Recipes Side Dishes Vegetarian

a jar of preserved lemons with saffron

Last updated on January 30th, 2024 at 03:09 pm

Jump to Recipe

Preserved Lemons Recipe

Preserved Lemons are very easy to make at home, and a delicious addition to any salad, or great part of any Mediterranean recipes with fish or chicken. But remember that it takes three weeks to let the lemons ferment properly. If you love preserved lemons like I do, you can use an entire lemon in one dish so you may want to make more than one jar. These go hand in had with this One Sheet Pan Mediterranean Chicken bake, especially if you serve it with some Tartar Sauce on the side.

Lemons are full of healthy vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. The lemon peel has a lot of the benefits you need so this recipe for preserved lemons is healthy as well as delicious. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate where you can grow your own lemon tree, you can even use your lemons.

Ingredients needed:

  • Fresh lemons: Eureka or Meyer lemons, or whatever kind you have. I always use organic lemons, but you can use regular lemons.
  • Kosher salt: Salt is the second most important ingredient. You cannot make preserved lemons without it.
  • Fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemons make the best lemon juice.
  • Saffron: This sweet and earthy spice has a tiny bit of bitterness with honey and floral notes.
  • Bay leaf: Bay leaves make your preserved lemons taste like mint with subtle hints of pine and pepper.
  • Black peppercorns: The most common peppercorn, used for making freshly ground black pepper.
  • Red peppercorns:  Also known as pink peppercorns, they are dried berries of Brazilian and Peruvian pepper trees. They are peppery with a fruity sweet hint.

How to make preserved lemons from scratch?

  1. Prep the jar: First, place two tablespoons of kosher salt in the bottom of a one quart sterilized canning jar with a wide mouth.
  2. Clean lemons: Then, scrub clean, and rinse the lemons. Make sure you scrub them well and cut off any stems as well as a quarter inch of the tip.
  3. Cut lemons: Now, slice lemons lengthwise with a sharp paring knife but do not cut all the way through. You want the lemon attached at the base. Then, cut the other way like you would if you were quartering your lemons, but not all the way through.
  4. Salt whole lemons: Next, pull open the lemons and sprinkle with kosher salt, inside and out. Place the salted lemons in the jar, pressing down on each one as you do, letting the juice come out and rise to the top. Continue with the remaining lemons. Be sure to pack the jar full and make sure they are covered with juice.
  5. Add lemon juice: After, add enough lemon juice as needed so the lemons are all submerged. Then, add two more tablespoons of kosher salt on top.
  6. Let your lemons ferment: Last, close the jar tightly and let it sit in a cool place at room temperature for three days. Turn the jar upside down several times a day. Then, chill the jar for at least three weeks, turning it over once or twice a day.
  7. Ready to use: Finally, when ready to use, remove and rinse off the salt. Get rid of the seeds and peppercorns and remove the pulp. You can slice or chop the rind and use it as a flavor booster for any dish that needs some citrus.

Recipe variations:

  • Drink it: Chopped preserved lemon peel is delicious in many drinks including lemonade, margaritas, and even your favorite beer.
  • Add it to sauce: You could also add a bit of the chopped preserved lemons to pasta sauce or hot sauce.
  • Season your meat: Preserved lemons add a tangy flavor to any meat. It is perfect for cooking game like deer or duck.
  • Give them some heat: For spicy preserved lemons, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or chili powder to the brine.
  • Lemon zest: Use lemon preserves for any recipe that calls for lemon zest. It will make a big difference.
  • Salad dressing: You can also use preserved lemons with olive oil to make a delicious salad dressing. Add some green olives too.
  • On seafood: Place a jar of preserved lemons on the dinner table when serving seafood. They taste great on fish.

Frequently asked questions

What are preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons, also known as pickled lemons, are lemons that have been fermented or pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and whatever spices you like. They are often used in Middle Eastern cooking. This recipe calls for peppercorn, saffron, and a bay leaf but you can also try cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, coriander seeds, cloves, or cilantro. What kind of spices you use depends on what recipes you plan to use them in so keep that in mind.

