How to Make Preserved Lemons

Makes: 1 quart • Time: 20 minutes, plus 1 month curing

At Aziza—curating chef Mourad Lahlou’s popular restaurant in San Francisco—one person is in charge of making a 200-pound mega-batch of preserved lemons every month. That’s how much they’re used in Moroccan cuisine!

With powerful flavor that goes from salty to citrusy to piney to almost tingly, preserved lemons are an incredible accent to any savory dish. Here, Chef Lahlou shares his basic recipe, plus a list of ideas about how to use them. For even more recipes, check out Lahlou’s cookbook.

Preserved Lemons
© Deborah Jones

Ingredients

  • 6 lemons
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • ½ to 1 cup lemon juice

Directions

  1. Using a vegetable brush under cold running water, scrub the lemons, then pat dry using a clean paper towel. Cut a cross into each lemon, stopping about ½ inch above the stem so that the lemon is quartered but still holds together.
  2. Place the salt in a large mixing bowl. Holding the lemon over the bowl, spread the four quarters open and pack in as much salt as possible (up to about 2 tablespoons per lemon).
  3. Arrange the lemons into the jar cut side up to keep the salt from spilling out, pushing them down hard so they’re squeezed in tightly. (If the sixth lemon doesn’t fit, add it the next day, when the lemons are softer. Seal the jar with the lid and leave it on the counter overnight.
  4. The next day, open the jar and push the lemons down using a clean spoon. Add more salted lemons if they fit, then the lemon juice to fill the jar and completely submerge the lemons. Put the lid back on the jar, turning it until it’s just finger-tight.
  5. Put the jar in a dark spot, like a cupboard or pantry. Throughout the next week, turn and shake the jar once a day to redistribute the salt that has settled to the bottom. Add more lemon juice if the lemons are no longer submerged.

How to Use Them

Chef Lahlou shares his favorite ways to incorporate preserved lemons into his cooking.

  • Toss with olives and a splash of olive oil
  • Mix into tapenade
  • Make a topping for fish, chicken, or steak by tossing with almonds, parsley, and olive oil
  • Dice and add to salads
  • Add to braising greens, carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables
  • Toss into couscous with parsley just before serving
  • Add to cooked orzo with mild goat cheese and olive oil
  • Mix into Bloody Marys, martinis, and other cocktails
  • Add (in small amounts) to homemade ice creams, panna cotta, and other desserts

Excerpted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011. Photographs by Deborah Jones.

Born and raised in the ancient Medina of Marrakesh, Chef Mourad Lahlou moved to San Francisco in his 20s and quickly grew homesick for his native cuisine. After teaching himself to recreate his favorite dishes, he transitioned into the life of a chef. Today, he’s the chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Aziza in San Francisco and the author of Mourad: New Moroccan.

Mourad Lahlou


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