Learn how to preserve lemons the easy way by following this step-by-step method, and get some recipes with preserved lemons as well. Aren’t we lucky that this wonderful, versatile fruit is available year round here in the United States? Do you appreciate lemons so much that you would like to have them decorating your kitchen? How about having preserved lemons available on your pantry shelf to use in recipes anytime you need a boost of flavor? You are in the right place! Preserving lemons is easy, and requires just a few simple steps. How do you preserve lemons? Read on for my favorite way to make preserved lemons, and I also share my favorite ways to use preserved lemons in recipes.
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My Preserved Lemons Backstory
If you are fortunate enough to live where lemons grow, I’m envious. I enjoy everything about lemons–the taste, the fragrance, and even the color. Lemons are one of my favorite party themes, and I do wish I could grow them on our little acreage. I tried growing a Meyer lemon tree in a container once, but due to where I live, I had to overwinter it in the garage. I wasn’t as diligent about watering it as I should have been. Now, I content myself with purchasing lemons at the grocery store. If you have ever asked yourself, “What can I do with too many lemons?”, this post is for you. If you love the idea of preserved lemons but don’t know about using preserved lemons in recipes, this post is for you as well. I have a whole list of recipes with preserved lemons in them. Maybe you are a skeptic and have been wondering, “What is the point of preserved lemons?” I hope you will stick around and read about their versatility in recipes. What do you do with preserved lemons? Let’s find out!
***Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.*** Already know what you’d like to get from Amazon? Here’s a handy way to get to the website, linked to a set of canning tools that will make preserving lemons even easier. Just click on the link, then browse around and do your shopping.
Equipment Needed for Preserved Lemons
What is the best way to preserve lemons? You are about to learn the best preserved lemons recipe. This quick preserved lemons recipe makes about 4 quarts if you use all of the brine. Here is the equipment you need to assemble beforehand for the canning process. You will need:
4 quart-sized canning jars, lids, and bands (sometimes the wide-mouthed jars are easier to fill)
A small metal saucepan with lid (for heating the jar lids)
A large stockpot for heating the brine
A large ladle like this one (for putting the brine into jars)
1 set of canning tools (optional, but these sure have made canning easier)
Set four canning bands (some call them rings) aside, near where you will be filling the jars.
Place the four glass jars in the water bath canner. The water should cover the jars by at least an inch. Turn the heat to medium-high.
Place four jar lids in the small saucepan with enough water to cover the lids. Cover the pan and heat the water on low. I’ve always been told not to let the water come to a boil. Now it’s time to make the preserved lemons!
This recipe makes enough brine for four quarts of preserved lemons. If you have some brine left over, you can refrigerate it for the next batch. If you have a left over lemon or two that wouldn’t fit into the jars, you can fill a pint jar with the leftover brine and lemons, one bay leaf and 1/2 tablespoon of peppercorns. Store the jar in the refrigerator for six weeks to absorb the flavor, then use as you would the canned preserved lemons. Here are the ingredients for four quarts of preserved lemons.
16 firm, medium-sized lemons
6 cups water
3 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup sea salt or canning salt
4 tablespoons peppercorns
8 whole perfect fresh or dried bay leaves
Directions for Super Easy Preserved Lemons
Heat the glass quart-sized canning jars in the boiling water canner on medium-high with the lid on. Heat the lids in a small sauce pan of water on low with the lid on.
Check on the water and jars in the boiling water canner. When the water comes to a boil, place the lemons in the boiling water to cook for 3-5 minutes. Your kitchen will smell lovely!
Remove the lemons from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice water. Allow the lemons to soak for 10-15 minutes to stop the cooking process.
While the lemons are cooling, combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a large non-aluminum stockpot to make the brine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
Place 1 tablespoon of peppercorns in each quart-sized jar. Remove lemons from the ice water. Stand each lemon on end and slice a small X about halfway down. This will help the brine to permeate and preserve the lemon.
