Preserved Lemons Two Ways: Weekend Project?

preserved lemons two ways

I typically don’t/never do this: 1. Post a recipe I’ve made only once. 2. Suggest you make something I’ve never tasted.

Why am I making the exception today? Well, this is the thing: preserving, as many of you know, takes time, and while I would prefer to wait a month to tell you how these preserved lemons turn out, I would prefer more if in a month from now you actually had these preserved lemons on hand, so when in the event I post about something else, something perhaps like the chicken tagine with preserved lemons and green olives I had at Tara Kitchen in early December, a dish I cannot stop thinking about and so hope to recreate at home, you’ll be able to participate, too.

Make sense? I mean, what if on February 10th, I posted about said tagine and exclaimed: Friends, you HAVE to make this. It is the BEST thing you will ever eat. All you need is a chicken, some stock, a bunch of herbs and preserved lemons. You would be like, are you serious? Oh sure, let me just run to my pantry and pull out my jar of preserved lemons. I mean, doesn’t everyone spend all of citrus season slicing and salting and stuffing Mason jars full of lemons? Couldn’t you have given us a head’s up? How hard would that have been? Am I right? Just making sure I can sleep at night.

And so today I offer you two recipes for preserved lemons, one from Jerusalem, which will be ready in four weeks, and one from the September 2013 Bon Appétit, which will be ready in two weeks. Both sound promising. Fingers crossed?

meyer lemons

The first method, from Jerusalem, calls for a two phase process. During the first phase, scored lemons stuffed with salt sit for a week in a Mason jar. During the second phase, rosemary, chile, lemon juice and olive oil are added to the jar and everything mingles together for three more weeks.

cut lemons

Oopsidasies: I should have made a cross in the lemons, not a single slit. I am sure these will turn out OK, but you should make a cross:
lemon stuffed with salt

preserved lemons à la Jerusalem

preserved lemons, day 1

After 1 week, add a dried chili or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and a sprig of rosemary.
preserved lemons with rosemary and chilies

Update: 3/10/2014: Upon returning from a Tara Kitchen cooking class and learning that the owner, Aneesa, purées her preserved lemons — lemons, salt and juice — and uses spoonfuls of the purée in her dishes, I whizzed my whole batch of Jerusalem preserved lemons in the food processor and now have a jar of purée I am certain will last a decade.

Here’s a little more I learned from Aneesa about making/using preserved lemons: Aneesa does not use Meyer lemons at the restaurant because of cost, but she believes their thin skin makes them ideal for preserving. She uses the more traditional preserving method (the Jerusalem method vs the BA method). She never rinses the lemons before using because once her lemons are preserved, she purées the whole batch and uses spoonfuls of her puréed preserved lemons in various dishes.
preserved lemon purée

meyer lemons

The second method, from Bon Appetit, calls for boiling the lemons first, then submerging them in a brine. From the bit of recipe comparison I did on preserving lemons, this method, which calls for a fair amount of sugar, seems to be a bit unconventional. That said, BA described the lemons as “the best [they’ve] ever tasted.” The recipe comes from Philip Krajeck, chef of Rolf & Daughters in Nashville.

making the brine

making the brine

boiled lemons

preserved lemons à la bon appetit

Preserved Lemons

Source: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


  • 6 lemons (or however many you want to make)
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 large red chile
  • juice of 6 lemons
  • olive oil


  1. Before starting, find a jar large enough to accommodate all of the lemons snugly — I used a 2-quart jar for my 8 lemons. To sterilize it, fill it with boiling water, leave for a minute, and then empty it. Allow it to dry out naturally without wiping it so it remains sterilized.
  2. Wash the lemons and cut a deep cross all the way from the top to within 3/4 inch from the base. (Oops, I didn't make a cross, buy you probably should.) Stuff each lemon with 1 tablespoon of the salt and place in the jar. Push the lemons in tightly so they are squeezed together snugly. Seal the jar and leave in a cool spot for at least a week.
  3. After the initial period, remove the lid and press the lemons as hard as you can to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Add the rosemary, chile and lemon juice and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Seal the jar and leave in a cool place for at least 4 weeks. The longer you leave them, the better the flavor.

