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May 15 2021

Preserved lemons - how to make and use them

Preserved lemons were a mystery to me a few years ago, until I came across a recipe that called for them. I naively thought that a real lemon was a satisfactory substitute...boy was I wrong!

A few weeks later, after a failed recipe and unable to find them at our local supermarket, I found a preserved lemon recipe online and made my own. 

Preserved Lemon Recipe Twisted Citrus


Not surprisingly the lemons are the most important ingredient to get right. 

  • You can use any variety but Meyer and Yen Ben are the most popular in New Zealand. I personally prefer the Meyer as it has more juice and 'squishes' more easily into the jars. 
  • Make sure they are UNWAXED as the wax will affect end result flavour. Most lemons sold in New Zealand are waxed, so try to get them from a tree or us!
  • Mid-season lemons are perfect as they have plenty of flavour and juice but also do not have puffy skin which can create air pockets.


  • Use top quality preserving jars with a great seal (not grannies old ones). Having a wide diameter also makes it easier to 'squish' and remove the lemons when they are ready.
  • Sterilise jars by placing them in a preheated oven at 130°C for 20 minutes.


  • Non-Iodised coarse salt  

Preserved lemons


6-10 unwaxed lemons (amount depends on your jar size)

250g coarse salt

Extra lemon juice


 Wipe lemons firmly with a warm, damp, clean cloth. Slice a small section off both the top and bottom of the lemon.

Cut them downwards into quarters, but not all the way through. Leave about 1cm at the base to keep them together.

Pack a generous amount of salt into the middle of each lemon, holding them over a bowl so you don't lose the salt.

Pack the lemons very firmly into the jar, curved side up or out. Pressing down firmly as you go to release the juice.

Fill the jar up as much as you can. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of salt and top up with lemon juice if required.

Let the lemons mature for at least 8 weeks, turning every so often, once opened, store in the refrigerator. 

Preserved lemons can be stored unopened for up to 12 months in a cool dark spot.


Once you open a jar for a particular recipe, it can often sit in the fridge for some time. Here a few ideas that will add an extra flavour dimension to your cooking!

  • In grainy salads, this is my favourite.  From farro to couscous and quinoa to barley, there is a place for preserved lemons. Basically, if you would normally add lemon zest or juice, preserved lemon will make it even better.
  • In any tagine dish.
  • Pasta and risotto dishes.
  • Finely dice and add to your mashed potato.
  • Add to avocado and egg salad sandwiches.
  • Adds a salty, citrus zing to dressings, soups and pesto.
  • With ANY fish dish, they are BFF.
  • Add to guacamole, hummus, aioli and salsas.
  • Dotted onto raw oysters.
  • Use to stuff a chicken prior to roasting or place under the chicken skin.
  • Chopped finely over steamed beans.