Egyptian Preserved Lemon Recipe

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Photo by Ali Donzé Photography  

Preserved lemons have a bold combination of salty, sour, and bitter flavors. They make an excellent accompaniment to braised meat dishes or a flavorful addition to grain salads.

Ferment: Bacterial
Prep: 15 minutes
Time: 2 to 4 weeks
Yield: 2 cups 

In Egypt, this ferment is often made with the key lime, which has a thin skin and pickles very nicely. The larger yellow lemon is used in Morocco and added, along with green olives, to chicken tangine. Preserved lemons can be quite salty and sour, so cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces when serving on their own.

You Will Need

  • 4 to 5 medium lemons (preferably Meyer or other thin-skinned variety)
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds (black seed)
  • 10 saffron threads or 20 safflower threads
  • 1 1-pint (500ml) jar

Nigella seeds
Photo from Adobe Stock


  1. Starting from the stem end, slice lemons into quarters, leaving the end of the lemon intact.
  2. In a small bowl, combine salt, nigella, and saffron. Over a bowl, liberally spread the salt and spice mixture on all exposed surfaces of the lemons.
  3. Pack lemons tightly into a 1-pint (500ml) jar, pressing down to aid in releasing the juices.
  4. Sprinkle any remaining salt mixture on top and screw the lid on tightly. Store at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for at least 2 weeks.
  5. Refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep, refrigerated, for several months.

Fermenting Food Step by Step shows you how to master the fermenting process with more than 80 step-by-step recipes – plus you’ll learn about the history and processes of fermentation throughout. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have practiced fermenting as a way to preserve food, and its health benefits now are at your fingertips. Adam Elabd includes more than 80 recipes covering fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy, breads and grains, and even beverages like kombucha. From pickles and sauerkraut to kefir and yogurt smoothies to sausages and corned beef, every meal and snack is delectable.

Excerpted from Fermenting Food Step by Step, reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Adam Elabd. Photos by © Ali Donzé Photography.

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