I have my favorite dozen-ish ingredients that I use most frequently when I cook. They are ingredients that make me feel safe. I am confident in how to use them well, they are good for me while also being flavorful and to this point, I feel like they compose my 'style'. This truth has never really bothered me until I signed a contract to develop one hundred original recipes for a cookbook, and realized that I would need to deviate from my go-to's for the sake of variety. I committed to this project, because I want to be better. So though lemons are clearly in my top twelve, preserving them was something new to me, so I think that counts as a step forward. Or maybe a half step, which is still that right direction.

I know there have been a LOT of lemons around here lately, but citrus is tough to beat right now, so let's be honest, there is likely more to come. I'm not typically one to say "you must make this!", but we will likely use these preserved lemons in a few recipes throughout the coming months, and I'd love it if you would play along. You could toss them in here, or in any of these:

Quinoa with Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Bulgar and Chickpeas with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Israeli Couscous with Butternut and Preserved Lemon

Green Garlic and Preserved Lemon Hummus

I read about this method in a cookbook at the bookstore, and have no clue what the title was. It's pretty free form, so I don't believe anyone will be insulted by the lack of credit given. Thank you for your help, mystery book. These are not precise measurements, as all lemons are different sizes. From what I can tell, as long as there is salt, lemons and plenty of juice in the jar, you're off to a good start.

7-ish Meyer Lemons
1 Cup Fine Grain Sea Salt
1 Tbsp. Natural Cane Sugar
2 tsp. Whole Peppercorns

1. Sanitize a large, wide mouth mason jar.
2. If buying store bought lemons, scrub them really well to get off any wax - the rind is what you'll be eating in the end so give them some elbow grease. If you have a lemon tree, then you're fine. Unless, of course, you use wax and harsh fertilizer :/
3. Cut the largest of the lemons in half and poke out the seeds. This is the one you'll be using for juice.
4. Remove the ends of the remaining lemons, and cut them in quarters.
5. Put about 1/4 cup of the salt at the bottom of the jar. Smush in four of the lemon quarters, you don't need to be gentle, we want a bit of juice to squish out. Follow them by about a tablespoon of salt. Try to let it touch the flesh of each slice. Squeeze a bit of the lemon you're using for juice and then repeat with remaining lemons and salt.
6. About midway in the jar, sprinkle the sugar in with the salt, and continue the layering.
7. When you get close to the top, smush everything down a bit. Make sure no more than an inch or two of the lemon slices are above the meniscus. Add in the peppercorns. Over the next 2-3 days, enough juice should be extracted to cover them. If not, add a bit more yourself.
8. Allow the jar to sit a few days at room temp, and then store them in the fridge. They are probably fine at room temperature, but I'm cautious. Turn them upside down every now and then to keep things moving.
9. They are ready to use in cooking after about a month, but will keep in the fridge up to 6 months.
To use, rinse the lemon of it's salty brine, and scoop away the flesh. Use the preserved peels to put on fish, in grain salads or on top of a panna cotta.

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Reader Comments (48)

I've thought about making these so many times and still have not done so. I believe it's time I take this half step too. Beautiful and inspiring images.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse

snap! I am currently ocd over meyer lemons. I am a little weary of the idea that they won't be around for the summer cocktail season. I am off to make these. Thanks for the inspiration!

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Lemons are one of my usual suspects, too - and I keep thinking about making a batch of preserved lemons but never get to it. Now maybe I'll finally do it :) Love that you used Meyers, gosh they are so tasty.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternancy


I love seeing how others preserve lemons. Having watched this recipe unfold in several Moroccan cooks' kitchens, suffice to say, the recipe is as unique as the hand that creates its taste memory.

Here's my recipe; a mixing jar of different spices and methods. Enjoy.

Preserved Lemons (Makes 6)

Compliments of

Set out a 4-cup (1 Lt) sterilized preserving jar with snap lid and retaining ring.

