Salt Preserved Lemons Recipe || Make Moroccan Lemons

Everyone should have salt preserved lemons in their kitchen. They are so versatile, they take very little time to make, and they are a great way to preserve an overabundance of lemons.

pushing lemons into a jar with a sauerkraut pounder

If you’ve never made this culinary marvel, I’m going to walk you through how to do that today with an easy step-by-step tutorial. So, settle in and be prepared to learn a skill that will take your home cooked meals to the next level.

This is a simple recipe, a preserving process used by our ancestors, that turns fresh lemons into a rich, savory burst of umami flavor. And … bonus … you’ll never wonder what to do with extra lemons again. 

Quick preserved lemons will be your go-to preservation method for this too often wasted fruit. Their salty goodness will call you.

What Are Salted Lemons?

Making salt-preserved lemons, like most other preservation techniques, started as a way to extend the life of the lemon harvest. It allowed our ancestors to continue to enjoy the bounty of the lemon tree long after it quite producing for the season.

a jar of salt preserved lemons

Preserved lemon recipes, using a salty brine, go back to the 12th century. They are common in Moroccan, Indian, and Middle Eastern cooking, and have a very unique flavor.

The intense flavor that is associated with lemons is ever present in this recipe. But the tartness that we expect from this fresh fruit is nowhere to be found.

Salt preserved lemons are just that … lemons preserved in salt. Or, more accurately, lemons preserved in salt and their own juices.

They are left to stew in this brine for at least a month. And during that time there is a transformation that takes place that is pretty magical.

The salt softens and changes the peel of the lemon from hard and bitter tasting to soft and packed full of umami flavor. It is a very good thing. Salty goodnes in a jar, if you will.

I can confidently say that it is one of the most delicious recipes for food preservation out there.

Choosing Lemons For This Recipe

I’m going to be honest here … I can’t really tell you much about choosing a kind of lemons for this recipe apart from what I’ve read on the web.

lemons in a bowl and on a counter

It is my understanding that doqq and boussera lemons are most commonly used to make salt preserved lemons in Morocco. These are thin-skinned lemons and a bit sweeter too.

These are features that you’re looking for when choosing fruit for this recipe. Meyer lemons are touted as a good choice to make salt preserved lemons. And that makes perfect sense.

They have a thin skin and they are sweeter than many other varieties. However, meyer lemons are not always available in my little corner of the world so I make do with whatever lemons I can find.

I have no idea what variety they are … they are lemons. Each time that I pick up a basket of lemons to make this dish I find myself missing Northern California a bit more than usual.

There you could find a meyer lemon tree in just about every yard. My goodness, those lemons are delicious! But … no matter … for now I choose organic lemons and I try to make sure that the lemon skin is pretty thin.

My advice on choosing lemons for this recipe is to do the best you can with what you have. But be sure to make a batch because they’re pretty amazing no matter what lemon you use.

Ingredients Needed To Make This Recipe

This recipe calls for just 3 ingredients. Yep, that’s right! You need just 3 ingredients to make a batch of salted lemons. 

supplies to make salt preserved lemons recipe

Here’s the list for you …

  • LEMONS – Choose a thin-skinned lemon if you can. It is best to use organic fruit for this recipe. If you are unable to pick up organic fruit, soak the fruit in a vinegar and water solution for about 5 minutes or so to remove as many of the pesticides from it as possible.
  • SALT – Do not use table salt for this recipe. The iodine it contains will turn your final product an unappealing shade of gray. I used fine sea salt for the batch I made for this post. Kosher salt, pickling salt, Himalayan salt, or Redmond salt will all work as well. Consider cost when choosing your salt as you will use quite a bit to make a batch of lemons.
  • WATER – Well water works just fine in this recipe. It is often recommended that the water is boiled to remove any impurities. I just use water straight from the tap. But if you’re water is treated, as city water is, and contains chlorine you will want to pick up some spring water at the store.

How To Make Salted Lemons

Before you get started putting together a batch of salted lemons, you’ll want to be sure to thoroughly clean the fruit you’re using for the recipe. If you’re using organic fruit, a quick wash with a vegetable brush under some running water should do the trick.

If the fruit you’re using isn’t organic, go ahead and soak it in a vinegar and water solution for about 5 minutes. And then hit it with that vegetable brush under some lukewarm running water.

Roll the lemons on the counter a few times. Use the palms of your hands to do this and apply light pressure as you roll. This will make it easier to release the juice from the lemons as you’re placing them in the mason jar.

