International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Leems (Moroccan preserved lemons)

(Moroccan preserved lemons)

Image Creative Commons by Jules

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Preserved lemons are a common pickle in North Africa, particularly Morocco, where they are known as leems, or country lemons. Their intense lemon flavor is valued as a bright addition to soups, stews and tagines like djej emshmel. Or try preserved lemons chopped and tossed in salads or as a condiment for fish and seafood.

Makes 4 preserved lemons


  • Lemons -- 4
  • Kosher or sea salt -- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice -- about 1 cup


  1. Scrub the lemons well under cool running water. Cut the lemons into quarters lengthwise, leaving the last 1/2 inch of the stem end intact. Gently open the lemons and sprinkle the insides of each with 1 tablespoon of salt.
  2. Put the remaining salt in the bottom of a clean glass jar big enough to hold all the lemons, or use two smaller jars. Press the lemon quarters back together and pack the lemons tightly into the jar, pressing down on each to extract some of their juice. Add enough additional lemon juice to fill to cover the lemons.
  3. Seal the jar tightly with a lid and shake gently. Place in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 weeks to cure, gently shaking the jar daily.
  4. To Use: Use clean utensils to remove the lemons. Rinse in cool water to remove any excess salt. The chopped lemon flesh is good for flavoring soups and stews. The peel is best used in tagines like djej emshmel. Refrigerated, the lemons will keep for several months.

Preserved Lemon Variations

  • You can add whole spices to flavor your preserved lemons if you like: cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves.
  • Use limes instead of lemons, or mix them half and half.

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