Salt Preserved Lemons

For this preserve I used with lemons foraged from a trash heap after the winter farmer’s market. This preparation is a perfect use of bagged lemons – I am often drawn to low cost bags of lemons only to watch them get old when I don’t use them all. Salt-preserving citrus is also a great tool for surpluses in citrus season. Salted citrus may sound unusual, but small amounts can add an intense, interesting citrus flavor to a variety of dishes. Citrus slowly cures and ferments in a dense salty, acidic brine.

Try this technique with limes or other citrus fruit as well. I have enjoyed
salted limes on tacos and curries, and brined kumquats minced in fried rice and sushi! To add preserved citrus to foods, remove a peel from the jar and scrape out the flesh. Mince the remaining peel and add as a unique seasoning.


  • 12-16 lemons per quart
  • 3-5 tsp. granular sea salt or kosher salt
  • optional seasonings, including 2 sprigs rosemary, 1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds or crushed pods, 2 red chilis like arbol, and/ or 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, olive oil
  • Instructions

    • Select your spices and put them into the bottom of the jar.
    • Quarter 6 – 8 lemons lengthwise but leave one end attached together with about 1/4″ connected
    • Stuff each lemon generously with salt, rubbing salt into the cross of the lemon. If you run out of measured salt use additional salt
    • Pack the lemons into a quart jar, pushing down after each lemon to release some juice. 6-8 lemons will likely fit in the jar
    • Juice the remaining lemons and pour the juice over the packed lemons
    • Push lemons down underneath juice to coat the lemons in the acidic juice and release air bubbles within the jar. Loosely fit a lid on the jar.
    • Press lemons underneath juice once or twice a day for three days, securing the lid after each press.
    • Cover the surface of the lemons with plastic wrap, then pour in a layer of good olive oil that comes to about 1/2″ thickness above the surface of the lemon juice. You don’t have to use the plastic wrap, but be aware that the lemons may float above this olive “air lock” if you don’t and may get mold over time. If you do see any mold, remove the moldy portion. The remaining lemons, when re-pressed under the olive oil, are safe to eat.
    • Leave to cure for 1 – 4 months in a cool, dark area. Mince quarters of the lemons and add as a unique seasoning to stews and salads.
    • I’ll work to write down some recipes for the following dishes, but in the meantime, try using your preserved lemons, about 1 tsp. minced, in the following dishes:

      • Tabbouleh
      • Chickpea Tagine
      • Spanish Rice
      • Orange Marmalade
      • Soba Noodles with Miso and/or Peanut Sauce

    6 Comments Add yours

    1. Addi says:

      We used our preserved lemons in a tabouli-like salad this evening: chickpeas, parsley, green onion, minced preserved lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Fantastic! And not too salty either.

      Liked by 1 person

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