Preserved Lemons in Brine

Source: : Philip Krajeck via Bon Appétit

Note: I started with four lemons and then ended up boiling four more because there was plenty of room in my 2-quart ball jar and plenty of brine as well.


  • 4 to 8 lemons, I used Meyer but you can use any kind
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 7 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 clove


  1. Boil 4 scrubbed lemons until softened, 10-12 minutes.
  2. Transfer lemons to a bowl of ice water. (Oops, I didn't do this.) Reserve cooking liquid.
  3. Using a paring knife, deeply score lengthwise 4 times, leaving lemons intact.
  4. Whisk 2/3 cup sugar, 7 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 clove, and 3 cups hot cooking liquid in a bowl. Transfer lemons to a one- or two-quart heatproof jar and add brine. Cover and chill at least 2 weeks. Update: Store these in the fridge. I store the Jerusalem variety at room temp, but I think these (with all that sugar) should be refrigerated unless you keep your house very cold.


  1. says

    I’ve always wanted to make preserved lemons, so you know what? I might just start it this weekend. So you can sleep in peace.

    now, I am a bit distracted by that super cute salt crock you have… the little fish… I am in love…. shall search the universe

  2. says

    I’m so glad you made the Jerusalem version! I spotted that recipe too but was a bit nervous to try, more so due to the investment in jars, lemons (almost a dollar each where I shop) and all. But perhaps because I’ve never HAD a preserved lemon, I don’t know its worth?

    • says

      I know, the cost was definitely a consideration before I set out to make these. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I spent $20 on 18 lemons. My heart/stomach sunk at the cash register. These lemons better be worth it! I miss the days of shopping at my CA farmers market where I could by 5 lemons for a dollar…or hop over the neighbor’s fence and pick some from their tree.

      • Bob says

        I’ve been buying preserved lemons at an olive bar. I have made a batch but I will have to wait 2 more weeks to sample them. I was wondering if I could just add lemon halves to the brine as I use the juice in other recipes and the preserved lemon peel is the object of the pickling process, not the juice or pulp. Do you think I could store the lemon halves in the freezer and add them to the brine? Paula Wolfert says that the brine can be used for subsequent batches of preserved lemon but the details are not explicit (for example, does one add more salt? How much?)

  3. Leslie says

    I am doing Yottam’s version for sure. Been wanting to, ever since I got Jerusalem. Thanks for suggesting and am looking forward to the Tagine.

  4. Eha says

    Hello from summery Australia! I have been making preserved lemons for years and years, this being made easier by a big Meyer lemon tree outside my kitchen window. Altho’ I have ‘Jerusalem’ and have made many successful dishes from it, I had not looked at YO’s method for the lemons. I personally am happy at putting the lemon juice and a bay leaf/lemon thyme mix onto the lemons immediately and then sealing them for the initial four weeks. Am quite satisfied and shall not change, but YO’s way is interesting to read. I appreciate you giving the ‘Bon Appetit’ version but adding sugar would change the taste of the dishes for which I use the lemons and I would not like the fresh taste of the lemons to disappear ~ I cook a lot of fusion – this is far too fusion for me!! As the saying goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ :) !

    • says

      love the idea of bay leaf and lemon thyme as seasonings — so fresh and delicious. And I am very curious as to how the BA method is going to turn out… I will be sure to report back. Sugar definitely sounds odd, but BA spoke so highly about them, so I had to try.

  5. Joy says

    This post couldn’t be more timely. I have a list of recipes I’ve put off making bc of the preserved lemon. Taking care of that this weekend :)

  6. Sara says

    These recipes look great but I am wondering what to do with the lemons once they’re preserved? Chicken tagine (which I hope to see the recipe for in a few weeks) but what else?

  7. Mayim says

    The Yotam one looks good, and since I’m almost out of the last preserved lemons I made, thats on the list for the weekend!