Pull out the cutting board and a sharp knife and cut the ends of the lemons off. This will make it so that you can stand the lemons up on the cutting board to quarter them.

lemons with the ends cut off

Cut the lemons into quarters. But DO NOT cut them all the way through. Leave the lemon quarters attached to one another at the end.

Put salt in the bottom of the glass jar that you are going to ferment your lemons in. I used a quart jar for this recipe. You can use any size you like. The size of the jar and the size of the lemons will determine how many pieces of fruit you need for this recipe.

Gently open the quartered lemon and pour in some salt. 

Lemons quarterd and filled with salt

Then place it in the jar cut side down. You want the bottom of the lemons to be toward the top of the jar so that you can firmly squish them into the jar.

Pushing the lemons pretty tightly into the jar releases their juices and jumpstarts the creation of the brine. You can do this with your hands. I find that it’s easier to use my sauerkraut pounder for this task. If you don’t have one, it is worthwhile to pick one up.

pushing salted lemons into a jar with a sauerkraut pounder

Continue salting and pressing lemons into the jar until it is full. You can slip in a bay leaf at this point, or any other flavor elements you want to add. I generally do not do this as I like this recipe just as it is. But I have provided a list of variations for you to consider in the next section of this post if you would like to add something to your batch.

If the juice from the lemons does not fill the jar, leaving a 1″ headspace, add some water to the jar unitl it reaches that point.  Then push a butter knife down into the sides of the jar to release any air bubbles that might be present.

jar of salt preserved lemons on a counter

Place a plastic lid on the jar, set it in a cool place, and allow the fermentation process to begin. You will need to shake the jar a few times a day to prevent molding on the top of the fruit. 

Be sure to loosen the lid and check that the lemons are remaining under the brine. Alternatively, you can use a fermentation weight to hold the fruit below the brine’s surface.

It doesn’t take a long time to ferment salted lemons. If left at room temperature for about a month, they will be ready to eat. If you are uncomfortable leaving the jar sit out on the counter as the fermentation process play out, you can put it in the refrigerator after about 3 days.

Variations For This Recipe

You can add many different herbs and spices to this salted lemon recipe if you want to switch up the flavor profile. I have only tried adding red pepper flakes to mine, and it was divine. 

lemons and spices on a cutting board

But, I like the taste of the recipe just as it is so much that I haven’t been inclined to try other flavors. You, however, may want to give one or more of the following options a shot …

  • Cardamom
  • Vanilla
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Mustard seed
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary
  • Dill
  • Black peppercorns.
  • Bay leaves
  • Coriander seeds
  • Star anise

Tips And Tricks For This Recipe

There are a few tips and tricks that you can apply when making this recipe that will ensure that you get the very best end result possible. I’m listing them here for you to review before you get started making your salt preserved lemons.

overview of a jar of salt preserved lemons
  • Sterilize the jars you plan to make the salted lemons in. And also the tools you will be using to make them. This will increase the shelf life of the final product.
  • Always use clean utensils to remove the lemons from the jar when cooking with them. This too will extend the shelf life of the lemons.
  • Use the palms of your hands, applying light pressure, to roll the lemons on the counter before you cut them. This will prime the lemon to release it’s juices as you smoosh it into the jar.
  • Be sure that the lemons always remain under the brine. When the whole lemon is submerged under the brine it cannot mold.
  • Allow the lemons enough time to ferment before eating them. If you try to eat them too soon they will just taste like a lemon that you poured an excessive amount of salt on. The salt must have time to work it’s magic on the rind of the lemon. Wait at least 4 weeks before attempting to eat the lemons.
  • Don’t add any small pieces of lemon to the jar. I’ve seen posts recommending that you do this. These tiny bits will tend to float to the top of the jar and mold. If you are trying not to have food waste, then simply add them to a glass of water or a cup of tea and move on.
  • Make the best choice for you about storing the lemons throughout the fermentation process. USDA guidelines recommend refrigerating the lemons as they ferment. This is not done in other countries. They are kept in a cool, dark place. 
  • Discard the lemon flesh before you use the lemon peel in a recipe. The pulp is not eaten. It is the lemon rind that is used. 
  • If you prefer the rind to be less salty, go ahead and rinse it before you cook with it.
  • You can preserve oranges, grapefruits, and limes using this same recipe. 

What To Do With Salted Lemons

Ohhhhhhh … the possibilities for using salted lemons in the kitchen are endless! Like really ENDLESS!

finished jar of salt preserved lemons

It is no wonder that this preservation techinique stayed so popular over the course of time. It’s very versatile.

