Making Preserved Lemons at Home

Making Preserved Lemons at Home


Making Preserved Lemons at Home

Although preserved lemons are a centuries-old condiment using an equally aged process, making them at home is my only choice

I live in a relatively rural area. Although we do have a couple of grocery stores (one is a WalMart Supercenter – the smaller kind) I can promise you there are NO preserved lemons in the whole county.

So I am thrilled that making preserved lemons at home is a simple task. And I love the idea of knowing exactly what is in the jar – no weird chemicals or additives.

History of Preserved Lemons

Preservation of food is one of the oldest kitchen “hack” in the world. People from all over the world have preserved food that is plentiful or in season for use when those ingredients are not easily available.

Fruits, vegetables and other foods like spices and plants are used in a preserved form every day. Drying, pickling and curing with salt or sugar help to preserve these things and make them available for year round cooking.


lemons, jars and salt for preserving
Preserved lemons start with lemons, salt and canning jars
lemons on the tree

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are famous for their use in Moroccan cooking, but actually it has been common to preserve food that is out of season or is not regionally available.
Use the intensely salty and lemony rind in many recipes - fish, grains, vegetables - anything that needs a little punch.


  • 6 - 8 lemons
  • 8 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • Extra FRESH lemon juice, as needed


  • Quarter the lemons. Squeeze the juice of each quarter into the jar and drop the rind in. Sprinkle with one Tablespoon of the Kosher salt. Continue squeezing and salting until the quarters are within 1" to 1 1/2" of the jar opening. 
    If the jar is too full, push the lemons down with a wooden spoon. Remove quarters as needed to top jar with an inch or so of fresh lemon juice. The most important thing is that all lemons are covered with juice. 
    Seal jar and set on the counter for a week.
    After a week, move the jar to the refrigerator for two more weeks, shaking once or twice a week.


lemons on a cutting board
Lemons quartered for preserving

Quick Preserved Lemons

There is recipe for making preserved lemons in a substantially shorter time frame. It uses a different kind of lemon, a Meyer lemon, but that kind of fancy produce isn’t available in my neck of the woods for sure!

The Meyer lemon is thinner skinned. In this recipe, the lemon is thinly sliced to make up for the time of pickling whole, regular lemons.

I haven’t tried this recipe, but it comes from Martha Stewart, the Queen of All Things Home and Cooking, so I am sure it is on point, but the result won’t be exactly the same.


Homemade Dog Food


lemons on the tree

Quick Preserved Lemons

This quick version of preserved lemons uses a thinner skinned Meyer lemon and also uses them sliced super thin to make up for the time of pickling whole regular lemons.


  • 6 Meyer lemons approx 8 ounces
  • 3 ounces FRESH lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar


  • Wash lemons in hot water (to remove any waxy coating); halve them lengthwise and slice very thinly crosswise. Combine with salt, sugar, and lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature 1 day, then transfer to a jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
lemon quartered and juiced for a jar of preserved lemons
Making preserved lemons at home is easy and fulfilling.

Sous Vide Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are just as vital to Moroccan cuisine as Jaama el-Fna is to Marrakech.  The problem with this for many in the US is availability and convenience.  If you can’t find them in your market at home, you must resort to making them.

The issue with this is that traditional preservation methods take a curing time of a little more than a month.  Luckily, the sous vide can speed up this process to take just a little over an hour.  While your sous vide preserved lemons will not have the depth of those cured traditionally, they will do for most recipes.

jars of lemons prepared for preserving

Sous Vide Preserved Lemons


  • Sous Vide Machine


  • 2 large lemons cut into eighths
  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar raw or white


  • Preheat sous vide to 83.9° C / 183° F.
  • Place the lemon pieces, salt, and sugar in a zip lock or vacuum seal bag, massage the salt into the lemons, ensuring that all the lemons are covered.
  • Seal and submerge the bag into the water bath, and cook for 60 minutes.
  • Remove the bag from the water bath and empty the contents into a glass jar.
  • Allow the lemons to sit for at least 60 minutes. If you can, refrigerate overnight before using for best results.
  • The preserved lemons will keep for several months, deeping in flavor.

Making Preserved Lemons at Home or Buying At A Store

If you haven’t ever tried preserved lemons, or maybe preserving ANYTHING, you might be thinking you want to give them a taste before you get out the canning jars.

I pinky-promise that making preserved lemons at home is easy, but it does take a little time, and if you are ready to try them now, they should be available at most grocers with a decent gourmet section.

If you are like me and are limited in grocer availability and selection, you can get them at any number of gourmet retailers like Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

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