The Best Simple Preserved Lemon Substitutes


Preserved lemons are one of those ingredients that sound exotic and hard-to-find but are actually really easy to make. However they do take a few weeks, so if you don’t have the time, there are some good preserved lemon substitutes.

These won’t have the wonderful fragrance and salty-lemony flavour of proper preserved lemons but will be better than skipping them all together.

What are Preserved Lemons?

An indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons are whole or sliced lemons that have been pickled in salt. Over time the salt softens the lemon rind and turns it into a salty, tangy source of goodness.

While the preserved lemon flesh and skins are edible, most recipes call for the skins and discard the pulp.

The Best Preserved Lemon Substitutes

1. Lemon Zest

A little lemon zest will add a different type of lemony fragrance to your dish. It will be much milder but better than nothing.

2. Sea Salt Flakes

Preserved lemon rind adds a big burst of salty goodness. A sprinkling of sea salt flakes added just before serving are again better than nothing.

3. Lemon Zest + Sea Salt Flakes

This is my pick if I’ve run out of preserved lemons. You get the salt hit and the lemony fragrance in a more toned down form.

4. Salt-Preserved Lemon Skins

If you have a few hours, you can make a quick, substitute. Just squeeze the juice from a lemon, keeping it for another use. Then finely slice the lemon skins and toss in plenty of fine salt. The finer you slice, the quicker they will ‘preserve’. Stand for at least an hour (preferably longer) then use as per your recipe.

Again the flavour will be milder and the texture different to proper preserved lemons.

How to Make Preserved Lemons

See my super simple recipe over here.

Favourite Preserved Lemon Recipes

Delicious Preserved Lemon Flavour Pairings

  • Olives & Preserved Lemon
  • Chicken & Preserved Lemon
  • Fish / Seafood & Preserved Lemon
  • Garlic & Preserved Lemon
  • Coriander (Cilantro) & Preserved Lemon
  • Parsley & Preserved Lemon
  • Almonds & Preserved Lemon

More Ingredient Substitutes

Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x


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