Spiced Preserved Lemons

finished jar

Written by Marisa of Food in Jars.

In 1988, my family packed up our station wagon and migrated north from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. I went from being a kid who’d never seen snow to one who was intimately familiar with mittens, scarves and moisture-wicking rain jackets.

Since then, I’ve always made the choice to live in climates that feature four distinct seasons (my younger sister went the opposite way and fled to Austin, Texas as soon as she was able). While I continue to be entirely pleased with my chosen city and its weather, I do find that come January, I need a little help dealing with the short, dark days.

meyer lemons

Where most people might choose sun lamps or strategically timed visits to points south, I ward off the effects of the winter blahs with prodigious doses of citrus. I buy clementines by the box, fill cellophane bags with navel oranges and once a season, splurge on a ten pound shipment of Meyer lemons from the Bay Area.

I make marmalade, curd, jelly, caramel sauce, infused sea salt, flavored olive oil, dried slices and salt preserved lemons. All told, I spend nearly two full weeks celebrating the fragrance and flavor of these sweet, thin-skinned lemons.

spices in jar

Of all the things I make during my yearly Meyer lemon binge, the preparation I find that I value most in my year-round cooking is those salt preserved lemons. Traditionally a staple in Moroccan cooking, I use them in salad dressings, braises and grain salads. They do good work in any dish that needs a little acidic funkiness and they last forever.

six slices

Preserving lemons in salt is dead simple. If you search the internet, you’ll find a variety of techniques on how to do it. Some will recommend that you slice the lemon into quarters, leaving the fruit barely attached at the base. Others will have you slice or chop the fruit into bits. I’ve found that it’s most expeditious to cut small lemons into sixths. They pack well into mason jars at that size and the pieces are easy to work with once they’re ready to use.

full jar top

Once the lemons are sliced, you drop a few spices into the jar, and then layer the lemons with kosher salt. Apply a tight-fitting lid and shake the jar once or twice a day, to encourage the juices to flow. Let them sit for two to three weeks at room temperature, until the lemon rinds have gone soft and glossy. At that point, you can pop the jar into the fridge. When you’re ready to use them, simple give the segments a quick rinse and chop. Some people prefer to only use the peel, but I like the flavor that the flesh lends as well.

full jar side

How do you use citrus in your kitchens during the winter months?

Spiced Preserved Lemons

5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Preserves
Calories: 154kcal
Author: Marisa


  • 1 pound Meyer lemons preferably unsprayed
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt I like Diamond Crystal
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper corns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries


  • Wash the lemons well. Trim away the stem end and slice the lemons into six segments per piece of fruit.
  • Place the spices into a large, wide mouth jar (choose one that can hold at least 24 ounces).
  • Pour one tablespoon of kosher salt into the bottom of the jar and pack in the first six slices of lemon. Top lemon with salt and then more lemon and continue to alternate until the jar is filled and you’re out of lemons and salt.
  • Place a tight-fitting lid on to the jar and shake.
  • Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks.
  • Shake the jar daily to help distribute the salt, spices and liquid.
  • Open the lid every few days, to allow the lemons to breathe and to release any fermentation pressure.
  • Once the lemon skins look soft and the liquid has taken on a pleasantly funky, tangy taste, put the jar in the fridge. They will keep up to a year.


Calories: 154kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 56600mg | Potassium: 626mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 100IU | Vitamin C: 241.4mg | Calcium: 204mg | Iron: 3.7mg
About Marisa

Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated small batch canner who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, titled Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.

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  1. I made this in the past and the liquid looked syrup like,and a little golden in color
    I rinsed a lemon and it tasted ok just salty but i was afraid the batch was not right.
    I never see finished after pictures of the batches to compare.
    Thanks for the recipe. i may try to make this again.

  2. I love reading about exotic-to-me fruits, and how to put them up. I get cases of Band Fruit Fundraiser citrus each winter, thanks to having a son in the band 😉 and I’ve been stuffing it into everything from waffles and muffins to pasta with salmon. I have a bag of peels in the freezer now, because it seemed like a shame to throw them away (the composting guinea pigs don’t care for them, the worms in the worm bin won’t touch them, and the outdoor compost bin is just biding it’s time until the weather warms. My mom made candied grapefruit peel, but that was my brother’s thing, not mine.


  3. Yum! I’ve got a big bowl of meyer lemons on the counter right now. We love preserved lemons. Usually we also make lemon curd and then we experiment. So far this season we’ve had a yummy lemon parmesan vinaigrette on our salads and I’m thinking a lemon cheesecake is in our near future.

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for such an awesome post! I have never heard of this before? I actually have about 6lbs of Meyer Lemons to do something with☺ I have been making my own extracts that I use in baking AND in my Organic Lemon Creme Lotion
    This is so unique AND I have all of the ingredients handy! LOVE your posts!

  5. What a great idea! I’m going to have to try it. Meyer lemons only, or can you do this with regular lemons as well?

    • You can certainly use regular lemons as well as Meyer ones. Just search out the thinner rind regular lemons. Do this by picking the lemons with the smoothest skin. The ones that have pock-marked skin have thicker pith layers.

  6. the spice are a great addition I’m gonna do that the next time I make a batch. They add so much flavour . Thanks for sharing.

  7. 5 stars
    I’m so with you on this – the sight of exotic citrus in the grocery store is one of the few things that I look forward to in winter. I can find Meyer lemons pretty reliably, and have even spotted Seville oranges recently. What’s next? Loquats?

  8. I have been searching high and low for Meyer lemons. Where can I get it from? Obviously, my fresh markets don’t carry it.

  9. I just started mine last night and all the juice has run to the bottom. Top half of the lemons have no juice. Will they be ok?

    • Natalia, over the course of the next couple of days, they should eventually produce enough juice to cover all the lemons (and you can help them along a little with a few gentle pushes to help the juices flow). If after four or five days, all the lemon slices aren’t covered, you can add some extra juice to cover.

  10. 5 stars
    I woke up from a dream where I was making these this morning. And here you are reminding how to make them. Synchronicity!

  11. Do you have links to any specific recipes that you use these in? Thanks!

  12. Marisa, isn’t there a post about tossing them into the food processor or blender after they are preserved? I did that to the last batch and LOVED it! I just took some of that lovely lemon “jam” and added some to steamed, braised or stir fried veggies, soups. I even added a little to rice to see how much it would make the rice sparkle. Total YUM! It’s great with grilled salmon and I bet would enhance a roasted or baked chicken! Thanks for the great idea on making a fantastic product easier to use.

  13. You’ve inspired me to put my Myers to work! We inherited a great Meyer lemon tree when we bought our house and I have hardly done much with them! Sure, I use them fresh in tons of things (vinaigrettes, marinades, honey-lemon tea, etc.), but I haven’t done much to make them last longer. I think I will make some curd and I want to try these preserved lemons. Not sure how I’ll use them (preserved lemons), but I need to try – they are a goldmine in my back yard, just waiting to be used!

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