Bright and briny, these preserved lemons make a flavorful addition to cooked grains, roasted chicken, stew or soups. You can also muddle or puree some of the lemon to add brightness to a gin-and-tonic or a martini.

Make Ahead: The lemons need to be prepared at least 3 weeks before you will use them.

Storage Notes: Store the lemons refrigerated in a jar with a lid, ideally submerged, for 6 months and up to 1 year.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


  • 5 small, organic and preferably unwaxed lemons (about 1 pound)
  • 5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, or more as needed
  • 1 cup water, or more as needed

Step 1

Make a deep “x” incision in 4 of the lemons, leaving about 1/4-inch intact at the bottom of each fruit, so it almost opens like a flower. Pack about 1 teaspoon salt into each lemon, getting it between the sections.

Step 2

Pack the salted lemons into a wide-mouth jar just large enough to hold the lemons, squishing them down with clean hands to yield as much liquid as possible. Juice the remaining lemon; you will need about 1/4 cup of juice. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water; then add the juice. Pour the brine over the lemons until they are completely submerged, then weigh the lemons down with a heavy stone or water-filled plastic bag. (If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the lemons in the jar, you can mix 1 teaspoon of salt per 1 cup of water, and add as needed.)

Step 3

Cover and place in a moderately cool location, about 65 to 70 degrees. (If using a lid, be sure to “burp” the jar regularly — preferably before it shows signs of bulging. Or use cheesecloth or an airlock fermenting lid, which will allow microbe-created gas to escape while keeping outside air from entering. If using cheesecloth, you do not need to cover with lid.)

Step 4

Taste the lemons after 3 weeks, and weekly thereafter, to determine readiness. They will remain a saturated yellow and will taste bright, salty and sour — including the peel.

Harmon Courage is the author of “Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome” (Avery/Penguin Random House). Follow her on Twitter at @KHCourage, on Instagram at @KatherineCourage or at

Recipe by Katherine Harmon Courage. Tested by Olga Massov; email questions to

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.

More from Voraciously