Salt Pickled Lemons

One fresh lemon and some salt next to a bowl of lemon wedges that have been preserved.
Our three Simple Feast chefs

Simple Feast

Our chefs

(otherwise known as Preserved Lemons), Makes 6

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 5 weeks

Some of the most intriguing ingredients can also be the simplest. Take these lemons, for example. Lemons, salt, and time are all you need to transform the bitter rinds to a soft and deliciously intense ingredient unlike its former self. We sometimes add aromatics, but that is completely optional. And, if  the flavor ends up too acidic for you, next time use ½ cup salt and ¼ cup granulated sugar combined to fill the lemons.

At Simple Feast we always recommend using organic ingredients. However, in something like this, it is particularly important that the lemons are pesticide free.


  • 6 organic lemons, preferably Eureka or Lisbons 

  • ½ to 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 5 more lemons)

  • ¾ cup kosher salt

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil


Wash the lemons in cold water and then dry well.

Set a 1-quart wide-mouth Mason jar near your work surface. Pour the salt into a large bowl.

Hold 1 lemon, stem end down, on the work surface. Cut the lemon lengthwise into quarters, stopping about ½-inch from the stem. The ends will remain intact. Gently open the quarters (still leaving the ends intact) over the bowl with the salt. Fill with as much salt as you can and then put the lemon into the jar cut side up. Repeat with 4 of the remaining lemons, filling with salt and packing them into the jar. Put the lid on the jar. Let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours or ideally overnight to allow as much juice as possible to release.

Using a clean spoon or spatula, press down on the lemons to exude more of the juice, but not so hard as to press out the salt. At this point there might be enough room to add the last lemon. If there is, cut into quarters like before, add salt, and pack into the jar.

Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to the jar until the lemons are submerged. Put the lid back on snuggly but not too tight (some air needs to be able to escape). Put in a dark, cool place.

For the next week, shake the jar once a day to redistribute any settled salt, and if needed add a little more juice to the top. After the first week, it is no longer necessary to shake. Keep the jar in its dark, cool spot for 1 month.

Note On Using Aromatics

If you like, as the salt-filled lemons are added to the jar, you can add in aromatics. Some possible additions are 2 small rosemary sprigs or 2 to 3 thyme sprigs, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns with 2 bay leaves, or 1 whole cinnamon stick with 3 cloves. A few coriander seeds can also be a nice addition. 

How to Use the Lemons

In most recipes, only the yellow rind will be used. Using a paring knife, remove the rind from the center fleshy portion and scrape off any pith still on the rind.

Simple uses for the rinds include mincing them and mixing with olives, into salsas, gremolata, or even in guacamole. We like them in a salad, with couscous, pasta, or roasted vegetables, and mixing with oil and vinegar to make a vinaigrette. The liquid is very strong, but in the right amounts is also delicious as part of a vinaigrette, dressing, sauce, or even in a cocktail.