How to Make Preserved Lemons

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.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes


  • 8-10 lemons (Meyer if you have them)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of kosher salt
  • Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
  • Sterilized quart canning jar


1 Put 2 tablespoons of kosher salt at the bottom of your canning jar.

2 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.

preserved-lemons-1a preserved-lemons-1b

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

4 Put the prepared lemons in your canning jar and press them down so that their juices come out and rise to the top. Pack the jar with lemons, making sure that they are covered with juice. Add more juice if needed, and add a couple more tablespoons of kosher salt to the top.

5 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.

6 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.


Experiment with adding spices to the preserved lemons—cardamom, vanilla, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, peppercorns.

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  • Ken

    Bought a Meyer’s lemon tree, and at 3′ tall I have over 20 lemons. I’ve been looking for ideas, so this sounds great!

  • Dave In London

    I have been preserving lemons for many years using the above recipe with success!
    I use them in tagines, adding X factor to many yummy middle eastern dishes!
    Go for it if you want the real taste of yummy!

  • Dave Puffett In London

    I have preserved lemons, chillies and limes for many years now and have kept to the above mentioned method.
    Great in tagines and lemon rice and citrus cous cous yummy!
    So tasty, healthy and X factor

  • rl

    I gave some to a friend, and she put them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. They don’t take up much room, and likely an infinite shelf life. I am considering making a change in the next batch.

    Juice all lemons
    quarter the skins
    remove all seeds
    put all of the juice and pulp over the peels
    Proceed as per normal recipe.

    Advantage, I usually add these to stews or condiments, peel, pulp, juice and all. It is all the salt I need, but the seeds are a detriment to the taste, and are hard to separate out. I am also planning on using a little citric acid with water to make extra liquid so all the peels or quarters are covered. A gallon jar will need about a pint of this acidified water, and will not dilute the ph of the lemon juice.

  • Mike

    Quarter of a lemon (rind and pulp, no rinse) in to rice cooking water, instead of salt. Taste is wonderfull, lemony and salty.

    Have done these couple of times, I prefer using a bit more spacious jar and plenty of extra juice. That way the lemons stay submerged better.

  • Amy

    I’m not sure I ubderstand, you only use the peel? You throw all the pulp away? Seems like a waste of Meyer’s lemons?

    • Elise

      I think it only makes sense to make preserved lemons if you have access to a lot of lemons, like from your or a neighbor’s lemon tree. I wouldn’t even bother with store-bought lemons. The peel is what is traditionally used.

  • Vicki

    Meyer lemons are not actually lemons, but a hybrid of lemon and orange. Hard for me to believe that they would be the traditional Tunisian or Moroccan lemon type…

    • Elise

      Hi Vicki, Meyer lemons are hybrids, as almost commercial citrus are hybrids of some sort. They are not as sour/acidic as Eureka lemons, but they are still quite sour enough, and they work well as preserved lemons.

  • Rebecca

    I made these today.They were not Myers lemons.Just store lemons.I followed instructions to a T.My question is…After I put on a ball lid and ring,I sat the jar on my table proud of how beautiful they looked…about an hour later, I heard the familiar PING! It sealed itself! Has anyone else had theirs do this???

  • Gwen

    Do the lemons HAVE to be kept in the frig? I would like to do an entire canner batch of 7 jars but put them in the pantry. Please let me know I am sure that once they are processed its possible but your directions didn’t give that option and I wanted to be clear before I go to all the work.
    thank you

    • Elise

      Hello Gwen,
      These instructions are for lemons preserved in salt. They are not cooked, which you would need to do for canning. They can probably last a while if not refrigerated, but they’ll last a lot longer if they are.

    • Kathy

      I’ve been making these for years, and keep them in the pantry. I do refrigerate after opening, although my biochemist dad says it’s not really necessary. I use them regularly, and usually within six months, but I’ve had some for as long as a year and they’ve been fine. The amount of salt and acid is pretty high.

  • Gary in AK

    Hi, was just wondering if anyone has tried this method with limes?