Arrange lemons and bay leaves (2 bay leaves to each jar) in jars. I was able to get 4 lemons in each jar, but I had to squeeze them in pretty tightly. You may be able to fit 4 lemons in as well. Be prepared to be gentle but firm. (That sounds like advice for disciplining a child. In this case, it’s the lemons that need to behave and pack together tightly.) Use a spatula if needed to help release any air bubbles that may be trapped between the lemons.
Fill each jar with brine to the brim, covering the lemons completely. Using a funnel from a canning kit makes the job a lot less messy. Wipe each rim with a cloth, place the lid on, and screw on the band tightly. (There is no need to use a jar wrench or anything, just fingertip tight.)
Using the tongs from the canning toolkit, if you have them, place each jar in the boiling water canner. Make sure the hot water covers the jars completely. If you need extra hot water, pour in the hot water from the pan that was heating the jar lids. You can also quickly heat more water in an electric kettle, if you have one. Process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner with the lid on.
Remove the hot jars with tongs and let cool completely. Store on a shelf or countertop away from direct light. Allow the jars to sit for at least six weeks to fully absorb the brine.
When you open a jar preserved lemons to use in a recipe, refrigerate any unused lemons in the jar. How long do preserved lemons last once opened? Refrigerated, opened, preserved lemons will last about six months in the refrigerator. How do you store lemons long term? How long do preserved lemons last in a jar? According to the USDA website, foods high in acid, like preserved lemons, are at their best when used within 18 months. Unused jars of preserved lemons will last for years as decorative kitchen accents as long as they are kept out of intense heat or direct sunlight. To prevent botulism in preserved lemons, just follow the preserved lemons recipe directions listed above.
- 4 quart-sized glass jars, lids and bands
- 1 large boiling water canner
- 1 Small metal saucepan with lid
- 1 Large Stockpot
- 1 Ladle
- 1 Set of canning tools optional
- 16 firm, medium-sized lemons
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups white wine vinegar
- 1 cup sea salt or canning salt
- 4 tablespoons peppercorns
- 8 whole perfect fresh or dried bay leaves
- Heat the glass quart-sized canning jars in the boiling water canner on medium-high with the lid on. Heat the lids in a small sauce pan of water on low with the lid on.
- Check on the water and jars in the boiling water canner. When the water comes to a boil, place the lemons in the boiling water to cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the lemons from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice water. Allow the lemons to soak for 10-15 minutes to stop the cooking process.
- While the lemons are cooling, combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a large non-aluminum stockpot to make the brine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
- Place 1 tablespoon of peppercorns in each quart-sized jar. Remove lemons from the ice water. Stand each lemon on end and slice a small X about halfway down. This will help the brine to permeate and preserve the lemon.
- Arrange lemons and bay leaves (2 bay leaves to each jar) in jars. I was able to get 4 lemons in each jar, but I had to squeeze them in pretty tightly. You may be able to fit 4 lemons in as well. Use a spatula if needed to help release any air bubbles that may be trapped between the lemons.
- Fill each jar with brine to the brim, covering the lemons completely. Wipe each rim with a cloth, place the lid on, and screw on the band tightly.
- Using the tongs from the canning toolkit, if you have them, place each jar in the boiling water canner. Make sure the hot water covers the jars completely.
- Process the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner with the lid on.
- Remove the hot jars with tongs and let cool completely. Store on a shelf or countertop away from direct light. Allow the jars to sit for at least six weeks to fully absorb the brine.
Recipes with Preserved Lemons
Many people have heard of Moroccan recipes with preserved lemons, but there are many more ways to use preserved lemons that just Moroccan preserved lemons recipes. What part of preserved lemons do you use in recipes? You can use all of the lemon, although some of these recipes only call for a tablespoon of chopped preserved lemon sprinkled on as a garnish.
