Homemade Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are one of my friend Michaela’s favorites of the many foods she pickles, ferments, and teaches about. Here, at last, she shares her beloved recipe with the fabulous “Sweet Paul” readers.

Food + Text by Michaela Hayes Photography by Paul Lowe

From Michaela:

“IMAGINE EATING the peel, pith and all, of a raw lemon. Not a super pleasant experience. But add that lemon to some salt and spices and let it cure for a while, and you have, well, magic. It’s transformed into a food that is indescribably rich, salty, and tangy. Preserved lemons are the unsung hero of so many delicious flavor combinations.

My first memory of making preserved lemons was at the restaurant Tabla in New York City. There, we trimmed massive numbers of lemons, salted them in containers big enough to soak your body in, and let them cure for about a month before they were rinsed and transformed with cooking into the sweet-tart lemon chutney that accompanied pillowy naan bread. After that, at Gramercy Tavern, preserved lemons found their

way into many dishes, but mostly into the silky lemon vinaigrette
that coated many a delicious locally grown vegetable.

These days, I keep a stash of preserved lemons on hand at all times, mainly for slicing paper thin and topping homemade pizzas that please the whole family. However you decide to use these delicious lemons, I hope you enjoy the transformation as much as I do.”

Makes 2 Pints

You will need:
10 lemons, unwaxed and organic
sea salt
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 bay leaf
15 black peppercorns
15 coriander seeds

  1. Trim the ends of 8 of the lemons and slice into 4–6 wedges each. Remove the seeds.
  2. Squeeze the remaining two lemons and reserve the juice.
  3. In a glass or ceramic storage container, such as a Mason jar, layer a sprinkling of salt.
  4. Top the salt with a tightly packed layer of lemon wedges.
  5. Add another sprinkling of salt, the bay leaf, a few peppercorns and coriander seeds, and a pinch of chili flakes.
  6. Repeat this layering process until you have used all the lemon wedges.
  7. Pour the lemon juice over the top.
  8. Cover the container, label with the date, and store in a cool place.
  9. Check in one week to make sure the lemons are submerged in the liquid and release any gasses that may have built up. If the lemons are floating to the surface, press them down to submerge them in the liquid for proper curing.
  10. Cure the lemons at room temperature for one month, and then move them to the refrigerator where they will keep for up to one year.


To use, add preserved lemons whole to meat braises for lemony flavor and richness. Scrape out the pulp and blend it into softened butter to make a lemony compound butter. The cleaned peel may be diced and added to warm grain salads, pureed into salad dressings, or sliced thinly to top your favorite pizza.