Quick Preserved Lemons

Quick Preserved LemonsOver the past several years, I’ve enjoyed preserved lemons a number of times at Moroccan restaurants.  Usually found accenting some sort tagine, this sweet, sour, salty pickle cuts through rich, heavy flavors offering a bright, lemony contrast.  Made with only three ingredients, these Quick Preserved Lemons are a versatile condiment that comes together in snap (only 3 hours!).  I must clarify, however, that these lemons aren’t actually preserved.  The process outline below will result in a delicious relish that tastes very similar to traditional preserved lemons.  Perhaps you’re thinking right now, I don’t make tagines very often (or at all), how else can I use this condiment?  Preserved lemons can be used to punch up the flavor of a simply baked chicken breast or fillet of fish.  Or add a spoonful to a heavier salad (farro, barley, wheat berry, etc.) to lighten the dish.  Preserved lemons can also be added to stews, soups and vinaigrettes.  Continue reading for the recipe.

Lemons and Lemon PreparationQuick Preserved Lemons
Adapted from The New York Times.

4 unwaxed lemons (if waxed, scrub well)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Diced LemonDice whole lemons (peel, pith and pulp).  While dicing, pick out any seeds and discard.  Place diced lemons with their juices in a bowl.  Add kosher salt and sugar, tossing to combine.  Transfer to a large jar and let sit for at least 3 hours at room temperature, shaking the jar a few times per hour.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 cups.


  1. says

    Oh I like this quick variety. I have some meyer lemons preserving in my basement, they’ve been there for about 3 weeks. Can’t wait to taste the results.
    But I could use your quick recipe too!

    • says

      I would say several weeks.  I used about 7/8s of the jar shown above in two weeks.  The remaining 1/8 kept in the fridge for a while longer.

      I use a Canon Rebel T2i and switch between 50mm 1.4 and 100mm Macro 2.8 lenses.


  2. Ellen says

    Re: how long this preserved lemon will last, I checked the NY Times article and they say up to a week.

  3. says

    Fantastic! So glad I found this. I made preserved lemons a couple years back when I was learning about Moroccan food, but only used them once. I will still need to find recipes, but your technique is much more encouraging. I had a hard time with the traditional method of tightly packing the lemons and getting the juice to form a seal, and then I think they took 6 weeks, rotating periodically, and refilling the liquid… it’s no wonder I was over them by the time they were ready! Thanks!

  4. christine says

    Thankyu for the tips! Hmm just wondering if the lemons can be still preserved though without putting sugar only salt??? Or can we replace sugar to honey? And how to distinguish unwaxed lemons to waxed lemons????


    • Brandon Matzek says

      Hi Christine, you can use just lemons and salt. Most lemons sold in regular grocery stores are waxed. Usually organic or farmer’s market lemons are unwaxed.


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