If you need a little added zing in any recipe, preserved lemons can be your answer. They pair especially well with chicken and fish. You can also use them to add a contrasting flavor to simple vegetable dishes like cooked beets. If you are still uncertain about how to use preserved lemons in recipes, here are some recipes using preserved lemons for you to reference for inspiration. Let’s start with appetizers.
#1: Smoked Salmon and Lemon Cheese Ball
The recipe for smoked salmon cheese ball calls for lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon to the cheese ball mix before chilling for a unique twist to this popular party appetizer. Get the easy details for smoked salmon cheese ball and wow your guests.
#2: Preserved Lemon Slices on Crostini
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice a baguette loaf into slices about 1 inch thick. Place slices on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil on both sides. Bake for 6-9 minutes, remove from oven, and place a thin slice of preserved lemon on top of each crostini slice.
#3: Easy Shrimp, Crab, and Preserved Lemon Dip
Just follow the simple directions for this delicious seafood dip. Before serving, garnish with 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon for color and flavor. Your party guests and tastebuds will thank you.
#4: Make Homemade Guacamole Better with Preserved Lemons
Keep your favorite guacamole from turning brown when you add some chopped, preserved lemons to this party favorite. The flavor and acidic properties of 1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped, preserved lemons will allow you to cut down on the lemon juice called for in the recipe.
#5: Preserved Lemon, Ham and Pea Salad
In this easy recipe, just chop off the end of a preserved lemon, and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon as a garnish to the finished salad. It will add color and flavor to this cool, refreshing dish. If this sounds like a good combination to you, check out the complete ham and pea salad recipe.
#6: Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, Corn and Preserved Lemons Salad
Mix in 2 tablespoons of chopped preserved lemons in the lemon dressing for this easy salad. You’ll get an added zing and kick up the taste a notch. This chicken salad makes a quick main dish when you’re pressed for time, and the addition of preserved lemons is a speedy way to make this salad even better.
#7: Preserved Lemons and Seafood Salad
Make this holiday favorite seafood salad even more special with the addition of some slices of preserved lemons as a decorative topping. Use one whole preserved lemon, sliced thinly. Distribute the lemon slices on top of the salad for a festive side dish.
#8: Berry Mandarin Preserved Lemon Tossed Salad
Add one tablespoon of chopped preserved lemon to the tangy, sweet dressing. Toss the berries, mandarin slices, onions, and greens with the dressing. Watch the tossed salad disappear!
#9: Tangy Preserved Lemon Potato Salad
Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped preserved lemons to this creamy potato salad. It will complement the flavors of the pickles. Try using a tablespoon of the preserved lemon liquid from the jar along with the pickle juice. Yummy!
#10: Brighten Up Roasted Red Potatoes with Preserved Lemons
Garlic and lemon are great flavor companions. Add in some rosemary, and you have a winning combination. Just sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chopped, preserved lemons on top of these garlic rosemary roasted red potatoes after taking them out of the oven.
#11: Preserved Lemons on Smoked, Glazed Pork Chops
Turn moist, smoked, orange-glazed pork chops into something even more special when you add a slice of preserved lemon on top of each chop before serving. The lemon flavor will complement the tangy orange glaze as well as add some color to the serving platter. Delicious and festive!
#12: Easy Coca-Cola Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Recently, I experimented with adding chopped, fresh pineapple to this simple cola chicken recipe. Instead of the pineapple variation, try mixing in a chopped, preserved lemon with the rice that is served with this dish. The extra touch of tangy flavor will help take this recipe to the next level.
#13: Sweet and Sour Preserved Lemon Cabbage Soup
When you are ready to serve this sweet and sour cabbage sausage soup, garnish each bowl with a preserved lemon slice. You can even serve extra slices of preserved lemons on the side, in case people want to enjoy more of the unique taste the preserved lemons bring to the table. If you are serving bread with the meal, a slice of preserved lemon on top of a piece of bread would not be amiss.
#14: Lentil Ham Preserved Lemon Soup
In a similar fashion, a garnish of preserved lemon slices on top of lentil ham soup would add a boost of flavor. The yellow preserved lemon would brighten up the appearance as well. Simply add a slice atop each serving when the soup has finished cooking in the crock pot.