    @Sara: I chop them up, smear the pieces on salmon and pan fry or bake it. Same with chicken. Or add chopped pieces to israeli couscous cooked in chicken broth with za’atar or curry powder. Or drizzle the brine on broccoli, add some olive oil, and roast in the oven. Wilted spinach with chopped pieces. Basically, any recipe that calls for both lemon/lemon juice and salt, you can try replacing with the preserved lemons.

  8. Candace Floyd says

    Hi, Alexandra — I’d like to talk to you about using one of your recipes (and photos) in American Profile magazine (circ. 9 million weekly). Please send me your email address and I’ll send details.

    Candace Floyd – Food Editor, American Profile

  9. says

    I love preserved lemons! I’ve made them myself (good!), bought them from amazon (not as good, not recommended), and have also bought them pre-made from a local deli which was my favorite method of all. You get a huge container of preserved lemons ready to go for $5, which is well worth not having to wait weeks for the lemons to be ready. It lasts forever–not sure if it’s supposed to.. but it’s kind of hard to use that whole thing up!

    • says

      Great tip, Sylvie! That is a much better deal than the route I went…$18 on lemons was a bit of a shock! We have a great deli in our town. I’m going to check them out. Thanks!

  10. says

    I recently came into an overflow of meyer lemons and was going to make some – but didn’t have the patience and wound up replacing my usual herbal tea w hot water + lemon wedges. I hope your jar turns out wonderful!

  11. Bonnie H. says

    I’m a simple hick in the sticks of Texas with very little “adventurous cooking” experience. I found your site when a friend posted your Peasant Bread on her FB page. (by the way, I’m in love with the bread!) I can and preserve alot of veggies, fruit and jellies out here and this sounds very interesting. We have wild lemons in our woods: very thick skin, not alot of “meat” but they beat a store-bought lemon in “twang” by a good country mile! I’m wondering how they would do preserving? Thank you, everyone, for the recipe suggestions. My country family don’t know it but our menu is about to get very diverse around here. lol

    • says

      Haha, I love it, you are too funny! I am so intrigued by your wild lemons. They sound amazing. And I am a preserved lemon novice, but here are my thoughts re your thick-skinned lemons: I don’t think the thick skin is anything to worry about because some of the recipes I have come across call for the flesh only. BUT, if the lemons are thick skinned and also not so meaty, you might not get that much in the end, you know? I hate for you to waster your lemons, but, if you have a lot of lemons at your disposal, it can’t hurt to try — the Ottolenghi recipe basically just calls for salt, lemon juice, and lemons. Let me know if you give it a go!

      So happy you like the peasant bread! Thanks so much for writing in with such a fun comment.

  12. Cindy K. says

    My Mom’s neighbor here in Florida gave me a bag full of lemons to attempt preserving. I tried the Jerusalem method. I just did the one week “squish down” and have lots of juice. I am going to add the fresh rosemary and some dried miniature chilis that I recently brought home from Cadiz, Spain (an awesome outdoor market in the middle of the City!). Looking forward to the Tangine recipe. Love your site.

    • says

      Fun! So excited. I have a bunch of preserved lemon recipes that I have been working on: the tagine, a flatbread and a toasted Israeli couscous recipe. Working with the preserved lemons takes a little bit of practice — a little goes a long way. I will be sure to report back on the recipes soon. I’m also taking a cooking class at Tara kitchen (the moroccan restaurant where I had the tagine) in a couple of weeks, so I’ll be sure to report back. Thanks so much for your nice comment!

  13. says

    preserving lemons is such a curious practice. I am tempted to try it – but wonder what do they taste like? Have you even had them – made by someone else??

    • says

      Sandra, I have only had them at this restaurant in Schenectady called Tara Kitchen — the dish I had was a tagine with olives and preserved lemons, and it was SO good. I am hoping to recreate it soon. Otherwise, I have only tasted the lemons I preserved myself. They are intense and bright and lemony, but somehow not as sour/tart as fresh. It’s hard to describe the difference — you’ve just got to take a bite. You can make a small batch (4, like the BA recipe), and they will be ready in two weeks. I say go for it. Good luck!