How do I sterilize mason jars?

In the dishwasher, you can put the jars in the dishwasher with the openings facing down. Run the dishwasher in the sanitizing cycle. Or you can sterilize jars in a pot. Just put the jars with the opening facing up in a large canner or stockpot on a canning rack. Fill with enough water to cover the jars by one inch. Cover the stockpot with a lid and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and let the jars dry naturally.

Should I peel my lemons?

No. You need to leave the peel on for this process. The preserved lemon peel gives your preserved lemons the most flavor because that is where all the concentrated citrus is located. You can remove the peel before using the flesh, but you get many of the vitamins from the peel like vitamin C and other health benefits. Most people mince the whole lemon and use it like that. Also, some recipes call for only the peel.

How to store leftovers:

  • Store: A jar of preserved lemons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months in the jar.
  • Freeze: If you plan on freezing your preserved lemons, put them in a freezer bag and they can be stored in the freezer for over a year.
  • Thaw: Refrigerate overnight before using.

More lemon recipes to try:


Preserved Lemons

  • Prep Time20 MIN
  • Cook Time
  • Servings 4 medium jars


  • 8 to 10 lemons Meyer lemons are best for this recipe, but you can use any that you have on hand
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon red peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice or more


  • First, sterilize the jars that you will be using. I have described in the blog post how.
  • Next, wash well and the lemons. Cut off any stems and bout 1/4 inch from the tip of the lemons.
    washing lemons in a colander
  • After that, slice them int wedges. Arrange them on a plate or cutting board, flesh side out, and sprinkle generously with salt.
    sliced lemon wedges on a cutting board
  • Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the bottom of a sterilized 1-quart canning jar. And arrange the lemon wedges tightly in the jar. Press them down so the juices come out and rise to the top. It's ok if some lemons breakdown.
  • Also, add some saffron, a bay leaf, and distribute the peppercorns between the jars.
    overhead shot of a jar with preserved lemons
  • Add more lemon juice if needed to submerge the lemons. And add about one tablespoon of salt on top of the lemons.
    pouring brine over a jar of preserved lemons
  • Close the lid tightly and let it sit at room temperature for a few days. During this time, make sure to turn the jar upside down a few times.
  • After a few days, about 4-5, transfer the jar to the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks, until the rinds of the lemons soften. Turn the jar upside down occasionally during this time.
  • To use the preserved lemons, remove as many as you need from the jar, and rinse it to remove the salt. Discard the seeds, remove the pulp, and 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.

Nutrition Facts

Recipe tips:

  • Instead of using your fingers, you can use the end of a wooden spoon to push the lemons down. Be sure to press them down so they are tightly packed, so they soak in their own juices.
  • For finely chopped lemon rinds without all the work, just toss them in a food processor. You could also use it to make puréed preserved lemons.
  • When you make preserved lemons scrub them to remove the dirt as well as the waxy coating some of them have.
  • Use more lemons as will fit in your jar and as much extra lemon juice as you need to keep them covered.
  • If you cannot find Meyer lemons, you can use Eureka lemons, or any regular lemon will do in a pinch, but the Meyer lemons have a thinner skin.
  • Remember, a little goes a long way. But if you want to make more preserved lemons, use two jars and stuff them full.
  • You can use a mason jar or any other glass jar. For this recipe, we used a medium jar, but you can use a different size depending on how many preserved lemons you want.

Already made this?
Share your feedback


Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen

Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen

I use a lot of lemons in my kitchen but I never thought about preserving it. Thanks for the idea!

Ivan Carlo Jose

Ivan Carlo Jose

I haven't thought about preserving lemons. This is a great idea if we have extra lemons at home. I think this will go well with grilled seafood and even meat dishes.

Christy G

Christy G

I’ve never heard of preserved lemons before. I’ll have to try them soon. I bet they are tasty.

Rose Ann Sales

Rose Ann Sales

This is my first time to know that lemons can be preserved. I really like it!

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.