Spiced Preserved Lemons

How to make preserved lemons, a cornerstone ingredient in Moroccan cuisine and an easy way to jazz up everything from salad dressings to stews. The salty-sour essence of preserved lemons, it's truly special.

Spiced Preserved Lemons ♥ KitchenParade.com, just lemons, salt and pantry spices but so handy to have on hand.

Preserved Lemons Made from Scratch, Spiced & Special. Year-Round Kitchen Staple, an Ingredient Often Called for in Mediterranean Recipes. Budget Friendly. Easy DIY. Keeps for Months. Naturally Gluten Free.

The Homemade Pantry ♥ KitchenParade.com, a special collection of recipes for ingredients and dishes we could easily buy but choose to make from scratch at home because they taste better, cost less, have fewer or higher-quality ingredients or are simply more convenient.
This recipe fits into a special collection of recipes I call
The Homemade Pantry
stuff we could easily buy
but for one reason or another
(better taste, lower cost, more convenience, fewer ingredients)
choose to make from scratch
at home in our own kitchens.

The "Extras" That Make Good Cooks Better Cooks.

Good cooks keep odds and ends around, more "ingredient" than "dinner" but somehow, once they're around, just convert something so-so to something extravagant.

Like other "homemade pantry" ingredients, Spiced Preserved Lemons would fall into that often-so-interesting chapter called "other" at the end of cookbooks.

You don't eat them on their own.

And even when you make them, you often can't use them for at least five days (this recipe) or even longer (some preserved lemons take months to fully cure).

As recipes, they don't really "fit" anywhere.

But really? These oddball odds and ends, they up a good cook's game, a sort of secret weapon hidden in the fridge.

As an aside, I've learned to check this "other" chapter in cookbooks first thing. It often includes the very best of homemade kitchen staples!

I just checked my own "other" category – I call it Little Extras That Make a Big Difference – and same holds true, it's full of oddball but (what I hope you find intriguing) recipes.

So Let's Consider Preserved Lemons

You could call preserved lemons "pickled lemons" because they're preserved in a simple brine of salt and spices. They're so-so simple to make and there's a good chance you already have all the ingredients on hand.

My next recipe will show you how to use Spiced Preserved Lemons in a "concept recipe" stew that we've made every couple of weeks since last fall, swapping out different proteins and vegetables.

The single constant? Preserved lemons.

So I hope you'll spend a few minutes to preserve some lemons, then put the jar in the back of your fridge until next week.

Because next week? I'll share a season-crossing concept recipe, so many variations with protein and vegetables, here it is now, Spiced Chicken with Roasted Cauliflower Tagine. The recipe has only one required ingredient, preserved lemons.

And yes, like many "homemade pantry" recipes, you can some times find preserved lemons in specialty food shops and international groceries. But they're pricey-pricey.

Putting them up at home? All it takes is lemons, salt and a few spices you probably already have.

That's it.

Lemons for Spiced Preserved Lemons ♥ KitchenParade.com, just lemons, salt and pantry spices but so handy to have on hand.

What's In Spiced Preserved Lemons? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe, it just works.

  • Lemons Look for lemons with plump unblemished skins, preferably ones with thinner vs thicker skins. Some cooks choose organic lemons to avoid chemicals on the skins. But organic or not, you'll want to wash the lemons well, some times they have a waxy coating. Sweeter lemons like Meyer lemons work well but since they're only found during certain times of the year, don't stress and use the freshest lemons you can find.
  • Water & Salt What's most important here is to retain this exact proportion of water:salt. Our "house salt" is Morton's Kosher Salt. If you're using the same salt, it's just fine to measure the salt by volume. But if you're using another salt, Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or a sea salt, it's important to measure the salt by weight, not volume since different salts have different consistencies which affects how they measure by volume.
  • The "Spices" I love this mix of coriander, peppercorn, whole cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon. If you want, sure, mix these up a little, just try to stick within the flavor profiles and volumes. For example, this cumin-lovin' cook can definitely see substituting toasted whole cumin for toasted coriander.
Lemon slits for Spiced Preserved Lemons ♥ KitchenParade.com, just lemons, salt and pantry spices but so handy to have on hand.

How to Make Spiced Preserved Lemons

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in four easy steps. You can definitely do this!

  • PREP THE LEMONS Wash the lemons well, then cut into the lemons tip to top, cutting through the skin but without cutting into the interior flesh.
  • SIMMER THE LEMONS in salted water for about 20 minutes.
  • PACK THE LEMONS into a glass jar and press a bit to release some lemon juice.
  • ADD THE SPICES & COOKING LIQUID Add the spices and hot cooking liquid. Cover, let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.
  • NOW WAIT for at least five days before using.

How to Use Spiced Preserved Lemons

Let me recommend my own Spiced Chicken Tagine with Roasted Cauliflower, a one-pot supper with warm spices, it's ever-so-variable, think beef and butternut squash, for one.

I like the looks of ideas from these sites, too, The Kitchn, Huffington Post and NPR.

Spiced Preserved Lemons collage ♥ KitchenParade.com, just lemons, salt and pantry spices but so handy to have on hand.

Let's Talk ... About Your Homemade Pantry

In my world, I think of a "homemade pantry" as foods we could buy but choose to make from scratch, my kinda cooking! Check out The Homemade Pantry, so many inspiring recipes.

BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you have a secret weapon or two or three that you make that's more "ingredient" than dinner? I'd love to know what's in your arsenal!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If Spiced Preserved Lemons inspire you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Spiced Preserved Lemons ♥ KitchenParade.com, just lemons, salt and pantry spices, the cornerstone ingredient in Moroccan cuisine.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes over 30 minutes
Time to table: 5 days
Makes 8 preserved lemons, easily halved or quartered
  • 8 lemons
  • 10 cups water
  • 3/4 cup (190g) kosher salt (we use Morton's Kosher Salt)
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seed, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick

WORK THAT KNIFE With a sharp knife, make pole to pole length-wise incisions in each lemon's skin, about a half inch apart, cutting through the skin but not into the interior flesh. (Confused? Check the upper right photo in the collage, above.)

JUST SIMMER Combine the lemons, water and salt in a large saucepan. Place a plate on top of the lemons to keep them submerged, then bring the water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let simmer about 20 minutes until the lemon skins become soft and tender.

JAR, BABY, JAR Use a slotted spoon to lift the lemons out of the water and pack the lemons loosely in a glass container (I use a quart jar). With the back of the spoon, press the lemons to release some juices. Drop in the spices, then cover with the hot cooking water to fill the jar. Place a lid on the container, let cool to room temperature.

NOW WAIT (BUT NOT LONG) Refrigerate the Preserved Lemons, they'll be ready to use in about five days.

AND PRESERVED LEMONS LAST, UM, HOW LONG? How long will they keep? Well. Let's just say I'm using lemons preserved three years ago this week. Three.Years. No.Kidding.

SKIN ONLY? SKIN & FLESH? I go back and forth when using Preserved Lemons in recipes. Some times I cut the skin into slivers and discard the lemon flesh. Other times, I mash a whole lemon with the back of a spoon (or run it through a mini food processor).

ALANNA's TIPS Be sure to scrub the lemons well, many have a waxy coating. The slightly sweeter Meyer lemons work great, so do regular lemons but do try to find lemons whose skins aren't too thick. I love this idea from Bon Appetit that adds 1/4 teaspoon a little turmeric (for color) and 2/3 cup sugar (to balance the salt) to four lemons. I'll make those changes to this recipe the next time I make Spiced Preserved Lemons, just one left in my jar right now!

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2015/02/spiced-preserved-lemons.html .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Honestly? I have no idea how to calculate the nutrition data for preserved lemons, especially the sodium. Start off with the idea that one whole lemon adds up to a total of 21 calories, then is divided umpteen ways in a recipe. Aside from the sodium, which would be considerable, I'm calling it "zero".
Adapted from Insalata's Mediterranean Table (affiliate link) by Heidi Krahling of Insalata's, since 1996 Marin County's acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant. The cookbook was a much unexpected and appreciated gift from the good folks at O Olive Oil many years back.

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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