preserved salted lemons

I love preserved salted lemons! Here’s a simple way to make them. Essentially you are preserving them in acid (lemon juice) and salt. Over a fairly short time they soften up and take on that intense and tasty salted lemon flavour that works so well in Indian, North African and other Mediterranean and Asian region cuisines. Even old English cookbooks have recipes for preserving them. They are very tasty!!!

My method may seem a little crude but it works fine. This whole process can take only about 15-20 minutes all up to get them ready to store.

As lemons can vary a lot in size and juice content – it’s just easiest to work out how much you want to end up with in the bottles rather than work it out by weight. Just try and make sure the lemons are fairly blemish free and do not have any stem attached, odd marks or scratches etc. and maybe wash them well before slicing them up.

In this case I have used smallish Meyer lemons but any good flavoured lemons will work. I think lemons with less white pith may be better i.e. with more yellow rind and pulp than white pith. And whether there are seeds in it or no does not matter much as far as I can tell as they can always be removed latter when you use the preserves.

First you decide how many bottles you want. In this batch I have done 4 x 500ml (16.9 fluid oz) jars with screw on lids. I reuse pasta sauce bottles that are ideal for this. Sterilize the bottles by putting them through your dishwasher or scrubbing them down and filling with boiling water etc. As the preserving is being done by salt and acid it’s less critical (from what I have read) than if you are preserving high sugar content material.

Keep in mind that salt and acid will likely attack and corrode metal seals over time.

Next you simply cut up the lemons into quarters and push them into the jars so you can get an idea of how many will fit. Even if you intend to remove the pulp when eating the lemon leave the pulp on now as it contains extra juice that is needed.

Once you have enough of them fitting in the jars simply tip them out into a large bowl or container and add about 100-150gms per 500ml jar of good quality salt of choice. You will end up with salt left over doing it this way. But you can alter the amount as desired through experience to get it right. You can dramatically reduce the amount of salt next time but if this is the first time you are preserving lemons it’s useful to have more salt to distribute.

I use a nice large grained rock sea salt – which is good if you can get it – but any salt will work.


After giving the lemon a good turning over in the salt in the bowl – to distribute the salt well over the lemons surface – you just lift the lemon back into the jars and press them down a bit as you go. massaging them down as you go helps to get the juice going and well distributed. Some recipes suggest freezing the lemons over night beforehand so the defrosting process before you preserve them helps in breaking down the cell walls. It’s best if you can drop a few spoons of the salt in alternately with the lemon as you go so it’s well distributed through the jar. You may end up with salt left over, but just press the lemons down further and place it on top if you can get it to fit.

When the lemon is all back in the jars start to squeeze more lemons and pour their juice into the jars until it reaches the top and there are no air bubbles. The number of lemons required will vary a lot based on their juice content.

Seal the jars and give it a bit of a rotation to distribute the juice and help any air bubbles to move to the top. Then wash any excess salt and lemon juice from the outside of the jars.

The liquid may look very cloudy at this point but it will clear with some time.

Place the bottles in a dark cool location like the back of a cupboard.

Each week pull them out and invert and rotate and roll them a bit.

From about 4 weeks onwards they can be used – however the longer they sit the better they develop.


Once opened the jars should be refrigerated and will keep for a long time that way.

You simply wash the lemon off and cut up to use. Often recipes say remove the pulp from the rind. Personally I really like the strong lemon taste of the preserved lemon pulp and the soft texture is rather nice. (as much as the lemon rind is tasty it is slightly milder). Generally though removing the pulp and slicing the peel up and using only the peel is the most common way.

The saltiness may seem very excessive when you take them out of the jar and taste them – possibly shocking at first – but when diced and added to a cooked dish it will reduce dramatically. You can reduce it even further by quickly rinsing the cut lemon rind off with water before using. And yes – the rind is significantly less salty than the pulp.

They apparently occasionally develop a white mould crust on the top of the jar – this is supposedly fairly normal and safe (I assume possibly some sort of penicillin mould?) and can be simply removed when you wan to use the lemon. I have not had it happen on my lemon preserves.

A few good tips from a morrocan source are suggested here: