You can easily make preserved lemons are home. Use them in all sorts of different recipes, from stews to tagines, sandwiches and salads. You only need 15 minutes of active prep time for the perfect preserved lemons!
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines offer a variety of pickles and condiments to enjoy alongside any dish. From Persian pickles with tomatoes, quick pickled cabbage and pickled turnips to toum (Lebanese garlic sauce), tahini sauce and zhoug, we love some tang and kick with our meals. Today we're going to make one of the most popular condiments across the region: preserved lemons are easy to prepare and call for only 3 ingredients. Follow along to learn how to make delicious preserved lemons at home.
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All about preserved lemons
Also known as lemon pickle, this condiment is popular in Middle Eastern and North African - particularly Moroccan - cuisine. The lemons are quartered (like we have done here) or diced, then mixed with lemon juice, salt and some spices if desired. Then they're left for a few weeks to ferment for use in numerous recipes.
Preserved lemons can be used in a variety of dishes. The pulp is edible and is usually added to soups or sauces, but the main flavor lies within the peel. It's lemony, bright, tangy and bold. Once the pickled lemon is added to a dish, it rises to a whole new level of deliciousness!
How to preserve lemons
- Wash, scrub and dry the lemons completely. Make sure they are completely clean. Cut the lemons into quarters but keep the bottoms intact.
- In a bowl, mix the salt and sugar. Fill each lemon with the mixture of salt and sugar. Place them all in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate overnight and then transfer everything into a clean jar and press down to squeeze as many lemons as possible. Top with lemon juice and make sure the lemons are submerged in lemon juice.
- Store in the fridge for at least 3 weeks up to 6 months.
You can add spices or herbs such as peppercorn, coriander seeds, thyme, bay leaves or even fresh rosemary to this recipe. The recipe I've shared here is the basic version.
What to do with preserved lemons
Preserved lemons can be used in many different recipes. While you can use the flesh for some recipes, it's the peel that offers the most flavor. It's best to first rinse the pickled lemon to remove any excess salt before using it it recipes. Here are a few ideas on how to use preserved lemons:
- Add it to dishes such as soups and stews such as Moroccan red lentil soup, Mediterranean lentil soup, Moroccan chickpea stew.
- Use it in marinades such as harissa chicken, baked salmon, Moroccan chicken or spatchcock chicken.
- Use it in salad dressings such as Mediterranean salad for more flavor.
Frequently asked questions
Regular lemons (known as Eureka lemons) as well as Meyer lemons would work for this recipe. It's best to use organic lemons if available. Use lemons that have bright skin and no brown spots.
Once fermented in salt and lemon juice, pickled lemons get acidic and salty with intense umami flavors. They don't have a kick a strong as regular lemons but they have more flavor.
Yes, once they are ready, you can eat and use the whole lemon, including the skin and flesh. I recommend rinsing the lemon quickly before using to remove excess salt.
The longer the lemons stay in the brine, the darker they will get. After 6 months, the lemons will start turning dark yellow to brown, but this doesn't mean they have gone bad.
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Preserved Lemons Recipe
- 12 large lemons
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- 2 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 cups lemon juice to fill the jar
- Scrub the lemons clean, then wash and dry them completely. Cut the lemons into quarters but keep them intact at the bottom. Place the lemons in a large bowl.
- Mix the salt and sugar in a small bowl. Spoon this mixture into the lemons. Cover the bowl of lemons with a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for the lemons to release their juices.
- Transfer everything into a clean jar and press to fit as many lemons in one jar as possible. Fill the jar with lemon juice all the way to the top and make sure the lemons are submerged.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 weeks up to 6 months. The lemons are most probably ready in 3 weeks, once they are tender and a bit deflated.
- Make sure the jar is completely clean and sterilized.
- Depending on the lemons, the juice they release and the size of the jar, you will need 1 to 2 cups of lemon juice to fill the jars.
- You can use pickled lemons in different recipes including Moroccan chickpea stew or Moroccan chicken. It would also be delicious as an addition to marinades.
- Once they are ready, all parts of the preserved lemon including the peel and pulp are edible. It's best to quickly rinse them under cold water to remove excess salt.
- Preserved lemons keep up to 8 months in the fridge. The longer they stay in the brine, the darker they will get.
How many additional lemons will I need for the amount of juice? Or can I use bottled lemon juice?
I can't wait to try this! I love cooking with lemon. I've never seen preserved lemons like this before.
Oh yum! Such a wonderful way to add flavor to a variety of dishes. I love how to lemons take only 15 minutes of active prep.
Love lemons in any form, and this sounds great. Thanks for the detailed instructions.