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Make Your Own Moroccan Preserved Lemons at Home

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

I can’t believe I’ve never shared a how-to post for preserved lemons.  These are THE ingredient that makes Moroccan cuisine what it is.  A Moroccan pantry simply cannot exist without a jar of preserved lemons.

Most often they are used in tajines though you will also find them in salads and fish dishes. The reason I’ve never shared a recipe is pretty simple.  I’ve never had to make the lemons.

We usually get a giant jar from my mother-in-law when we’re returning from Morocco and they last me until our next trip.  I know that not everyone is this fortunate so today I’m sharing a very easy way to make preserved lemons.  The hardest part might be the few weeks you have to wait to use them!

preserved lemon ingredients

Really those are all of the ingredients.  Lemons, salt, and a tight sealing glass container.  I recommend using organic lemons and sea salt but you can really use any lemon and any salt – even table salt.  You will want to really scrub the lemons well and dry them off.  Be sure to also clean out the glass jar with hot, soapy water and dry completely before adding the lemons and salt.

Segmented Lemon

After you’ve gathered your ingredients begin by cutting a lemon.  You will want to cut through the skin but DO NOT cut all the way through.  Cut in half the other way, again taking care not to cut through the lemon.  

You can leave it in 1/4 slices or you can cut diagonally to create 8 segments.  I can not stress enough that the lemon should remain whole, just cut down to one side.  Squeeze some of the juice into the jar and fill the lemon with as much salt as possible.

Place the lemon into the jar and add more salt if it falls out.  Continue this process until the jar is packed tight with lemons.  You can cut and segment a few lemons if you need to to make a tight seal.

Close the container and place in a cool, dark location.  After a few days check the lemons and add another if the others have begun to break down.  Avoid opening the container too much.

It is very important to limit air exposure of the lemons.  Even after they are ready to use, keep the container closed as much as possible.

When you’re ready to use the lemons remove a piece from the jar.  You can remove the membrane and rinse off the rind to reduce the salt, however in most recipes you don’t need to.  Most often I toss in 1/8 or 1/4 of a lemon straight out of the jar.

As the lemons break down they will create a liquid, almost like a syrup.  This is great to use in marinades or for added punch in a salad dressing.

Aged Preserved Lemon

Once the lemons have been in the jar for 3-4 weeks they should look like this picture.  The rinds will be sot and pliable, the color tinged brown.  If you taste the liquid or the lemon that has been produced you will see it’s a mix of sweet and salty.  Lemons will keep for many months, again in a cool dark place, so only make as many as you think you’ll use in that time!

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Lee Ann

Sunday 24th of January 2021

Amanda, I noticed that you said to leave the jar in a cool, dark place for a couple of days, add more lemons if necessary, and then continue to store them in a cool, dark place until they are ready to use. Other recipes I've seen say that after you add more lemons you should store the jar in the refrigerator. Which would you say is best?

Amanda Mouttaki

Monday 25th of January 2021

You can do either - in Morocco they never go in the fridge to cure but if you feel more comfortable that way it won't hurt them.

Chicken with Preserved Lemons from Mother Would Know - MarocMama

Tuesday 14th of May 2019

[…] stores are the preserved lemon, which you can easily make yourself, and saffron. Here is a good guide for how to make preserved lemons.  I made a batch a few months ago, and used one of them for this recipe. As for saffron, it is a […]

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Tuesday 25th of October 2016

[…] Preserved lemons are THE ingredient that makes Moroccan cuisine what it is.  A Moroccan pantry simply cannot exist without a jar of preserved lemons. If you know a foodie eager to try their hand at Moroccan tajines, fish dishes or salads, this gift is perfect! Keep in mind, the lemons take a few weeks before they can be used. You may want to attach a favorite recipe or two OR pair with a great Moroccan cookbook. […]

Heidi Wagoner

Saturday 23rd of January 2016

Okay, I think I can handle this one. In a few weeks I will be able to make an awesome tagine! woo hoo.

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[…] Preserved Lemons […]