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Related Ingredients

Tasting Notes

Preserved lemons impart saltiness, acidity and a unique perfume to any dish.

Their bright and bitter flavor stands out in many different Moroccan foods, from greens to braised meats to soups. The flavor of the final product depends on the variety of lemons you use. Fresh and juicy Lisbon lemons, for instance, yield a super concentrated, nuanced product. Adding lemon juice to the preserve facilitates even preserving and balances the salt.

Tips & Techniques

  1. Buy in bulk. Go ahead and buy more lemons than you think you’ll need. It’s important to pack your jar very tightly with the citrus fruit and fill any empty space with lemon juice.
  2. Waste not, want not. Set aside the lemons you’ll be preserving and use a vegetable peeler to strip pieces of zest from the lemons you are going to juice. Spread out the strips on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, transfer them to a zip lock bag and return them to the freezer. Then, whenever you need the bittersweet brightness of lemon zest in your cooking, you’ll have a full bag at your fingertips.
  3. Let’s keep this kosher. It’s best to use iodine-free kosher salt here. Sea salt also works well but it will increase the saltiness of your final product.
  4. Fill ‘er up. Once you’ve crammed as many lemons into your mason jar as possible, cover them with juice. After a week, if the lemons are no longer submerged, top them off with additional lemon juice.


These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.

  1. Mason Jar – Often used in home canning, this molded glass jar with a screw-on metal lid is the perfect vessel for preserving your lemons.

The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.

Cutting board and knife
Mason jar

Vegetable brush

  • About 6 lemons for preserving
  • About 6 more lemons for juicing, or enough to make ½ to 1 cup lemon juice
  • About ¾ cup kosher salt

Serves: 6

Total Time: 1 month

Active Time: 15 minutes

  1. Scrub the 6 lemons you will be preserving with a vegetable brush  under cold running water. Dry them very thoroughly.
  2. Pour salt into large bowl. Stand lemon stem end down on cutting board and use knife to cut down into it as though you were going to cut it in half, stopping ½ inch above stem. Make a perpendicular cut, again stopping short of the stem, so the lemon is quartered but still intact.
  3. Holding the lemon over the bowl, spread the four quarters open and pack in as much salt as you can, allowing the excess to fall back into the bowl, up to 2 tablespoons per lemon.
  4. Put the lemon cut-side up in a standard 4-cup mason jar and repeat with as many lemons as the jar will hold, pushing them down hard so they squeeze in tightly. Note: the amount of lemons you’ll be able to fit depends on the size of your lemons. If you can’t quite fit the last lemon into the jar, put the lid on the jar and leave it on the counter overnight. You can add the last lemon the next day, when the lemons are softer.
  5. Pour juice into the jar until it is filled to the brim and the salted lemons are completely submerged.
  6. Put the lid on the jar, running it until it’s just finger-tight (over-tightening can keep air from escaping and cause the lid to buckle). Note: put the jar in a dark spot, like a cupboard or pantry, not in the refrigerator. For the next week, turn and shake the jar once a day to redistribute the salt that has settled to the bottom. Add more lemon juice if you notice that the lemons are no longer submerged.
  7. Let the jar sit in that dark cupboard for a month. If you notice a little bubbling around the edge of the jar lid, don’t worry. That’s a normal part of the fermentation process.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

Grilled lamb chops & roasted eggplant

For a citrus boost, serve this preserved lemon with grilled lamb chops and roasted eggplant.