How to Make Preserved Lemons

Here's how to make your own preserved lemons for use in Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes and more. Pack lemons in salt and their own juices for a slow transformation into something magical!

How to Make Preserved Lemons

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes call for preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It's quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use.

How to Make Preserved Lemons

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Adding Spices to Preserved Lemons

Experiment with adding spices to the preserved lemons—cardamom, vanilla, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and peppercorns are all options. Don't use them all together, but think about how you'll be using the lemons and how the spices might complement the dishes you put them in.

How to Use Your Preserved Lemons

Once you have a jar of preserved lemons sitting in the refrigerator, what do you do with the lemon rinds once you've rinsed one or more of salt and finely chopped it? Readers in the comments have plenty of ideas for putting them to work.

  • Add a little to fresh pasta sauce
  • Sprinkle on hot peppers
  • Add to a yogurt sauce for salads
  • Stir into rice
  • Add to couscous
  • Top arugula salads
  • Sprinkle on seafood

We have some specific recipes that you can use them in, too:

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

How to Make Preserved Lemons

Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Servings 64 servings
Yield 1 quart

We use Meyer lemons for making preserved lemons because we grow them and because they are milder than Eureka lemons (the regular lemon you buy at the store); they work beautifully preserved this way.

You may need up to 1/2 cup of extra lemon juice in order to be sure the packed lemons are submerged, especially if using Eureka lemons. Be sure you have extra lemons on hand, just in case.


  • 8 to 10 lemons (Meyer if you have them but Eureka—the regular grocery store type—are fine)

  • 1/2 to 1 cup kosher salt

  • Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed

Special Equipment

  • 1 (1-quart) wide-mouthed canning jar


  1. Add some salt to the jar:

    Put 2 tablespoons of kosher salt at the bottom of a sterilized 1-quart wide-mouthed canning jar.

    Salt Added to Jar for Preserving Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  2. Scrub and cut the lemons:

    Rinse and scrub clean the lemons. With each lemon, cut off any stems. Cut off 1/4 inch from the tip of the lemons. Cut the lemons lengthwise in half, but keep the lemon attached at the base, do not cut all the way through. Then make another cut the same way, as if you were cutting the lemons into quarters, but not all the way through.

    Lemons in a Colander for How to Make Preserved Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Lemons Cut in Quarters (Bottoms Still Attached) For Preserved Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  3. Sprinkle with salt:

    Gently pull open the lemons and sprinkle well with kosher salt, inside and out.

    Lemons Quarters Salted for Salted Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  4. Add the lemons to the jar:

    Put the prepared lemons to the jar, one at a time. After each one, press it down so its juices come out and rise to the top. Pack the jar with lemons, making sure that they are covered with juice.

    The number of lemons that fit in the jar will depend on the size of your lemons.

    If any of the lemons break apart, don't worry. It won't ruin anything.

    Simple Tip!

    The blunt end of a muddling stick is a good tool to use to press down the lemons.

    Lemons Packed into a Jar for Lemon Preserving Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  5. Add more lemon juice (if needed) and salt:

    Add more juice if needed to submerge the lemons (you may need up to an additional 1/2 cup) and add a couple more tablespoons of kosher salt to the top.

    Salt Added to Jar with Lemons for Preserved Lemons Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  6. Seal and let sit, then refrigerate:

    Close the lid to the jar and let it sit at room temperature on the counter for a few days. Turn the jar upside down every so often. After a few days put the jar of lemons in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks, until the rinds of the lemons soften. Turn the jar upside down occasionally while storing in the refrigerator.

    Lemon Jar Resting on Counter, Upside Down for Preserved Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  7. Use the preserved lemons:

    To use preserved lemons in cooking, remove one from the jar and rinse it to remove the salt. Discard any seeds. Remove the pulp. Thinly slice or chop the preserved lemon rind to use in a recipe.

    Preserved lemons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

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    How to Make Preserved Lemons

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
18 Calories
0g Fat
5g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 64
Amount per serving
Calories 18
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 473mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 17mg 84%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 71mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.