Preserved Lemons

2. preserved lemons

Of all the recipes in this class, preserved lemons are the most magical. If you haven’t ever used them as an ingredient be prepared to be amazed! This is not the time to be squandering your precious Maldon or other fancy sea salt flakes. Any fine sea salt or kosher salt will do or even cheap table salt.

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Preserved Lemons

Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 Jar


  • 3– 4 thick skinned lemons
  • extra lemon juice
  • 6– 8 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 1-2 bay leaves optional


  • Sterilise a medium jar (with a good lid or seal) by popping in the dishwasher on the hottest cycle, or using your favourite sterilisation method.
  • Place the thick skinned lemons in a strainer and pour boiling water over the lemons to get rid of any dirt or bugs. Drain.
  • Chop a lemon into quarters, lengthwise.
  • Place a tablespoon salt in the bottom of the jar and pack in the lemon quarters, squashing them in to release as much juice as possible. Scatter with another tablespoon salt.
  • Repeat with the other 2 – 3 lemons, until the jar is full. If using the bay leaves, poke them in along the sides of the jar while layering.
  • Finish with a final tablespoon or two of salt. Cover with lemon juice. Seal jar and store at room temperature for 4 weeks before using.


takes: 15 minutes + jar washing time + 4 weeks to ‘mature’

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limes – replace lemons and lemon juice with limes and lime juice.

spiced – add a few teaspoons of cumin seeds and peppercorns.

Usage Suggestions

to use – remove one quarter from the jar. Discard the flesh and finely slice or dice the skins. They’re quite salty so go easy with the seasoning.

in general – use them anywhere you’d normally use lemon zest for a more intense, lemon kick.

in salads – finely chopped and tossed in with your salad dressing for a fragrant surprise.

sauce for fish – combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice with 4 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 preserved lemon finely chopped.

chicken tajine – toss 1/2 preserved lemon, finely sliced in a chicken stew with tomatoes & olives.

wilted greens – finely slice and toss through greens such as a simple plate of greens.

preserved lemon & yoghurt sauce – finely mince and stir a little into some natural yoghurt – great with fish, chicken or vegetables.

couscous, lentils or rice – finely chop 1/4 lemon and stir through cooked couscous or lentils or steamed rice.

Prepare Ahead?

Absolutely. Takes about 4 weeks before they’re ready. Although I have rushed it and used them sooner, the texture wasn’t as good.

Storage Best Practices

Store in the glass jar in a dark pantry. Will keep in the pantry unopened for a year but I’ve had a few last twice as long as that when they got lost in the back of the cupboard. Once opened they need to be refrigerated.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

lemons – will keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for months.

salt – pantry

bay leaves – if dried in the pantry but if fresh either dry them yourself or pop in the freezer.

Problem Solving Guide

mould growing on the lemons – if the lemons aren’t covered with the salty lemon juice they can get a white mould growing on them. Discard these lemons but the ones on the bottom should be fine.

short on time – soak whole lemons in boiling water for an hour before draining and preserving as above. Should shorten the curing time by about 2 weeks.

Packaging Suggestions

Given all the salt, well sealed glass jars are the best option.

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  • 5 stars
    Having never eaten preserved lemons I was inspired by Jules to make these and whilst waiting the 4 weeks I bought some commercial preserved lemons as I was impatient to try them – but they were horrible! They had very little taste and were very salty. I became disheartened as I waited for my own to be ready thinking I had wasted my time as clearly preserved lemons were not for me.
    Roll forward a few months and I am now on my 5th jar using this recipe. They are simply stunning, I probably eat these 5 times a week with various lunches and dinners. I’ve also made preserved limes and they are equally lovely. My absolute all time favourite Stonesoup recipe 🙂

  • I find it helpful to freeze the lemons for a bit before starting the salting process. It speeds things up enormously.

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