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Recipe: What are Preserved Lemons and How Do You Use Them?

Anything fresh lemons can do, preserved lemons can do better

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By House & Garden South Africa | January 19, 2024 | Recipes

When life gives you an abundance of lemons, you make preserved lemons. That’s exactly what happened in Northern African countries like Morocco and the Middle East where preserved lemons can be found in many homes and recipes. Essentially, preserved lemons are a kind of pickling where fresh lemons are pickled in their own juices with salt.

Although prep Time for these preserved lemons is only 15minutes, it can take at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use. But, preserved lemons and their juices are good for roughly 1 year! Not only have preserved lemons been known to promote good heart health, they also offer great anti-inflammatory properties.

When cooking with preserved lemons, it is a good idea to give them a little rinse to reduce any over saltiness, but rest assured you aren’t washing away any of the flavour that has developed in the pickling process. In preserved lemons, the peel and rind will house the most concentrated, citrusy flavours. The best way to add this into your recipe is after separating them from the lemon pulp, finely slice, mince, or chop the lemon peel.


5 large lemons

¼ cup of salt

How to make Homemade Preserved Lemons

Ensure you have a clean 500ml glass jar.

Add 1Tbsp of salt to the bottom of the jar.

Juice 2 whole lemons

Then, slice 3 of the lemons into quarters, but do not slice all the way through.

Gently open these 3 lemons and sprinkle them liberally with salt, then carefully push them back together.

Place 1 of the salted lemons in the bottom of the jar, then add 1 Tbsp of salt. Then add the next lemon/ clementine, followed by 1 Tbsp of salt and then finally the 3rd lemon followed by the 1Tbsp of salt.

Add the juice from the 2 juiced lemons to cover the fruit.

Put the lid onto the jar and store the jar in a warm, dry place – not the fridge – and shake once daily for 3 to 4 weeks in order to distribute the salt evenly. Once you open the jar to enjoy the lemons, then you will need to put it in the fridge to ensure no bacteria gets into the jar.