  14. says

    You have lovely fish back there to store your salt, I love it!
    I am now tempted to make preserved lemons at home, for the first time. Now that you’ve tasted both of the recipes provided, which one do you find better and would repeat?
    Also, can I use pink himalayan salt for this?
    All the best!

    • says

      Thanks, Marianna! I do love my fish salt cellar — my husband has had it since high school…brought it home from a family vacation.

      OK, so I really need to update this post, but I wrote about my findings more extensively here:
      But here is what I concluded: Although I had my doubts about the sugary brine, if ever I run out of preserved lemons, the BA recipe will be the recipe I turn to. Much to my surprise, the BA lemons do not taste sweet at all — they taste salty but less salty than the Jerusalem lemons. In a side-by-side taste test, the winner was clear. What I also like about the BA lemons is the inclusion of turmeric, whose taste is indiscernible but whose color gives the lemons a more vibrant hue. In sum, the differences are subtle, and I can’t say I can detect a difference in taste in the finished dishes, but for what it’s worth, I’m a fan of the untraditional brine-preserved lemons.

      Hope that helps! Also, I just posted about chicken with preserved lemons and green olives today:

  15. KLMihalo says

    Hello! I just finished making both and am so freaking excited! Aside from tomatoes, lemon is my second favorite flavor. I was wondering- in the BA recipe, when you said “chill”, did you mean in the fridge or just in a cooler spot? I put them in the fridge- but I would hate to slow the process down by keeping it there.

    Thank you so much!

    • says

      Hi! I should edit that — I have been storing mine at room temperature. My house is pretty cool, I will admit, but after talking with Aneesa from Tara Kitchen, I think because there is so much salt in the jar, there isn’t anything to worry about. I say put them on your counter! So excited for you to have preserved lemons in two weeks!

  16. Gavin says

    Hi Alexandra,
    When Aneesa makes the purée of preserved lemons is she using the whole lemon flesh and skin?

    Is she using oil to create a seal in the jar ? How long will the purée keep in the fridge?

    Great blog. Thank You !!!!

    • says

      Yes! lemon flesh, skin and all — she doesn’t even pluck out the seeds, so I didn’t either.

      She does not use olive oil to create a seal in the jar, and I can’t say for sure, but I think the lemons will keep indefinitely in the fridge or out — Aneesa actually doesn’t refrigerate them. At class she said that the FDA said she doesn’t have to refrigerate them because there is so much salt and the pH is so low, that there is little risk if any of spoiling. But, you can’t hurt the lemons by storing them in the fridge.

      Let me know if there is anything else. Thanks for your kind words!

  17. Jw says

    Well mine molded not cured. So you just put salt on them, your picture shows a lid on the jar and you stored the lidded jar where? How does this not mold? I live in the temperate rainforest just wondering how to do this and not have it mold

    • says

      Jw — so sorry to hear this. Which recipe did you make? The Jerusalem or the BA? The salt and lemon juice should prevent (from what I read/from what I was told) any molding. My lidded jars of lemons have been sitting at room temperature, though my house is really cold. Do you have a fridge? That’s probably your best bet given the climate you live in.

      • JW says

        I did put in the fridge after a day and I used the Jerusalem recipe. So yours sat out with just the salt and did not mold? I can’t belive that. Maybe I will have to try this in a different state. Thank you for your reply.

        • says

          There is no mold on my now puréed batch of preserved lemons — I don’t know if you’ve been following along, but after attending a Moroccan cooking class, I puréed the lemons, and I use just a spoonful of the purée in whatever dish I am making. Question: did you add the lemon juice after a week? And the olive oil?

      • Karen says

        That is too funny. I’ve taken the class at Tara as well and have a jar of preserved lemons in my pantry. They are about 6 months old and no mold. Just salt and lemon juice. The chicken with preserved lemons and olives is one of my husband’s favorite dishes.

