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Recipes +

  • Writer's pictureMelinda Essey

What do I actually do with preserved lemons?

Updated: Dec 9, 2023


A group of products in jars, Peppy Preserved Lemons are in focus.
Photo by Jasper Avenue


Preserved lemons tend to be one of those ingredients that you like the idea of, but don’t really know what to do with. Or you might’ve picked up a jar for a particular recipe and then don’t know what to do with the rest.

Truth is there are tonnes of ways to use preserved lemons in dishes you’re already making.

But first … a few things to remember when you’re using preserved lemons.

  • Always wipe off the gel-like liquid, otherwise it’s going to be super salty. Some people wash it off. I tend to just scrape it off with the blunt edge of my knife, or wipe it with a paper towel, and pop it in my compost.

  • The rind is the most commonly used part, but you can use the flesh, just be prepared for a more intense flavour. Which brings me to my next point …

  • A little goes a long way.

  • Finally, just like fresh herbs, preserved lemons can really elevate a dish. So crack open a jar and try on of the ideas below.

Here’s my top five uses for preserved lemons … and none of them are a tagine.

Delicious dip

One of my favourite ways to use preserved lemon. Take half a cup of natural yoghurt ... it could be sour cream or cashew cream for a non-dairy alternative, don’t be scared to substitute. Finely mince a tablespoon of preserved lemon and a couple of teaspoons of your favourite herb. I like dill in this instance, but you could try coriander or parsley. Give it a good stir and then let it sit for half an hour to let the flavours develop. If you haven’t got the time, you can tuck in straight away, but the longer it sits, the better it will taste. I also like to use this on top of roasted potatoes or steamed greens.

Roasting chicken

Combine minced preserved lemon, some butter and a few chopped herbs (thyme or rosemary work well) and slip it under the skin of the next chicken you roast … delicious. Preserved lemon also acts as a great marinade.

Salad dressing

Add it to your favourite vinaigrette dressing. A quarter of a cup of olive oil, two tbsp lemon juice, half a tsp of Dijon mustard, a quarter to a half tsp ground cumin and a teaspoon or two of finely minced preserved lemon. Give it a good whisk and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Quick pasta

While your pasta is cooking (and remember to always cook it two minutes less than the cooking instructions), gently fry a couple of cloves of garlic, some onion, an anchovy or two (if you like them, try it even if you think you don’t) a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a tablespoon or two of preserved lemon in a little olive oil. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. Then add the drained pasta and reserved pasta water (start with half a cup, add more as needed) into the frypan. Toss well to coat and allow the pasta to finish cooking in the pan, about two minutes. Serve with a generous handful of freshly grated parmesan and some roughly chopped parsley.

Roasting veg

Elevate your next tray of roasted veg by adding some slivered preserved lemon peel to your roasting pan. Toss it through your veg with olive oil, salt and pepper and let it work its magic.

So don't let that jar of preserved lemons go to waste, try incorporating them into your next meal for a zingy and unique twist.

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