#15: Green Chile Preserved Lemon Chicken Casserole
Preserved lemons and chicken are a fabulous combination. Arrange slices of preserved lemons on top of this green chile chicken casserole when you are ready to put it on the table. If you choose to make this casserole ahead of time and freeze it, just have some preserved lemon slices on hand after the casserole has baked in the oven.
#16: Butternut Squash Mini Pizzas Garnished with Preserved Lemons
One of the best things about this butternut squash mini pizza recipe is its versatility. A variety of toppings may be used, including preserved lemons. If you have fresh basil from the garden to add to the dish, that’s even better.
#17: Preserved Lemon Baked Fish
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small pan. Slice one preserved lemon and place the slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay 1 and 1/2 pounds of fish fillets (it can be any type of white fish such as tilapia or cod) on top of the preserved lemons. Brush the fish with the melted butter. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic on top of the buttered fish. Slice another preserved lemon and distribute the slices on top of the fish. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of rosemary or dill, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes, or until fish turns opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
#18: One Pot Scarlet Runner Beans and Preserved Lemons
This tangy crock pot dinner made with scarlet runner beans is the perfect dish to showcase preserved lemons. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of preserved lemons to the top of the dinner when it has finished cooking in the crock pot. The smoky flavor of the scarlet runner beans will complement the tangy lemon flavor well.
#19: Greek Preserved Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Since this traditional Greek chicken orzo soup already has lemon in it, a little bit more lemon will add just the right touch. Take this comfort food from delicious to amazingly delicious by adding a slice of preserved lemon to each soup bowl when serving. A sprinkle of fresh basil or dill may also be added.
#20: Roasted Preserved Lemon Chicken
This is one of the best chicken recipes with preserved lemons as well as the simplest. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a whole chicken (giblets removed) in a roasting pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside and outside of the chicken. Rub 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter on the inside of the chicken. Rub 1 tablespoon of butter on the outside of the chicken. Place one whole preserved lemon inside the chicken cavity. Tie the legs together with twine or carpet thread. Bake in the 350 degree oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer placed into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees.
Common Questions about Preserved Lemons
What is the difference between pickled lemons and preserved lemons? Essentially, these preserved lemons are pickled lemons. They are packed in a salty brine and preserved, so the are pickled.
How do you preserve lemons naturally? Well, the quickest way is to just place a whole lemon in the freezer. You can thaw and use it when you need it. I often freeze lemon zest and extra lemon juice for use in recipes. You can also use a food dehydrator and dry lemon slices. Dried lemon slices make great decorations for a cake if you are hosting a lemon themed party.
Other Canning and Preserving Ideas
Love to have a pantry well-stocked with home-grown goodness? Try making rhubarb orange jam, rhubarb pineapple jam, or blueberry raspberry jam. Make and store easy blueberry, raspberry, or blackberry syrup. Have an abundance of apples? Easy homemade applesauce is a great way to use a bountiful harvest. Are you blessed with a fabulous tomato crop? Create some homemade marinara sauce or salsa for delicious garden taste all year long.
Organize Your Party (and Your Life) with This Lemon-Themed Planner
If you love the lemon theme, check out this lemony undated monthly planner. Since it’s undated, you can download and print it again and again, year after year. Get lemon-themed inspiration every day when you organize and plan in this eye-catching printable.
More Party Planning Inspiration
It’s always nice to have a plan when it comes to meals and parties. If you’re looking for a way to get more organized with your preserved lemon recipes and meal planning efforts, I’ve got something for you. Free, editable meal planners! The templates can be used over and over, as often as you need them. You can make as many duplicates as you like, and you’ll be able to save old meal plans for future reference. I hope it simplifies things for you.
I hope you now know how to make and what to do with preserved lemons. May all of your lemon preservation endeavors meet with great success!