep refrigerated and use as needed for up to one year*.

Notes

Refrigerator life recommendation based on this recipe and this one.

Nutrition

Calories: 31kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 22637mg | Potassium: 154mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 24IU | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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16 Comments

  1. Katherine | Love In My Oven says:

    Marissa, I would never have thought of doing this but I love the idea! I’ll definitely have to try it out!

    1. Marissa says:

      Thanks, Katherine! It’s one of those things that when you make them once and then you’ll always want to have them around. 🙂

  2. David @ Spiced says:

    I remember when I first saw preserved lemons at a fancy grocery store (they were on the prepared foods line), and I was totally amazed! I grabbed one and had a bunch of fun using it in recipes. But I’ve never realized how easy they are to make! Now I want to make some here at home just to always keep on hand. Plus, that’s a genius idea to use the brine in a Bloody Mary! It’s been a while since I’ve had a good Bloody Mary, and the salty lemon brine would be so good in there. Thanks for sharing this one!

    1. Marissa says:

      Absolutely! I hope you try them, David. I bet they’ll be right up your alley.

  3. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    5 stars
    This is so easy and two ingredients? I could whip this up in no time at all! Big fan of lemons and I can only imagine the flavour that these impart in a dish. Hmmmm…..Bloody Mary? May have to try that next time with my Caesar! Awesome video, as usual, by the way!! Hope your having a great week, Marissa! xo

    1. Marissa says:

      That Caesar of yours looks so amazing and this would be a fun little twist. Thank you my friend!

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    I’ve meant to make these for the longest time and you’re inspiring me to do it Marissa! 😀

    1. Marissa says:

      I love to hear that! Thanks, Lorraine. xo

  5. Dorothy Dunton says:

    Hi Marissa. I didn’t realize how simple it is to make preserved lemons! I’m definitely going to try this. I would assume that because these are preserved in salt that when using them in a sauce, dressing you would watch how much salt goes into the recipe. We are both quite salt sensitive so I use it sparingly. I cook with it, but never salt a finished dish (with the exception of eggs, gotta have salt there). Nagi called me from SF yesterday and she emailed me some pictures. That girl certainly does get around!

    1. Marissa says:

      Nagi is really something, isn’t she! 🙂 Yes, these are quite salty – often I’ll give them a quick rinse and a little goes a long way.