Saturday, March 19, 2016

Quick preserved lemons

It has been gloriously sunny these past few weeks, so much so that I’ve been tricked into believing that spring has arrived. It’s still very cold outside, though, but feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and seeing the blue skies above me has been wonderful. Spring can’t be too far along now.

I’ve been in the mood for bright and vibrant food, and to play with something equally glorious and bright as the sun that’s been shining non-stop; lemons.

The thought of making Moroccan preserved lemons had crossed my mind many times, but my impatient self would always go out and buy a jar. The thought of having to wait a month before they’re ready made me anxious and I needed them now. Sometime ago, however, I decided to try something else; the quick version of preserved lemons and what a great decision that was.

This quick version may not give the same result as the classic one but it’s delicious nonetheless. I’ve made them a couple of times and the last time I thought about flavoring them. Turmeric and dried red chilli flakes came immediately to mind to give them that extra oomph I was looking for.

The process of making them is so easy. You cut the lemons into thin slices and put them in a bowl. You salt them, sprinkle them with turmeric and you gently massage them, aiming to soften them and release their juices. You finally add the red chilli flakes and continue massaging them until they take on an almost orange hue from the chilli. You empty them into a sterilized jar, squeeze a couple of lemons over them and leave them on the counter for a day.

The next day, you have your “preserved” lemons ready to use. The tart flavor of the lemons doesn’t have much time to mellow out so these are more sour and more “aggressive” than the classic preserved lemons that have been cured for months and have developed a sweetness, but the more they stay in the fridge and develop their flavor, the more mellow they become. Those of you who have tried the classic preserved lemons will notice the difference. The quick version may not be as aromatic and deeply flavored as the classic one but they most certainly provide that sharpness, saltiness and lemon fragrance that you want.

I add them to all sorts of dishes; salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, roasts, you name it, and I can’t wait to share a couple of them with you.
See you soon and until then, enjoy the beginning of spring!

Quick preserved lemons

You may think that the addition of turmeric and chilli will make the preserved lemons too spicy but that’s not the case. They are subtly flavored by the spices and they’re not hot at all. The predominant flavor is that of the lemon with an extra little kick of chilli and an earthy quality from the turmeric. You may of course omit the spices from the recipe altogether if you wish.

The quality of the lemons plays a huge role in the resulting flavor. Use aromatic, unwaxed, organic lemons that are juicy and somewhat thick-skinned as the skins/rinds are the ones normally used in dishes. Some people do use the flesh as well but I find it to be too sour, in both the quick and the classic version of preserved lemons.

Yield: 1 medium-sized jar

5 organic, unwaxed, whole lemons
Juice of 2 lemons, freshly squeezed
1 Tbsp sea salt
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes (I use Greek boukovo)

Special equipment: kitchen mandoline (optional), 1 sterilized medium-sized glass jar with lid (read here how to sterilize it)

Using a sharp knife, or a kitchen mandoline, cut off the ends of the lemons and then slice them about 2mm thick. Place them in a wide bowl, add the salt and the turmeric, and massage the lemon slices, squeezing them gently (not violently because you don’t want them to disintegrate) in order to release their juices, to mix them well with the salt and to soften them, for a couple of minutes.
Add the chilli flakes and massage gently to mix well, until the slices take on a light orange color.
Empty everything into the sterilized glass jar and pour the juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons on top to cover the slices completely.
Close the lid and leave the jar on the counter for a day before using the lemons.

You can keep the preserved lemon slices in the fridge for up to 3 months, even after opening. The flavor is better as time passes. Just make sure they are covered by the lemon juices.

To use the lemon in recipes, remove the slices from the jar and using a knife, remove the flesh of the lemons keeping only the skin/rind. Chop it or use it whole in your dishes.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this bright recipe, Magda. I love all things citrusy but lemons, oh my, I do love the thought of having them available for whenever the notion strikes:)

    1. Thank you, Louise! I love lemons too, and thee are indeed very tasty and bring lots of flavor to different dishes.

  2. i am loving the idea of a quick preserved lemon recipe, i have always wanted to make preserved lemons but never have had the patience. it just seems so easy to buy them! definitely will be trying this out.

  3. Hi Magda, So...just to be clear, only the skin/rind is eaten?

  4. Hi Magda, As someone had just given me a bag of lemons, I made these the same day. They have been in the fridge most of the time. They are a little slimy, but they smell fine and taste great. Any idea how long they will keep. Judith

    1. Hi Judith. I'm surprised by what you said that they are slimy. Hmmm weird. I mention it also at the end of the recipe, that you can keep them in the fridge for 3 months. If the texture is unappetizing though I don't know if you would want to keep them.

    2. Thanks for this Magda. Maybe I'll just make another batch. Not as if lemons are scarce here on the Peloponnese!!!
      Thanks too for the delicious chocolate pudding and the easy coffee ice-cream. Both firm favourites.