    I’m looking for a pickled or preserved lime recipe.


    • Maureen

      Works beautifully with limes too, both regular ones and the tiny ones. I’ve preserved them in separate jars and even mixed them in the same jar. And have never refrigerated any of them, the salt takes care of the preserving. And I’ve used the pulp as well as the rind in cooking, just rinse the salt off.

  • Abdel Irada

    My question is similar to Libby’s.

    In April, I made a batch of preserved lemons in two Mason jars. One of them was fine, and I’ve just finished using the contents. But the topmost lemon in the other was partly exposed to air, discolored and showed signs of decay. I removed it, and the remaining lemons look and smell okay.

    The question is: are they okay?

    I understand that the lemons are supposed to store safely for at least six months (if not longer), but this does not make it clear to me whether or not they are safe in this instance.

    Could someone please supply me with an unequivocal answer? I’d like to make a recipe requiring these lemons for a holiday dinner, but I daren’t do that until I know they are safe, and don’t have time to make a new batch.

  • Farid

    Preserved lemons keep for more than 6 months in the refrigerator.

    If you use enough salt, they will keep for more than a year in your pantry.

  • Weiwen Ng

    Obviously they go with Moroccan and similar cuisine, but The Perfect Pantry has a very nice recipe with lentils, spinach, kielbasa and preserved lemon.

    My wife put a few preserved lemon slices in mayo with garlic for some chickpea burgers we made. That was also pretty good.

    I, too, would be interested in other recipes involving preserved lemons. Frankly, I would NOT be interested in dessert recipes – I don’t think they’ll go at all with dessert.

  • london girl

    Surely the whole reason for for preserving anything (especially in such a large amount of salt) is that you don’t then have to keep it in a refrigerator? Moroccans were using this recipe long before the invention of fridges. Seems a bit like belt and braces to me.

  • Angela

    Does anyone know of any great dessert recipes using perserved lemons?

  • Ray

    There was a method I have seen on a TV show (I watch a lot of Food Network, lol) and a fast way to make preserved lemons is to cut the lemons in 6 then in a non-corrosive oven pan (pyrex) add the lemons and a cup of salt, and water to cover the lemons. Put in the oven for 6 hours at 250 degrees, then jar. They are ready immediately, however I think preserving them longer might bring out more flavor but it’s a quick way if you have a dish you want to prepare.

    • Justice Mondavi

      This can also be achieved by putting them outside on a warm sunny day. In fact it is still done this way in certain cultures.

  • DeniseinArk

    I heard a chef on Martha Stewart Radio this weekend talking about using preserved lemons and cooking in a tangine – neither of which I had ever heard of. Now I am enamored with the idea.

    I have a question: if this turns out as divinely as it sounds, I will probably want to make some up and a small recipe booklet to use for Christmas gifts. I see where there was a problem making it in a rubber stoppered jar. Would it be best to make it in a regular Mason jar and then decant into something more decorative?


    Great question, I don’t really know. The lemons get preserved in salt and their own acid, that said, you want to sterilize any jar you use. ~Elise

  • Barbara Bullinger

    I am making 2 gallons tonight to give away as Christmas gifts. I add bay leaves, cloves, cardamon,and cinnamon sticks. Meyer Lemons are a must. They have an entirely different flavor from regular lemons…sort of a Tangerine smell to the lemons, and they are sweeter.

    • Linda

      Barbara – do you add any recipes or “use suggestions/instructions?” I love the look of these, but might not know how to advise others to use them. Thanks for any ideas.

  • dale

    How do I sterilize the glass container before adding lemon and salt?

    You can place a rack on the bottom of a large stock pot, add the glass jars so they are standing on the rack, cover with water, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Or you can wash out the jars, put them in a 95°C oven (200°F) for 10 minutes. ~Elise

  • katrina

    The thought of these is so enticing. I only tried it once, and the lemons were so bitter I had to throw them out.
    Try, try again. Thanks for the recipe!

