I get asked so often how to use preserved lemons in cooking and baking, that I decided to expand my usual response into a post.
From what I have noticed, home cooks tend to purchase a jar of preserved lemons for a specific recipe – and then stuff the remainder in the back of the fridge for a year or two. Others get fired up over a DIY recipe, like my Spiced Preserved Lemons, but then don’t know what on earth to do with them afterward.
I use preserved lemons in practically everything. I should state from the beginning that I am a longtime devotee to preserved lemons and always have a jar or two in my refrigerator. Hopefully by the end of this post you are both inspired to stock your pantry permanently with preserved lemons and feel confident adding them to your cooking and baking.
Traditionally, salt-preserved lemons were a staple in Morrocan cooking, but now (similar to the recent popularity of harissa) chefs and home cooks alike are reaching for a jar to inject a zing of tangy lemon flavour into everything from pesto to pasta. Why, just this evening for dinner I finished a pea, pancetta and parmesan risotto with a spoon of minced preserved lemon.
Not only do the lemons add a little extra saltiness to a dish, but they also provide a musky fermented note that is almost umami and bring an intense lemon flavour that is unmistakable. In short, they are capable of completely transforming a dish for the better.
Back in my restaurant days, we packed five-gallon buckets full of salted lemons and let them transform in the walk-in refrigerator. When they were ready, we minced the rind and stirred it into couscous, topped salmon tartar and finished raw oysters with a tangy preserved lemon shaved ice. Delicious.
In my own kitchen I blend preserved lemon into frosty lassis, bake it into madeleines and add it to quinoa dishes. I chop it and fold the lemon into avocado egg salad sandwiches. And that is just the start. My upcoming cookbook features preserved lemon in a herbacous potato salad and my next cocktail is going to be this preserved lemon sage gin & tonic. It seems I just can’t stop.
Okay, now you know the why, so here is the how. It’s very simple: remove a quarter of lemon from the jar and rinse under cold water. If you skip this step the salt on the lemon will overpower. Pat the lemon dry and separate the peel from the flesh.
The preserved rind of the lemon is the real prize here, although the flesh can be used as well. I mostly use the peel in my cooking and baking, diced or finely minced.
Now that you have your prized ingredient, let’s put it to good use: enhance salad dressings, liven up soups, add extra zing to chicken dinners and pastas. And when that gets old, fold it into quick breads, fruit pie filling and pancake batter.
Preserved Lemon Recipe Round-Up: Savoury
- Preserved Lemon Quinoa with Shaved Brussels, Toasted Walnuts :: Topped with goat cheese, this versatile vegetarian dish from the archives is absolutely popping with flavour.
- Persian Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Preserved Lemon :: Eating Well
- Slow-cooked lamb neck with preserved lemon relish :: The Guardian
- Pan-Seared Cod with Preserved-Lemon Aioli :: Food & Wine
- Baked Chicken with Artichokes, Cinnamon, and Preserved Lemons :: The Kitchn
- Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata :: Serious Eats
- Pizza with Za’atar, Preserved Lemons and Ricotta :: Alexandra’s Kitchen
- Simple Lemon, Arugula & White Bean Pasta :: A Simple Bites classic; just toss a teaspoon of minced preserved lemon in with the rest of the ingredients.
- Orecchiette with roasted cauliflower, preserved lemon and hazelnuts :: The Guardian
- Preserved Lemon Hummus :: Eat Simply, Eat Well
- Broccoli with Preserved Lemon Yogurt :: Food & Wine
- Roasted Fingerlings with Preserved Lemon :: Bon Appetit
- Chicory Soup with Barley and Lemon :: Letty’s Kitchen
- Falafel with preserved lemon yogurt, spicy pickled onions, and fresh mint :: My Name is Yeh
One last savoury idea…dice up the lemon and add a tablespoon or so into the filling for these Tangy Quinoa Spring Salad Cups. The flavours play very well together: jalepeno, avocado, cilantro, mango – and preserved lemon.
Preserved Lemon Recipe Round-Up: Sweet
- Strawberry and Preserved Lemon Lassi :: In this favourite drink from the Simple Bites archives, small Quebec strawberries and tangy preserved lemons marry in a sweet and salty lassi.
- Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake with Roasted Rhubarb :: A spoon of minced preserved lemon would only improve this fragrant pound cake.
- Pavlovas with Lemon Whipped Cream and Vanilla-Rhubarb Compote :: Stir a little minced preserved lemon into the whipped cream or the compote.
- Preserved Lemon Ice Cream :: Food52
- Preserved Lemon Ginger Pound Cake :: The Daring Gourmet
- Lemon Angel Food Cake With Preserved Lemon Curd :: NYT Cooking
- Christmas Stollen Madeleines with Preserved Lemon :: A Simple Bites original, best-loved recipe. Don’t make them just at Christmas; they would also be perfect for Easter brunch.
- Preserved Lemon Raspberry Bundt Cake :: Dave Bakes
- Preserved-Lemon Pudding with Basil Syrup :: Food & Wine
- Double Lemon Pound Cake :: Dinner with Julie
Looking for more? My friend Alana has plenty more ideas for using preserved lemons, including a kale caesar salad recipe. Yes please.
Remember, a jar of preserved lemons can hold in the refrigerator for up to a year, so there’s no need to use it all up at once. Spread the goodness out, jazzing up dishes here and there throughout the week. I’d love to hear what you make, so leave a comment and share how you use your preserved lemons.