Preserved Lemons (How to Preserve Lemons)

In cities like New York and Los Angeles, you’ll start to see a heavy food trend using preserved lemons. Delicious citrus is submerged in a briny liquid for a month. 

angled shot of preserved lemons in a blue bowl


The rinds soften, the fibers disintegrate, and what you are left with is a new ingredient full of incredible flavor.

Deep History of Preserved Lemons

Preserving lemons is a centuries-old technique developed in Morocco. The process was created in order to store the lemons for long periods of time after their harvesting season had passed. 

While it became a staple in North African cuisine, the tradition eventually spread and the ingredient became popular in Indian, Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisine.

All that you’ll need in order to make these lemons is a clean tool for scrubbing, a sharp knife for slicing, and a clean large mason jar for storing.

overhead shot of jar of preserved lemons

What You’ll Need to Make Preserved Lemons

All you need is a handful of simple ingredients to preserve lemons.

  • Fresh lemons – This is the key ingredient, of course! You can use any kind of lemons (regular lemons found in most grocery stores like Lisbon lemons or Eurekas, Meyer lemons, etc.) but choose ones that are heavy (for their size) — ideally, the lemon rinds are thin, too.
  • Coarse Kosher salt – Salt helps to enhance the flavor and aroma of the lemons. A salty brine is key to the preservation process.
  • Sugar – Sugar is also crucial for preserving lemons and, similar to salt, brings out the flavor of the fruit. You can use any kind of salt that you like — we prefer to use sea salt.
  • Whole black peppercorns – The flavor of the pepper complements the lemons.
  • Bay leaves – Bay leaves impart an herbal undertone.
fork grabbing lemon from bowl

Herbs & Spices to Add

If you want to add even more flavor to your lemons, try using fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro, and mint.

Or, incorporate additional spices like cinnamon (either ground or you can use a cinnamon stick), cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, coriander seeds, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

straight on shot of jar of preserved lemons
overhead shot of bowl of preserved lemons

How to Preserve Lemons

It only takes a few minutes of hands-on prep time to make these delicious lemons.

  1. Clean Lemons. After scrubbing and cleaning all of the lemons, slice each into quarters keeping the rind intact at the bottom. 
  2. Prepare Lemon Brine. Pour the salt and sugar into a large bowl. 
  3. Prepare Lemons. Add the lemons to the bowl and press the sugar mixture into the lemon flesh. Place the lemons into the clean jar, pressing them down so that they all fit. 
  4. Make Brine. Pour in the peppercorns and remaining sugar and salt mixture. Add the bay leaf. Fill the jar with water, covering the lemons completely.
  5. Seal. Twist a tight-fitting lid securely on top of the jar and shake. 
  6. Store. Store in the refrigerator or in a dry and cool place at room temperature. Flip the jar over a couple of times per week. 
  7. Unseal. After nearly a month, the lemons will be ready to be used.

How to Use Preserved Lemons

North African cooking employs the use of preserved lemons in lots of different recipes from Moroccan chicken tagine to chutneys, marinades, and stews. Middle Eastern cooking incorporates the ingredient similarly in addition to adding it to traditional dishes like shakshuka and falafel

There are many ways to use this fun and unique flavor, so make sure to experiment and let us know how you use them. You can use them in anything you’d add fresh lemon juice to. Here are some of my favorite sweet and savory dishes to use them in.

Storage and Freezing

Pro-tip: Store your preserved lemons in the back of the refrigerator where it’s coolest so that they last longer.

How to Store Preserved Lemons

They last so long! You can store these preserved lemons in an airtight container for up to 1 year in the fridge.

Can I Freeze Preserved Lemons?

You can freeze lemon wedges in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag for as long as you like.

lemon wedge on a fork

Common Questions About Preserved Lemons

What is the point of preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons bring bright flavor to dishes and help to balance particularly creamy dishes.

What do preserved lemons taste like?

Preserved lemons have a salty and tart flavor and add a concentrated lemon flavor to dishes.

How long do preserved lemons last? 

Preserved lemons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

More Lemon-Based Recipes

I love anything lemon, especially during spring and summer. Here are a few of our favorite lemon recipes.

overhead of lemon drop martini

Lemon Drop Martini Recipe

A Lemon Drop Martini is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Calling for just four ingredients, these easy to make martinis are easy to sip and include a lemon sugar rim.
See The Recipe!
stack of lemon cheesecake bars

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

A creamy, lemony cheesecake filling sandwiched between two layers of buttery crescent dough. Perfect casual lunch for parties and potlucks!
See The Recipe!
Slice of lemon meringue pie on a white plate

Easy Lemon Meringue Pie

A classic Lemon Meringue Pie is something everyone needs in their recipe box! Check out all of my favorite tips & tricks for the best pie!
See The Recipe!
angled shot of preserved lemons in a blue bowl with text overlay for pinterest
angled shot of preserved lemons in a blue bowl

Preserved Lemon Recipe

5 from 5 votes
These tart and sweet Preserved Lemons are the result of a centuries-old preservation technique. You can add them to tons of different dishes!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Preserving Time: 21 days
Total Time: 21 days 5 minutes
Servings: 24



  • Choose a large, wide-mouthed glass jar and make sure it is clean.
  • Scrub and clean all of the lemons
  • Cut each lemon into quarters, stopping just below the bottom, so they stay intact, but spread out like a star.
  • Place the salt and sugar into a bowl and place the lemons into the bowl, pressing the grainy mixture into the lemon flesh and grinding it in.
  • Transfer the lemons to the prepared jar. You may have to smoosh them in for them to fit.
  • Add the peppercorns, bay leaf and remaining salt and sugar mixture.
  • Fill the jar the rest of the way with water, enough to cover the top lemon.
  • Seal with the lid and shake a few times.
  • Place into the refrigerator or on a cool, dry counter. Flip upside down every 3-4 days.
  • After 3-4 weeks, open the jar and add your preserved lemons to your favorite dish.
  • If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.
Author: Jessica Formicola
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Keyword: preserved lemons
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of preserved lemons for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

5 from 5 votes

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I had no idea it was so easy to make preserved lemons at home!! I have a ton of lemons from our lemon tree and this is a great way to store them!

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve never preserved lemons before but now I absolutely have to try it! What a unique blend of flavors. Especially excited to use these in some desserts and see how they turn out!

  3. 5 stars
    That is so awesome! I love lemons, and I love finding new ways to use them even more. I can’t wait to try this recipe!