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Moroccan cuisine are known for their liberal use of tang, therefore preserved lemons are a common ingredient. Yet, despite their unusual appearance, you may readily discover them around you. Preserved lemons have a powerful taste that enhances any meal, which is why it is used in many Northern African cuisines.

But, you may not always have preserved lemons on hand, so choosing an alternative is critical. Yet since these components are strong, they may easily substitute preserved lemons in most meals. So what exactly are preserved lemons? What makes them such an important part of Moroccan culinary history?

What is Preserved Lemon?

Lemons that have been preserved are those that have been picked in salt. The fruit may be put whole or sliced into thin slices before soaking in a salt and water solution. The salt softens the skin and flesh of the lemon as it sits. The ultimate product is a seasoning component with a potent combination of acidity and saltiness.

Preserved Lemon in Recipes

If you’re a fan of Eastern cuisine, you’ll recognize a few of meals seasoned with preserved lemons. The full-flavored ingredient is often used in Moroccan cuisine and is highly valued in the country’s culinary tradition. This component has a mild lemon flavor, and the rind is supple enough to melt into any meal.

Preserved lemons’ pulp and rind may both be utilized in cooking. And they’re both known for adding a fresh tanginess to a variety of meals. This Moroccan ingredient enhances the taste profile and is suitable for both raw and cooked meals, as well as meat and fish. And since the ingredient is made up of fresh lemons, it gives a lot of vitamin C to your meals.

Preserved lemons are used to add tanginess and depth to meals such as;

  • Tagine de boeuf
  • Tagine de viande
  • Tagine de poisson
  • Cauliflower Moroccan style
  • Artichoke from Morocco
  • TangiaMarrakchia
  • Salad of couscous
  • Dressings
  • Marinades
  • SaladeMechouia
  • Traybake of chicken and sausage
  • Cod with Zaatar and relish
  • Tagine with butternut squash
  • Grilled chicken from Morocco
  • Stews
  • Ricotta baked in the oven
  • Spinach cream sauce
  • Lasagne with vegetables
  • Pilaf with spinach and mushrooms
  • Shakshuka
  • Salsa
  • Curry with seafood
  • Sauces


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Preserved Lemon Substitutes

When you run out of preserved lemons, having a convenient substitute on hand might come in useful. While preserved lemons are widely available in supermarkets, you may not have the time or leisure to go out and buy one. Thus, when you’re in a jam, choose one of these alternatives instead;

Lemon Zest

When you run out of preserved lemons, having some fresh lemons on hand might save you a lot of time. And while it is the major component of the item, you will nevertheless add a considerable quantity of tang to your recipes. Of course, lemon zest has a weaker aroma and taste than preserved lemons, but it’s a great fast fix. It also works for all recipes and may be substituted in equal proportions.

Lemon Paste

The lemon paste takes a little longer to make, but it’s a great replacement for preserved lemons. Moreover, you may prepare a huge quantity and store it for later, making it an excellent method to plan. Cut the ends off a big lemon (ideally organic). Next, slice it into thin rings and combine it with four tablespoons of lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook, covered, with one tablespoon of salt, until the peels become translucent (about 10 to 12 minutes). Let to cool before coarsely pureeing in a blender or food processor until it resembles baby food with pieces. In any recipe, one teaspoon of the paste may substitute one rind of preserved lemons, but taste the dish first before adding salt. You may also save this lemon paste in a sterilized jar with a thin layer of olive oil for later use.

Sea Salt Flakes and Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is more acidic, aromatic, and has a lot of tangs. When combined with a few sprinkling of sea salt, the taste is similar to that of preserved lemons. Since this alternative is more fluid, you may anticipate it to be more potent. Nevertheless, after the sea salt is dissolved, you get a perfect balance of sour and salty that tastes like preserved lemons. But, while using it, start with half and taste to test the effects.

