How to Preserve Lemons

February 27, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Make citrus season last a little bit longer -- or forever.

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As the seasons change, so does what we eat. But sometimes, we dream of making certain seasons last a little bit longer -- especially that of citrus, one of our personal favorites.

Watch Associate Editor Kristy shows us a super-simple way to preserve lemons: quarter your lemons, salt them, and pack in as many as you can into a mason jar. After letting the lemons sit for two weeks or so, toss them into Braised Moroccan Chicken and Olives.

This video was shot and edited by Kyle Orosz.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Fran McGinty
    Fran McGinty
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    Sherry Brown Potensky
  • robin lewis
    robin lewis
  • Laura415

Written by: gheanna

My two (current) favorite foods start with the letter D: doughnuts, and dumplings. If a dish has bacon in it, I will most likely eat it. If I could marry honey butter, I would.


Fran M. November 25, 2017
Can limes & oranges be preserved the same way? I have some strange sensitivity to lemons ?
Sherry B. September 28, 2015
My mother is Hakka (Chinese) originally born in China. In Hawaii, it is not unusual to see Chinese families storing their preserved lemons on the roofs of their houses. These jars would stay in the sun for YEARS (like 10)! Chinese people have been using it for cooking and for medicinal reasons. My mother would make a room temperature tea and add sugar to ease a sore throat. My mouth would salivate when she opened the jar...I loved the tartness and flavor.
robin L. August 25, 2015
Is Kosher salt recommended? And does it matter some of the lemons (from a tree in our backyard) are on the large (maybe overgrown) size?
Laura415 August 22, 2014
I usually get my preserved lemons at a local health food store. They are not like any of the ones I've made in the past as they are whole and uncut. They taste wonderful. I would like to know if it is ok to just make preserve them whole in the jar instead of cutting them. I've also prepared many citrus for baking in cakes and other recipes that have you boil the whole fruit for a few minutes to soften the skin. What do readers here think of these ideas? Whole preserved lemons possibly boiled for a few minutes to soften the skin before putting in the salt and lemon juice.
SUSAN July 1, 2013
Joan Nathan (cookbook author) will stuff her roast chicken with a whole UNRINSED preserved lemon and use some of the juice in the roasting pan. I've started to do this too, and it adds a delicious flavor to the chicken and vegetable that roast in the pan with the chicken.
anngllp May 27, 2013
Kyle – Oh, how I wish we were neighbors!
PRST March 23, 2013
Make sure you use a kosher salt without additives!
tota March 5, 2013
I use another recipe that has always worked well--after the washing etc as described, I cut the lemon into quarters, and put into freezer overnight. The next day, I pop the quarters into a mason jar, with 1T of kosher salt per lemon, and leave out on counter for 7 days. They are then ready to use. I have always kept in frig, but after seeing someone below say they can be kept in pantry, I may try this too. Depending on recipe I use the pulp as well as peel, but I do tend to give a quick rinse off for salt many times. Not sure why yours were so overpowering Julie, try again!
julie_chicago March 5, 2013
I tried this last winter. After 3 weeks and rinsing the preserved lemons, I still felt that they were so salty as to be inedible. I pretty much did what's in the video, but I used salt with reckless abandon because I thought that was correct. Any tips for doing this without over salting (I love salty, pickled things btw). Is there something I'm not understanding?
bluet March 5, 2013
If they were too salty used as an ingredient, try actually soaking them in a couple changes of water. What I'm saying is don't judge the taste straight from the jar. Also, be sure to use kosher salt.
Aunt S. March 5, 2013
try the recipe I posted below under "Aunt Suzy". I've been making for over 10 years and have never felt the skin is too salty after rinsing. The pulp on the other hand . . . :-)
tota March 5, 2013
Whether to rinse off the salt before using depends on recipe-sometimes I leave them as is and reduce the salt called for, other times I rinse off. These are great added to any sauteeed greens or pilaf type recipe. I use them year-round.
monsan March 4, 2013
Interesting but my recipe adds a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, a few allspice seeds and 2 bay leaves. . .fabu added to a pork or lamb shoulder, short ribs, chopped in salsa w/bell peppers, capers, herbs, etc., to top grilled fish. . mmmm
MrsWheelbarrow March 4, 2013
I keep preserved lemons in the cupboard, not the refrigerator. They continue to preserve and will get softer, but they don't spoil.
HolisticHunny March 3, 2013
Well, this seems simple enough to do, and I have a load of Meyer lemons in my fridge right now. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and video.
Aunt S. March 3, 2013
I learned about preserved lemons from a NY Times article many years ago and have been making ever since. (recipe and link to the original article is here http://sweetandsavorykitchens.com/?s=preserved+lemons) This article opened me up to the wonderful world of Moroccan cooking - there are many fantastic cookbooks and a great place to start is with one from Paula Wolfert. We find that the lemons last for a year plus.
kimikoftokyo March 3, 2013
i am going to try it!! so simple
Maggie J. March 3, 2013
How long do preserved lemons last in the refrigerator?
CHeeb March 3, 2013
Months and months...as long as you do not put a dirty spoon or fork in their jar, it should last 3-6 months.They get juicier and some pulp separates from the skin over time, but their flavor gets better.NJOY!!!
bluet March 3, 2013
Use thin skinned lemons of any variety and boil the mason jars first according to the instructions that come with the jars. A dozen jars cost under $10. and the extras are perfect for storage. Rinse before using and scrape the pulp from the skin. Don't be put off by the texture, or appearance of the juice, preserved lemons are fantastic in anything in which lemons are used.
bluet March 3, 2013
The juice can be used in sauces and salad dressings, too.
Joan T. March 3, 2013
I have a Meyers Lemon tree that gives me a bumper crop of lemons..
how long will these last in the refrigerator...a few months.?...
Making a new jar as I finish the old one doesn't help long term
when these beauties need to be saved.
paulita52 March 3, 2013
I am sorry.. I just don't understand.. Do you rinse off the lemons to use them? How can you use the liquid if its all salty?
Don R. March 3, 2013
I had the same thought. It does seem the lemons will be very salty.
Urvish T. March 3, 2013
I've made these before. You do rinse of the lemons before using them. They are not as salty as you think but have a sort of pickled taste. In Morocco they use the pulp to cook with in stews etc. and the rinds as a finishing touch, added at the end in stews or even salads. The liquid makes an EXCELLENT martini and if used sparingly, good in salad dresses, marinating chicken etc.
Thank you. I'm always on the look out for a new way to try a martini. This sounds amazing.
tamater S. March 4, 2013
Paulita52, I think you clean/rinse the lemons before preserving them, not before using in a recipe, so as not to introduce bacteria to the jar; same idea as using a very clean spoon to fish them out of the jar as needed.

These salted lemons are a whole new & very different world of taste for most of us in North America, but it's well worth experimenting with them, perhaps using the reader's comments here. I'm on my 2nd. year of using these things; they're a new cooking inspiration for me. Hope this helps.
Suzannah K. March 2, 2013
Excellent with sausage and potatoes; cook in cast iron with onions, cinnamon, S&P and preserved lemon.