The flesh of the lemons is discarded and the rinds are sliced, chopped, or minced and added to any dish or beverage of your choice. To remove the flesh from the rind you can simply peel it away with a small paring knife.

It is your choice whether or not you rinse the rinds before cooking with them. I like to remove the excess salt by rinsing them, so I do.

Once the lemon rinds are ready to go you can use them in cocktails, such as gin and tonic, vodka soda, whiskey sour, bourbon lemonade, and long island iced tea. They are the perfect addition to a martini. Trade out that twist of lemon for a bit of salted lemon rind.

They’re great in mocktails too. In my opinion, they make the best Bloody Mary around, virgin or spiked.

They can be added to soups and stews. I’ve used them in both split pea soup and lentil soup, they’re fantastic. 

It’s a no-brainer that you can use them to season proteins; fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and steak are all fair game. And lamb … oh don’t forget the lamb.

They will up your dip, salsa, marinade, and salad dressing game forever. You can even infuse them into some olive oil and use that alone to dress a salad. Seriously, heavenly!

There are recipes for dips, salsa, marinades and salad dressings on the blog that you can add a little salt preserved lemon rind to, if you’re at a loss of where to start experimenting with this culinary delight.

Or just add a little bit to your favorite pasta sauce or your next rice dish. Or top a slice of avocado toast with a bit of chopped salted lemon rind and a few crushed red pepper flakes and you’ll get the idea.

This recipe makes for good food in just about anything you add it too. It’s great on sandwiches, and vegetables too. You can even chop some up and put it in a dish on your next charceuterie board. People will go mad for it.

So, the next time you find yourself with a bunch of lemons, instead of making lemonade, make yourself a batch of preserved salted lemons and start experimenting in the kitchen to see how you like them best.

And don’t forget to make a few extra jars for friends and family. They make a great gift. They are a particularly great idea as a gift for the foodies in your life. 

How Long Will Salted Lemons Last

Salted lemons will last at least 6 months. The USDA recommends that you keep them in the fridge for this time. You should definitely refrigerate them once you start using them from the jar.

overview of a jar of salt preserved lemons and supplies

The brine tends to become cloudy, maybe even a bit sludge like, over time. This is normal. You can remove the lemons, trim the pulp from the rind, rinse the rind, and use the peel in your favorite dishes.

Use common sense and discard if there are any signs of spoilage on the rind.

pinnable image for salt preserved lemons recipe

If you try this recipe and love it, please give it 5 stars! It supports my work more than you may realize, and I appreciate that a great deal!

You can also show your support by tagging me on Facebook @sustainableslowliving and/or Instagram @slowlivingbydianegail when you post a pic of your finished dish.

pushing lemons into a jar with a sauerkraut pounder
Yield: 1 quart jar

Salt Preserved Lemons

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 28 days
Total Time: 28 days 15 minutes

Salt preserved lemons are a culinary delight. They are easy to make. They take very little time to make. And they are incredibly versatile in the kitchen.


  • 6-8 Lemons
  • 8 tbls Sea Salt
  • Pure Water


  1. Wash the lemons thoroughly. If they are not organic, soak them in a vinegar and water solution (1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water) for 5 minutes and then rinse them.
  2. Roll the lemons on the counter with the palm of your hand. Apply light pressure. This will encourage the juices to easily release from the lemons.
  3. Cut the ends off of the lemons.
  4. Stand the lemon up on one of it's ends and slice it into quarters. Do not cut all the way through the lemon. Allow it to remain attached at the other end.
  5. Place 1 tbls of salt in a sterilized quart jar.
  6. Gently pry open the lemons and place 1 tbls of salt in each of them.
  7. Put the lemons in the jar cut side down.
  8. Press them firmly into the jar as you go.
  9. Fill the jar to the top. Leaving just a bit more than a 1" headspace.
  10. If the lemons have not released enough juice to fill the jar to a 1" headspace, add a bit of pure water.
  11. Work the lemons down under the brine.
  12. Place a lid on the jar.
  13. Store in a cool place.
  14. Shake the jar each day. Open it and be sure that the lemons are remaining below the brine. This will prevent mold.
  15. Alternatively, use a fermenting weight to keep the lemons below the brine.
  16. Allow the jar to ferment for 4 weeks.
  17. Remove the lemons from the jar as you want to use one. Cut away the pulp from the rind and discard it.
  18. Rinse the excess salt off of the rind and it is ready to use in your kitchen.
  19. ENJOY!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 12Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate. This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 3/15/2024.

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