Salt-Preserved Lemon Skins

In most recipes, you may substitute preserved lemons with a fast mixture of fine salt and lemon peels. This choice adds zing and saltiness to your meals, making it appropriate in many circumstances. Squeeze out the lemon juice and then cut it into thin pieces. Next, stir with fine salt and let aside for an hour or longer. The longer the lemon slices are left in the salt, the more the taste mimics that of a preserved lemon. Of course, it might be milder yet, but it’s better than nothing.


As a last resort, lemongrass may be used in place of preserved lemon in a variety of dishes. Preserved lemons are widely used to substitute lemongrass in numerous recipes, adding the herb’s characteristic moderate zing and smell. But, while using lemongrass, keep in mind that you may need to remove the blade after the cooking is over. The stalk imparts a zesty scent to the dish and, in most cases, cannot be swallowed. But, lemongrass is best used in recipes that call for the smell of preserved lemon; it will not add any saltiness to the meal. Just one stalk is equivalent to half a preserved lemon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is preserved lemon and picked lemon the same thing?

In essence, yes. Since the phrase refers to anything that has been soaked in a saline solution, it is reasonable to believe that both terms relate to the same substance.

Do you eat the skin of preserved lemons?

Absolutely, the skin may be eaten. Nonetheless, it is recommended that the lemon be rinsed under running water to remove any extra salt.

Can you use iodized salt for preserved lemons?

You certainly can. For producing preserved lemons, iodized salt works just as well as any other variety. But, since it is finer and penetrates deeper into the lemons, just use a tablespoon of it.


Preserved lemons work best in recipes that call for a combination of salinity and tang. Nonetheless, if your stock is depleted, these alternatives will make a fantastic deal. Moreover, they are practical alternatives since the majority of them are most likely in your kitchen at the moment. They may not be as intense as the original, but they will give a light lemony flavor to your food.


Can you substitute lemon for preserved lemon?

Absolutely, if you don’t have access to or can’t obtain preserved lemons, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon paste are all typical solutions. Each of these components has a distinct taste character, yet they all provide acidity, saltiness, and complexity to a meal.

What is the difference between lemon and preserved lemon?

Although fresh lemons have the perfume and oil of the zest as well as the sharpness of the juice, preserved lemons have the sharpness mellowed, the lemon flavor intensified, and the salt and fermentation produce a punchy umami character that provides amazing depth to meals.

How much lemon zest to substitute for preserved lemon?

Dried lemon zest is a handy and versatile ingredient. To make a zesty citrus salt, combine two parts lemon zest and one part sea salt flakes. Sprinkle it over foods that need the savory lemon punch of preserved lemons.

What is the point of preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons have long been used as a condiment and taste enhancer in North African and South Asian cuisines (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia). They began as a means to enjoy lemons after the season had passed (at a time before refrigerators existed).

What can I use instead of preserved lemon Ottolenghi?

Is there an alternative to preserved lemons? If you don’t have time to pickle some lemons, use lemon zest and salt instead. As a last option, muddle them together in a mortar and pestle or on a chopping board.

Which lemons to use for preserved lemons?

Lemons that have been preserved

Ordinary lemons work great, but Meyer lemons are much better.

Where do you find preserved lemons in the grocery store?

What stores sell preserved lemons? You may create your own preserved lemons (allow two weeks!) or get them in Middle Eastern or South Asian grocery shops, generally in glass jars among the pickles and preserved items.

Do preserved lemons taste different?

Preserved Lemons: Older, Wiser, and Packed With Taste As the fruit is salted and aged, it produces a mellow but powerful lemony flavor, with none of the nose-tickling sharp, high notes seen in the fresh variety.

Are preserved lemons too salty?

What exactly is this? Clean the lemons before using to remove the brine and excess salt, but be warned: preserved lemons are naturally salty, and that saltiness will be transferred to any cuisine that calls for them. Consider this while flavoring stews, sauces, or salads.

Can you buy preserved lemons at the grocery store?

Preserved lemons are sold in most larger supermarkets, but they are also quite simple to create at yourself. They may be stored without refrigeration for up to a year.

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