6 organic lemons, washed, dried and quartered lengthwise leaving a ¼ inch attachment at the top and bottom.
4 tablespoons (59ml) coarse salt (also know as pickling salt).
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon (5ml) whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground turmeric
2 cups (470ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
spring water, if necessary

• Using 2 teaspoons (10ml) of salt per lemon, rub salt into cut sections and place them vertically inside preserving jar.
• Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, whole pepper corns and ground turmeric.
• Add lemon juice and enough spring water (if necessary) to cover lemons. Place snap lid on jar, screw on retaining ring and shake gently to evenly distribute spices.
• Refrigerate for 2 months before using, turning and gently shaking jar every few days.
• Keep lemons refrigerated and use within 6 months.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Rankine

I would love to make this, you've inspired me!
Beautiful pictures, makes me long for summer...

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA Bowl Of Mush

I adore your use of light in all of these photographs. Was it a particularly sunny day?

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite

I think lemons are some of the prettiest thing on the planet. I've never used preserved lemon, but it sounds like a really interesting ingredient to work with. Hurray to the mystery book!

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Oh look at your gorgeous photos! Beautiful! I have oodles of lemons from my Azure order that I need to do something with. Thank you for posting this.. it actually looks simple and do-able :)

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah @ Mum In Bloom

Way to go! It's always tricky but exciting to step right to the edge of our comfort zones and over it. And preserved lemons are the best choice!!! They are one of my favorite things to cook with - they give everything a deep, zesty, briny, exotic pop. One of the best recipes I ever, ever made up was for grilled bread with thyme pesto and creme fraiche with preserved lemon folded into it. Have fun with your new treats.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Lemons just make me happy. Thanks for the wonderful ideas for using them!

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda @zomppa

This is a great idea... and in a month from now it will be March! And after that, April! And after that, sunshine!

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersweet road

I have always wanted to preserve lemons; you make it look so easy! I will most definitely be doing this soon!


February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBianca

seriously, I can never tire of lemon anything!!

I've been dying to make this for some time after I watched an old episode of the Naked Chef!! I think it's about time I try it!!

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

Squee! You're not going to believe this, but just yesterday my grandparents gave me a jar of preserved lemons as a thank you for watering their garden when they were away, and this morning I was thinking "I KNOW I've seen recipes using such lemons on the Internet, but how on earth will I find them again?"


February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I just just just opened my first jar of preserved limes ... I was so nervous - would they be ok? And they were great!

By the way, I sliced mine up so finely it was a jar of beautifully-scented mush. In a good way.


February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

Just love your food stories and beautiful photographs. Will visit often...

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEdwina

I'm on the train with people who "thought about doing this" but am ready to take the next step and actually do it. The photos are a bright spot on a bleak winter's landscape and these lemons would be welcome in my meals.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

I've always wanted to make these.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterconnie

wow, i've never even thought to do this. we have two lemon trees in our yard that i try to keep up with from tea to salad dressing to dips. best of luck with the cookbook! i know i've said this before, but i am SO excited to see what you come up with.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

What a brilliant idea to use Meyer lemons! Fantastic recipe! The instant I read it I knew it was one that I wanted to share with friends and family so I forwarded your blog address to them with the preserved lemon recipe. I think I may have a new favorite blog to come to for awesome recipes! I do LOVE these.

Every year I host a potluck dinner where everyone is asked to bring a Meyer lemon dish, from entrees to desserts. Everything has to have Meyer lemons in it. I just know your preserved Meyer Lemon recipe will be the talk of the party.


February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbuy lemons

The hummus sounds great!

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTender B.

I adore preserved lemons but I have never made them myself. And the idea of a preserved lemon vinagrette is awesome!

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie@Cozydelicious

I love the warmth in your photos. I love the light in your kitchen. Lemons are so cheery.

February 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShaheen {The Purple Foodie}

wonderful idea. i look forward to trying this out!

February 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramanda@seegirlcook

I love it when I have everything for something inspiring already sitting in my kitchen. I agree with Shaheen, cheer in a jar.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan G

Ya know, I've never tried my hand at preserved lemons either. It always sounded a little intimidating. Not that I don't like trying new things. I don like it when someone presents it in a quick easy to do kind of way. I think I might just give these a try!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrance

I making this today!! Thanks girl!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ WWoB

My mom loves to preserve lemons to use in her homemade lemoncello and it is just divine! Thank you for the inspiration Sara!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCoco

What cute little peppercorns those are. Thanks for sharing the experience.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSprout

[...] ancestors did whenever they had a harvest. So far, I’ve made diakon radish pickles, kimchi, preserved salted lemons, and yogurt. Food I've [...]

