Middle Eastern and North African cuisine uses preserved or pickled lemons abundantly. The flavor sensation is like a lemon perfume. You may well know how grated citrus peel contributes great flavor to pastry. Our Weihnacht’s stollen is using both grated orange and lemon peel. Preserved lemon is all about the peel (like kumquats). The rind is developing a lemon perfume that infuses your dishes with splendid flavors. Use it with fish dishes (on top of salmon tartar) or in grain or pasta dishes . And try it in the stollen or other pastry!

The art of making preserved lemons

A briny environment and the citric acid from the lemons themselves do the work. Always cover the lemons by liquid. The initial step of salting the lemons takes place at room temperature, but prolonged storage takes place in a cooler environment. The salt draws out juice and over days the lemons can be more compressed. In this method we cover the preserved lemons with a thin layer of olive oil to keep air out.

Special equipment

  • sterilized airtight jar
    ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

    Preserved lemons

    Prep Time 30 days
    Total Time 30 days
    Course Condiment
    Cuisine Mediterranean
    Servings 20


    Ingredients to make the preserved lemons

    • 8 lemons (non waxed peel)
    • 6 tbsp kosher or sea salt
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • herbs or spices such as bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries etc optional


    Instructions to make the preserved lemons

    • Start with sterilizing the jar: either of two methods: 1. pour boiling hot water into the jar and let stand for a while and then drain without drying or 2. place the clean jar for 20-30 minutes in an oven pre-heated at 150 C and then cool down at room temperature
    • Wash the lemons and remove any untidy or brown spots
    • Cut the top part off and then make a cut down to about 1 inch from below. Then do this again perpendicular on the previous one. The lemon will have its 4 quarts still connected
    • Place 1 tbsp of salt on the flesh of each opened lemon. Do this over a small bowl, collect any juices and salt, which can be added to the jar at the end
    • Place each salted lemon in the jar and keep for several days at room temperature but in the closed jar. Press now and then the lemons, so they compress and more juice is released
    • After a week in the jar, compress the lemons again, if need be add a few new ones, pre-treated with salt in the same way. Add the juice of one or two lemons to ensure the lemons are covered by briny juice.
    • Add the olive oil on top and store in the refrigerator
    • After 4 weeks the lemon can be started to be consumed. Store longer for even better taste


    Method: no heat treatment
    Food allergy & intolerance information: none
    Keyword brined lemon, pickled lemon,, preserved lemon


  1. The use of olive oil covering the preserved lemons and cool storage, helps to reduce the salt load.
  2. Briefly rinse the preserved lemon peels in water, before chopping them up when the dish is not asking for more salt.


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