With three simple ingredients - lemons, salt and lemon juice - learn how to make preserved lemons (sometimes called pickled lemons). A traditional condiment in Moroccan, North African and Indian cuisines, preserved lemons add a punch of lemony flavor to many dishes.
What are Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons are a fermented or pickled food, and fermented foods are flavored-filled and nourishing. With a unique taste and silky texture, preserved lemons bring delicious savory-tart flavor to meats, salads, sauces, and other dishes. Preserving softens the acidity while providing bright lemon flavor.
Centuries before refrigeration was invented, people worldwide turned to preserving lemons and other foods through fermenting and pickling. Think about sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, miso, pickles, yogurt, creme fraiche, fish sauce, vinegar, cheese, beer and wine.
How to Make Preserved Lemons
To make preserved lemons you need 4-6 lemons, sea salt, lemon juice, a sterilized jar and patience. It takes 30 days for the lemons to preserve (or pickle) while they sit on your kitchen counter.
Start with a sterilized, one pint glass jar. For how to sterilize jars, read here. Scrub 4-6 lemons clean. If there is a little nob on one end, trim it off flat.
Some recipes add a bay leaf, (which I do) coriander seeds or other spices like cinnamon stick, clove, peppercorns or little black nigella seeds (also known as black caraway). After 30 days the preserved lemons are ready to use.
Pull one out, rinse off the salt, and pick out the seeds. The entire lemon, peel and all, are edible. Be sure to use less salt in whatever recipe they are going into.
Preserved Lemons Uses
- The first thing I do is make my preserved lemon sauce (see next).
- Rinse the rind, remove seeds and thinly slice or finely chop and add to vinaigrettes and dressings.
- Add to salads for a savory lemon flavor whether greens and grains, pilafs, quinoa
- Toss with buttered pasta noodles and chopped fresh herbs as a side dish.
- Use just about anywhere you want a lift of lemon flavor. Be sure to rinse the salt off and discard the seeds before using.
- Add to salsa, chimichurri, guacamole, and dips
Preserved Lemon Sauce
Lately I've been using my preserved lemons to make a creamy sauce for seared halibut, shrimp and chicken. Read here for the recipe.
Start a jar today. Actually, make two jars and give one away as a gift. The receiver will love you.
FAQ's About Preserved Lemons
They last between 6-12 months when refrigerated and the brine covers the lemons.
To preserve them for after they are out of season and as a way to enjoy lemons sunny flavor in the months ahead if you can't get lemons. The method was invented before refrigeration.
Yes, you eat the whole lemon. The rind becomes soft in the process, although I'd recommend picking out and discarding the seeds before eating.
How to Make Preserved Lemons
- 1 pint Mason or Ball jar, sterilized
- 4-6 lemons well scrubbed
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 3 extra lemons for lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf optional
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds optional
- Ready the pint sterilized jar. Trim the end knob off of the lemons. Slice the lemons into quarters from top to bottom, about ¾ of the way though. Pick out any visible seeds.
- Pour 2-3 teaspoons of salt into the center of one lemon and place the lemon into the jar. Do the same with the rest of the lemons, pushing them down into the jar tightly, until the jar will hold no more lemons. The number of lemons used will depend on the size of the lemons. Pour any extra salt into the top of the jar.
- Fill the jar until full with lemon juice. Cap the jar, label and date. Set it on the kitchen counter for 30 days. Turn the jar daily to mix the brine. After 30 days the lemons are ready to use.
- To use, rinse off excess salt, pick out any seeds and enjoy, especially the peel. Dice, puree or chop into strips and add to many dishes. Use less salt in whatever recipe they are going into, and adjust the salt to your taste preference as needed.