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeneficial Beasties « Il

I love the flavor of lemon! Your preserved lemons look wonderful.

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Preserved lemons are a staple in my pantry! I actually just wrote about them again the other day. Your blog is delightful and inspiring. Always happy to read your new posts...

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

I recently made preserved lemons, following the same basic outline as you. I made an amazing pork tenderloin dish with preserved lemons that I definitely recommend (recipe on the blog.) So simple and I gave them as gifts to family members who like cooking and now exchange recipes with them.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPercentBlog

This looks so delightfully fresh. Lemons are among my top ingredients too, but somehow I manage to over buy and end up having to throw extras out. Never again! Would love to preserve them instead!

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterASHLEA

I really love the extra tang preserved lemons give to dishes, they are especially delicious in Moroccan inspired foods, but go so well with so many other dishes as well :-)

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaria @ Scandifoodie

Sara, the days are just starting to get lighter and sunny here after the cold winter. This recipe is perfect for these first days of spring. I'm always amazed by the atmosphere you are able to create with your writing and the gorgeous photography. xx

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertiina

I love the lemon carnage in the first photograph. I can practically smell it. Also, I can't help but smile whenever I read the word "cookbook" here. Congratulations, again.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess

[...] preserved lemons from Sprouted Kitchen [...]

yay! looking forward to your book! a lot. same here, I seem to use the same ingredients all the time too, but always seem to be able to create something new out them, which is alright too. though I hardly have another choice, being an art student you don't have much money over for fancy ingredients. sadly. but hey, lemons might go well with lentils. and fried eggs?

March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

Mmm... I love the look of these pretty little lemons in their neat little jar. I don't know if I'm patient enough to wait an entire month for much of anything, but the idea of these lemons atop a beautiful piece of fish might be worth it. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Just discovered your blog and all I can say is, WOW. Beautiful photography, clear, concise, well-writtent text, simple and approachable design. You're doing everything I aspire to. Having been married to a Moroccan for over 20 years, I've had a lot of experience with preserved lemons and you hit it spot on. I'll be a regular--keep doing what you do!

March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPennie Azran

I almost always have a jar of Paula Wolfert's Seven Day Preserved Lemons in my fridge. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! Congratulations on your book deal--it's going to be amazing.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Leftoverist

Beautiful photography. I love the light in every shot. It tempts me to make preserved lemons right this very moment! So glad to have found your blog. I look forward to enjoying it often.

March 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

i started my own blog, its very small and i enjoy baking so while i do id like to keep track of what im much as i can but your blog is one the best outthere, at least in my humble opinion.

do you any tips for me? your photographs are amazing...w can i do to make ingredients and food look better?


April 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdayana

This post makes me SO happy! Thank you for sharing and for the witty way in which you do it!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatty

i have a lemon tree with so many lemon right now i dont know what to do with them but now i do thanks heaps! :D

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbetty

There is always a jar of preserved lemon in my household! I have learned it (okay you don't really need to learn it, it is V E R Y easy) when I joined a cooking class about Morocco dishes. New to me – thank you for this tip - is the sugar and pepper corn part, I will certainly try it out in my next load.

What I found really worthwhile trying out if you use the preserved lemon (chopped into very small pieces of course) in couscous. It turns a simple couscous dish into something very special (my guests LOVED it). I found this in a recipe but they used fresh lemon. Preserved lemon is WAYS better, believe me, much smoother. They served it with fish on top and you throw it in the oven for like 10 minutes until the fish is ready but meanwhile I use it without fish. I simply mix the couscous with some butter and salt (use your hands) before you mix it with water, add the lemon and boiling water, wait, eat. Some minutes work … and so good! Hope you like it.

February 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbaba_flies

So interesting! I had never even heard of preserved lemons before!

March 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVicky

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