    Try them with Meyer lemons, they’re sweeter than regular lemons. ~Elise

    • Graham Edwards

      Where can you buy Mayer lemons?

      • Linda

        I get them at Wal-Mart, ormy parent’s backyard when they have a surplus on their bushes.

  • Alexandra

    It’s also worth mentioning that as the lemons age, they intensify in colour turning an almost deep amber. Also, pectin jellifies the liquid, but this doesn’t affect the flavour or the goodness, at all.
    It’s also worth mentioning about being cautious using a metal-top screw lid. The salt solution may well corrode the lid, so I use a double layer of clingfilm for the first month. Then I replace it periodically during the time I use the lemons.
    Love ’em!!
    Thanks everyone for a really informative thread….

    Use of the spices is optional…. I read somewhere that the use of the spices came from a different region of Morocco……

  • Terri

    I’ve made a Morrocan type chicken dish that included preserved lemons, green olives and dates that was great. The tartness of the lemons and sweetness of dates is great combination…I lost recipe! Anyone have a similar recipe? Preserved lemons are the best.

    Look at our Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives recipe for a base. You could easily add some dates. ~Elise

  • Jane

    How do you actually use them? Straight from the jar? All of the lemon? No one actually mentions this important part? Are they not really salty?

    Rinse thoroughly before using. With rinsing they are a little salty, like green olives. I think mainly just the peel is used. Include it in Moroccan tagine dishes, like this Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives recipe. ~Elise

  • Libby

    Hi. I tried this recipe in March using a combination of meyer lemons and kumquats. But I made it in a fancy clamp top jar and the lid was a lot farther away from the lip of the jar than in normal mason jars and I couldn’t fill it to the brim with juice and salt. So when I turned it upside down the first few days, a couple pieces of fruit got dislodged and sat in the airspace between the juice and the lid. They discolored and kinda smell bad, so I pulled them out and tossed them along with the top layer of fruit under them. (sorry for the long explaination)

    My question is: do you think the rest of the jar is safe to eat? They look normal, orangey yellow and gooey, and none of the rest smell funny. Thanks for any suggestions.

  • Dennis Kercher

    Was looking around and saw this, albiet a year late. I make “Lemon Confit” every year. A couple of things I would do different.
    1 – Use Rock Salt, not kosher salt.
    2 – Forget about opening the lemons and salting. Just put a layer of rock salt in the bottom of a jar, lemons, salt, lemons until the jar is almost full. I also put in a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick. Top off with some more salt and a little lemon juice. After a week, retop off with more rock salt as it will settle.
    3 – They are good after 30 days and last about a year. Unrefrigerated.
    4 – the benefit of a Meyer Lemon is that the peel is thin. You only use the peel, not the fruit. I’ve tried it with Eureka or other thicker skinned lemons and it’s not the same.
    5 – If you want to use some in a salad dressing or sprinkled over fish, boil in water for 10 minutes and it will lose the heavy salt taste.
    6 – This time of the year, Meyer Lemons are prolific at farmers markets.

    Otherwise it’s great stuffed under a chicken skin with garlic. I also use it in a marinade with rosemary and garlic for Rack of Lamb.

  • Michelle

    An excellent way to use preserved lemons is as follows; In a cuisinart add 2 lemons 2tbls dijon mustard, 1/3 cup honey, 1 garlic clove,salt and pepper to taste.Whizz this mixture untill smooth then slowly drizzle in good olive oil untill you reach the consistancy of a loose mayonnaise. Toss with mesculin and top with roasted beets, goat cheese and toasted spiced nuts. Enjoy! Please be advised that you can play around with the amounts of these ingredients to reach desired specific taste.

  • aili

    Preserved lemons are alos used in a recipe for Morrocan Lamb Tagine (The Frugal Gourmet Cooks our immigrant ancestors). I don’t think anything else tastes quite like them. Mmmmmm!

  • Caryn

    I got the following from a web site selling preserved lemons. I’ve used Meyer lemons b/c I can easily get them from my counsin in Florida. Also, I’ve had a delicious arugula, goats cheese and ham salad topped with very thinly sliced preseved lemons. Very good!!!