    • says

      I read that article, too! Loved it! And the recipe provided there looked SO good, too. Love Claudia Roden. And I’m so happy to know that about the white mold. The batch I made using the BA recipe actually got a bit moldy — I think all the sugar made a difference — but I scoopped it off and transfered the lemons to a new jar, which is now in the fridge. Love that you are using the Baking Steel, too! so fun. Thanks for writing in.

  18. Kali says

    I have my lemons sitting in the olive oil mixture and although they have three more weeks of sitting to do, I’m curious- when you said you pureed the mixture, did that include everything in the jar? All the olive oil, rosemary and pepper? Did you just take out the lemons and puree them?

    I know I’m likely overthinking this… but that’s what I seem to do.


    • says

      Hey Kali! I removed the rosemary and because I used crushed red pepper flakes, I just left them in, but if I were you, I would remove any chili peppers before puréeing. Hope that helps!

  19. Marge Michaels says

    Hi Alexandra,

    New to this blog and can’t wait to try this recipe! I see that you substituted red pepper flakes for the red chile pepper. Can you give me an approximation of how much of the red pepper flakes I should use? Thanks so much!


    • says

      Hi Marge,

      I can’t remember for sure, but I think I probably just took a big pinch and sprinkled it in, so I would say maybe a half teaspoon or a teaspoon at the most. Hope that helps! Let me know if there is anything else!

  20. Melinda says

    A coworker brought in a bounty of Meyer lemons from his tree, and I immediately thought of your preserved lemons post. So I just started a batch following the BA recipe, and am excited to experiment with this interesting new (to me) ingredient. I enjoy your posts immensely, keep up the excellent work. Thank you!

  21. Ed says

    I use salt, peppercorns, lemon juice, a garlic clove (per pint), and a sprig or two of tarragon. I use yellow lemons, since they are about half the price of gold coloured Meyer lemons here in the midwestern US, but adding a splash of orange juice to the jar is helpful if you want to simulate the Meyers. I don’t do this anymore because I’ve acquired a taste for the more sour varieties.
    Halved limes and sliced grapefruit are also delicious when preserved using these methods, and the limes (fruit and all) are amazing in Indian food and Mexican dishes.

  22. Hendrik says

    Quite interesting to see that Tara uses the whole lemons. I seem to recall from Jerusalem, that Ottolenghi in serveral recipes points out to discard the flesh and only use the rind of the lemons.

    Have you tried both and can tell a difference — mashing up everything vs. using rind only? Does Tara give a reason for her approach (other than cost)?

    • says

      Hi Hendrik,

      I have loaned out my copy of Jerusalem to a friend, so I can’t check it, but I am sure you are right. My whole batch of Jerusalem preserved lemons has been puréed, and I love the flavor of the purée, but unfortunately I can’t comment as to how it compares to using just the rind. I do still have my BA preserved lemons, and those are whole, and when I use those, I do use rind and flesh. The flavor of those, however, are much different than the Jerusalem ones, however, because there is sugar in the mix. So, I’m not being much help here, but in sum, I would say that Aneesa from Tara Kitchen purées her lemons for convenience, and that if it weren’t such a pain to chop up the preserved lemons, she would do that, and I imagine she would use both rind and flesh. Can’t say for sure, however, but that’s my hunch. Hope that helps!

  23. Jesa says

    When you puree your Jerusalem batch do you remove the rosemary sprig or leave it in? I was sent a whole box of lemons form a dear CA friend and this will be the prefect way to use them, plus I can send her a jar for her kindness. Thank you.

  24. Alec says

    Making my second batch of the Ottolenghi lemons, but I found the recipe a little unclear on a couple of points. When he says to squeeze out the juice after a week, does he mean to really juice them so that there is just the rind left, and add this juice back into the jar? Or just push them down in the jar to squeeze out some juice, and then add extra juice from more lemons to cover? Also – 1 large red chile: fresh, dried, whole, cut up?

    • says

      Hi Alec,

      I took it to mean just push down on the lemons in the jar to squeeze out their juice, then add the additional lemon juice to cover. I used a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, but I think you could use any dried chile, and I would just leave it whole. I think the flavor it imparts should be subtle. Hope that helps!

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