How to Use Preserved Lemons and Add a Burst of Flavor to Any Dish

How to use preserved lemons

I take flavor very seriously because it is one of the easiest ways to boost the flavor in your dishes.

Preserved lemons will help you with that and will add deep flavor to your creations.

Preserved lemons are cured with salt that helps soften their skin and transforms it from bitter to very soft and salty/tart. They burst with flavors, spicy, fragrant, sweet, tart, and they are addictive. 

Lemons are associated with acidic ingredients, but preserved lemons are an excellent plant-based source of umami. Lots of lemon AND umami = gold in my kitchen.

Just a tiny amount of preserved lemon will transform your dish and add a depth of flavor that your family will keep you asking, “what is that amazing flavor?”

Most of us are familiar with lemons, but many of us are not yet familiar with preserved lemons. Learning to make and use preserved lemons will take your home cooking to the next level. Check how to make preserved lemons in my blog “How to make preserved lemons.”

This post will show you how to use them in all kinds of savory dishes.

Preserved lemons have long been used as a fantastic flavor booster and as a condiment in North African cuisine (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) and South Asian cuisine. 

If you’ve been to a North African restaurant, you probably had it in your couscous salad or tagine. Preserved lemons are also famous in Indian cuisine, and they are called nimbu ka achar (nimbu in Hindi = lemon). The cooks chop the lemons into small pieces and pickle them with cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, and/or chili powder (and sometimes sugar).

Where to use preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons are famous for their rind, where the best flavor comes from, but you can still use the flesh. Just make sure that you rinse the salt and add it to smoothies, soups, and stews to infuse the flavor.

Use a knife or spoon to scoop the flesh away from the peel. Then, you can chop or mince the peel and slice it very thinly into strips, depending on the recipe.

Stews and Soups

The typical way to use preserved lemons is by adding preserved lemons peel to tagines, stews, and soups. They will add a contrasting brightness and background depth of flavor that makes the dishes unique and delicious.

Salad Dressings/Vinaigrettes

I love citrus vinaigrettes, and I always add minced preserved lemon peel to take teh recipe up another notch. Making a vinaigrette is an easy place to start getting to know your preserved lemons.

Grain and Legume Salads

Preserved lemons go very well with grain salad and grain dishes (think quinoa, rice, farro, couscous, or bulgur), chickpea, and lentil salads.

One of my favorite easy side dishes is to combine quinoa with cooked or canned lentils, chopped bell peppers, pomegranate seeds, chopped carrots, chopped tomatoes, basil, and cilantro with my preserved lemon vinaigrette (recipe below). Gourmet flavors but so simple!

Meat and fish

Preserved lemons go very well with meat and grilled fish. You can marinate the meats in the marinade with preserved lemons or make the gremolata.

Sauces, Dips, and Spreads

Preserved lemon peel is fantastic for adding it to various sauces to bring up the flavors. I particularly love gremolatas, chimichurri, and Moroccan lemon yogurt sauce. 

You can also infuse your olive oil with preserved lemon. Simply add some chopped rind to your olive oil and leave it for a week for infused flavor and a delicious spin.

Preserved lemon also makes butter using the flesh. Place the squeezed lemon flesh in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth, then add the butter to the puréed lemon and blend until smooth.

Smoothies and juices

I like to add preserved lemons to my smoothies and juices. They add flavor and health benefits because lemons help you detoxify, and preserved lemons will provide good gut bacteria.

Cocktails and Mocktails

Preserved lemons work great in cocktails and mocktails, especially during the summer. My favorite refreshing summer beverage is preserved lemons lemonade. Simply add a quarter peel of preserved lemon to a glass jar along with honey to your liking. Mash into a paste using a muddler, then add water and ice. Stir well, and enjoy! Or add in a shot of mezcal or tequila for an adult treat.

Short-cut tips:

  • Add it to homemade aioli or mayo sauces
  • Add to relishes and chutneys
  • Add to yogurt-based sauces
  • Add to smoothies and juices
  • Add to hummus
  • Mix with grain salads
  • Add to gremolata’s
  • Add to tapenades
  • Add to pan sauces to use with meats and fish
  • Add to soups and stews
  • Add to dressings
  • Add it to various dips or clarified butter for dipping crab/lobster meat.
  • Sprinkle over salads of all sorts
  • Sprinkle over grilled or roasted veggies 
  • Add to marinades for meat
  • Add to all types of pasta or pasta sauces

Check my how-to make PRESERVED LEMONS RECIPE.

Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette


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