Preserved lemons

Preserved Lemons Recipe. Tajine Necessities

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons

They are a must in our Moroccan Cuisine. I am happily sharing one of the great secrets of our wonderful cooking. Sorry, but the store-bought variety doesn’t even begin to compare with its homemade counterpart. Preserved Lemons take minutes to prepare and two weeks to “incubate” totally unassisted. And the result is a few months’ supply of luscious preserved lemons: the single element that will convert many of your dishes from plain to glorious. Boy your friends will be thrilled to receive a jar, so don’t hesitate to make a double batch, one for you one for them!

The Fragrance of Preserved Lemons

It is positively intoxicating. To me it’s almost as exciting than receiving a bottle of perfume. I swear I could dab it on my neck!

A pure lemon quintessence for lemon lovers only. Call this great condiment our secret weapon for countless tajines, soups,  fish, beans and rice dishes. Try it in paella, even in tartare!

When lemons are plentiful, buy a dozen or two. That plus a box of coarse salt, and a couple of wide-mouth glass jars. Now hunker down to a whole batch of them. That is all you need!
Oh yeah don’t forget some elbow grease to cram the lemons into the jar and coax the juices out: That is the secret of their swelling and pickling, as well as their heady aroma.

Done Layering and Cramming?

Preserved lemons


You’re almost done, yay! Now the super simple trick is to place the jar in a dark cool place, where the lemons “incubate” and get all preserved and pickled. That’s where all the deliciousness happens. Once they are fully preserved, now move the jar in the refrigerator and use them as needed. After each use, replace the jar of preserved lemons in the refrigerator.  They will last you a goof few months.

Do Not Let the Amount of Salt Daunt You!

Coarse sea salt


Wash it away! Plus you can reduce, or even eliminate, salt from the dish you are preparing with the preserved lemons. Discard the pulp, rinse the skin, mince it in the dish, and you’re good to go! I usually don’t add any salt to any dish that includes them: the rinsed skin is salty enough to season the entire dish.



  • 8 to 10 large thick-skinned lemons
  • Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt


Wash and dry the lemons thoroughly.

Remove any green points attached to the ends of the lemons.
Cut them in quarters lengthwise.
Place 2 -3 pieces in a clean wide-mouth quart-sized glass jar, top with a thick layer of salt.

Repeat: Lemon, salt, lemon, salt, and so on

All the way to the top, pressing down hard as you go to draw out the juice. Don’t worry if the juices don’t appear immediately; they soon will, with all that salt. The lemons should be totally submerged by their own juice, and reach all the way to the top of the jar. Top with an extra layer of salt to ensure that no lemon skin is exposed (or it will mold). You will need 2 quart-size Mason jars.

Place the jars in a dark cool place

I keep mine under the sink. They will be ready in two weeks, at which point they should be refrigerated. To use, take out a quarter of a lemon at a time. Discard the pulp, rinse the skin thoroughly, and mince. Add to fish and chicken dishes, bean soups, salads, and salsas. Makes about 2 quarts. After the two weeks of pickling at room temperature, store refrigerated.

9 replies
  1. Sybil
    Sybil says:

    I made these with a bag of organic lemons this past summer, and now I want to use them all the time! I keep looking ofr excuses to put preserved lemons into everything I make, they are so good. Also, don’t throw out the innards: it’s a good addition to salad dressing and other sauces. I’m so glad I made these!

  2. Chaya
    Chaya says:

    I made preserved lemons a few weeks ago to add to my moroccan salmon and now have some leftover in the fridge. Im looking for some moroccan salads that I can add them to.
    I know my mothers adds them to an eggplant olive salad. Any other ideas?

    Thank you

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  4. Kitty M
    Kitty M says:

    Hi, I have been teaching how to make preserved lemons a la marocaine ever since I started teaching Moroccan cooking about 30 years ago. Bravo for propagating the secret.

    My recipe, included in all my cookbooks (and Cooking at the Kasbah), which comes from my Algerian great grandmother, calls for letting them “sit” at room temp. 4 to 6 weeks, not 2.

    Vive les citrons confits, soudainement à la mode.
    Are you from Morocco?

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Hi Kitty, so nice to hear from you! I received one of your cookbooks as a present a long time ago. Just like you, I have been teaching cooking for over thirty years, on Moroccan and many other themes, so I am certainly not starting a fad here! All my cookbooks prominently display citrons confits in quite a few dishes! Yes I am from Morocco. Do you live in NYC?

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