    A classic Moroccan ingredient, preserved lemons lend an almost indecipherable flavor to a whole host of dishes such as couscous, lamb and vegetables tagines, recipes for chicken, and all manner of salads. The “lemonness” you expect is softened and sour and salty elements combine with a hint of sweetness for an entirely new flavor experience. Our good friend Mustapha’s Preserved Lemons are packed in a mild brine solution, which transforms the once bitter lemon rind into a completely different ingredient, one that you will find enticing and indispensable.

    Preserved lemons are usually rinsed to remove excess saltiness, and the rind can be blanched to remove even more of the saltiness. You can use the entire lemon if you wish, and the lemons will keep for up to a year in their brine – you may see a lacy, white substance clinging to preserved lemons; it is perfectly harmless, and can be removed by rinsing.

    Try slicing preserved lemons thinly and tucking them into a fragrant stew or lentil dish, bake with fish or lamb or toss in a fresh vegetable salad. A twist of preserved lemon rind will make for one incredible martini.

  • Matt

    You can also use the lemon rinds in soups and stews. When you add the cinnamon, coriander and so on the lemons add a whole slew of layers of flavor, and then have different uses than regular lemons. They are highly versatile, but keep in mind they are also highly potent.

    Make sure you use organic lemons, or at least thoroughly wash waxed lemons.

  • Charlene

    I gave a jar of preserved lemons to a friend as a gift and he surprised me by using them as a condiment with smoked salmon, along with the capers, green onion, rye crackers, cream cheese, etc., he also laid out the slivered rind. It was an excellent addition.

    The leftover pulp can be used for bloody marys.

    Another suggestion is to use with an oily fish like sea bass or sword fish similar to chicken recipe above. thx!

  • Robin

    I suppose it would be helpful to point out that you should prepare this only after carefully inspecting your hands for cuts and scrapes.

    Between the lemon juice and the salt your hands will smell lovely (once washed) but after making it but any cut, however small, will be very irritated. Great recipie otherwise. I love pickled anything and these lemons are great in cooking.

  • Preya

    In Vietnam they preserve sour kumquats the same way and use them in a “lemonade” type drink, though I always used to just eat them as is when I was a kid!

  • Sandy S

    We used to make a fabulous morrocan chicken with the lemons. And yes, they are really salty. Yum.
    Moroccan Chicken with preserved lemons:
    2 TB olive oil
    3 lbs skinned chicken thighs
    1 lg onion, chopped
    2 tsp paprika
    1/2 tsp ground tumeric
    1/2 C calamata or ripe olives (latter have less salt)
    1/2 tsp peper
    6-8 preserved lemon quarters
    1/4 C finely chopped fresh cilantro
    Brown chicken in oil. Remove chicken and most of the oil, saute everything else, adding 1 C water, chicken, lemons and olives plus 1 T lemon liquid after 5 minutes. Simmer, turning once, about 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.


  • littlebouffe

    Lovely photos and directions. But to respond to other comments, I’d like to chip in that you don’t have to use Meyer lemons; ordinary ones are the standard. I never had a Meyer lemon, but I’ve no doubt they would be exceptional here.

    To use them, you need to rinse them well to get rid of the salt. Also, scrape off the pulp–it will be far too salty. Then chop the peel into thin strips or dice and use them however you fancy. Most commonly, they’d be added to a stew or casserole after you’ve sauteed the onions and just before you add the liquid. Look for recipes for Morroccon chicken with olives and lemons, that’s probably the most well-known dish.

    Beautiful site.

  • Beth Owen

    What can you use these preserved lemons for, it sounds interesting, but cannot think how I would use them.

    Note from Elise: Our Moroccan chicken recipe is one idea for using them.

    • jenny

      try them with a shrimp dish, and season with old bay

  • Tammy

    Facsinating! I’ve never had preserved lemons, what do they taste like?

    Note from Elise: lemony and a little salty, but not acidic