Preserved lemons are a fun addition to any dish or baked good! My preserved lemons recipe includes curing with both sugar and salt. These fun condiments are worth the wait for the fun flavor they add to recipes.
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I was first introduced to these crazy things called preserved lemons years ago! Back in my cooking hay days. It was part of this delicious recipe for a chicken couscous salad.
In the restaurant, we originally made these using Meyer Lemons, which if you don’t know the difference between lemons and Meyer Lemons… you are missing out! Also, I talk about them in this Meyer Lemon Curd Tart. Simply amazing.
Anywho, this particular preserved lemons recipe can totally work for both the regular lemons that everyone uses but Meyer Lemons work just as well.
What Are Preserved Lemons Used For
Preserved Lemons are a common ingredient found in Moroccan cooking. They’re great added to stews (or tagines). I also love throwing them into salads and baked goods. They are mainly used for adding a salty/sweet lemony flavor to a dish. It’s a great, and creative way, to use up the rind beyond just zesting the lemon.
What Do Preserved Lemons Taste Like (Are They Salty or Sweet)
It has to be said that they are variations on how preserved lemons can taste, depending on how you cure them. There are recipes out there that only use sugar or salt to preserve the lemons. However, I was taught continually make preserved lemons using a combination of salt and sugar. Both sugar and salt are great preservatives but I feel like using both creates a nice salty/sweet balance to the lemons.
I need to warn you though, you do rinse off the juice/ sugar and salt mixture off the preserved lemons because it is super intense if you don’t. You’ll still have a great flavor but just for the sake of your taste buds, rinse them off.
Preserved lemons are not fermented because there are no alcohol by-products. This is, roughly, the same method that you would use to macerate berries or other fruits!
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Making these awesome preserved lemons don’t take a lot of skill; they are super easy to make!
First thing is first, you need to wash your lemons before preserving them. Even if you get your lemons at the store, especially if you get them at the store. Barring the lemons being touched by other people, they’re often coated with a waxy coating and that needs to be removed before anything happens. You also want to get rid of any bacteria lurking on the lemons because you don’t want any bacteria preserved alongside your lemons.
Once the lemons are washed and dried, you need to cut the lemons in a way that the salt and sugar mixture can fully preserve the lemons. I like to make 4 cuts into the lemons, leaving about a quarter inch left on the bottom of the lemon intact. This will help keep the preserving mixture within the lemons.
After the lemons are cut, it’s time to stuff them with salt and sugar. Regular table sugar works just fine and I prefer using kosher salt. I feel like kosher salt is less “salty” than table salt. And I’m not looking to add any underlying tones of flavors with pink or even grey salts.
As I’m stuffing the lemons with salt and sugar, I place them in a container that can be sealed airtight to allow my lemons to preserve. A mason jar, in this case, was my choice! Anything that is clear and that can be airtight is what you’re looking for. You also want to make sure that this container is sanitized as well and as clean as possible!
When the lemons are all done, seal the jar and date it! It’s going to be sitting for one month, so be sure to mark it on the calendar as well.
When Are Preserved Lemons Ready
It takes about a month for the curing of the lemons to be completed. Be sure to stick your container of preserved lemons in a cool and quite cupboard for the month so that there is no fluctuation in temperature.
You’ll notice that the lemons are ready when there is a ton of liquid from the juices leeching out because of the salt and sugar. The lemons will still be yellow but will have a slight limp appearance.
You can feel free to start using them after a month. Once the jar is opened, however, you will need to refrigerate the preserved lemons to keep them from spoiling.
How Long Do Preserved Lemons Last
After the 30 day period of curing the lemons, preserved lemons can last almost indefinitely if kept at cool temperatures within your refrigerator.
Though, I will say to keep an eye on the color of the lemon juice within the container. If you see that it’s turning from a light yellow to light or even dark brown color, it’s safe to throw it out and start a new batch. Keep an eye on the date of the jar and you’ll be golden.
How Can You Use Preserved Lemons
This is the fun part! These lemons are great to play around with wherever you like adding lemons.
Before I give you ideas, I have to tell you how to use these things. You see, you don’t use the whole lemon… you only use the rind. Could you imagine the pucker of someones face if they ate the meat of a preserved lemon? Holy cow! It’s super easy, though to remove the meat of the lemon from the rind.
All you have to do is just take a paring knife, go under the meat and bring the knife to the other side of the rind. Voila. Now on to the ideas.
With preserved lemons being found predominately in Moroccan cooking, they’re very common to see in tagines, or stews cooked within these clay pots. They add a nice flavor to the stew while also adding great texture. They would make a lovely addition to my Moroccan Lamb Stew with Herbed Israeli Couscous
As I mentioned in the beginning, I first saw these being used in a Chicken couscous salad and was super inspired by that. I decided to add it to my Morocca Couscous Salad that is a family favorite!
I once made a flatbread pizza for some friends that was a hit! Roasted asparagus, dates, and preserved lemons topped this awesome flatbread!
My husband is a muffin connoisseur, so I try to come up with different muffin flavors just to excite him. Once, I made a preserved lemon and cranberry muffin that he swooned over!
Preserved lemons would also make a fantastic addition to shrimp or chicken scampi!
Basically, anywhere you can add lemon zest, preserved lemons can be substituted.
I hope that you enjoyed learning about preserved lemons! They’re super easy to make and the application is endless when you think about how you can use them! If you loved this post so much, feel free to tell me down below (along with a comment!)
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- 2 lbs cleaned whole lemons
- ½ cup table sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
- Clean whole lemons with soap and water to get rid of bacteria.
- Cut lemons into quarters, leaving about 1/4” uncut.
- Mix together salt and sugar. Pack lemons with salt and sugar mixture and place into an air tight container.
- Seal container and allow to sit out in a cool cupboard for 30 days.
- Refrigerate upon opening and use within 6 months to 1 year.
In the months of December-March, you can preserve Meyer Lemons for a sweeter version that can still be used in any recipe.
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Amount Per ServingCalories 41Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 3538mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 2gSugar 8gProtein 1g
This nutrition information is just an estimate.