Preserved lemons are the jewels of the Moroccan pantry. Piles of the fermented fruits fill market stalls and home kitchens across North Africa—ready to add brightness, complexity and a salty bite to sauces, stews and other savory eats. We love the preserved lemons from Casablanca Market for their brightness and balance. (Bonus: The producer also makes a silky, ready-to-use preserved lemon puree.)
So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to use preserved lemons—to make the most of their rounded tartness and velvety pulp. Try them out. They might just become your new culinary secret weapon.
Note: If you want to improvise with preserved lemon, remember that the pulp and peel should be used separately. The salty pulp is best minced to a paste and melted into long-cooked dishes, while the more mild peel is quite toothsome—using both while still bound together would yield an odd texture and perhaps too briny of a flavor.
Upgrade your Salads
A spoonful or two of the mashed pulp of the fruit (or preserved lemon puree if that’s what’s in your pantry) will go a long way to adding tangy, savory depth to a basic lemon vinaigrette. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine ⅔ cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 1½ teaspoons toasted and crushed aniseed and a judicious crack of black pepper and sprinkle of kosher salt. Add ¼ cup lemon juice and a dollop of preserved lemon pulp—omitting some of the juice if you’d like. Seal the jar, then shake vigorously. The tender rind also can be minced finely and tossed with your greens as a topping.
Give Pastas Bright, Funky Flavor
Preserved lemons bring a more complex tang than their un-fermented counterparts to starchy pasta dishes. To transform a simple sauce of butter, garlic and white wine—loosened with a splash of pasta water and tossed with al dente noodles—try adding 2-3 tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon at the end, off the heat. Top with black pepper and a handful of nutty Parmesan and you have a winning dinner.
Make a Balanced Glaze for Baked Goods
Despite their savory saltiness, preserved lemons are right at home in sweets and treats—especially as a silky puree. You can blend the whole fruits yourself in a food processor, but we’re also partial to the juicy Casablanca Market Preserved Lemon Puree. Try using it in a lemon glaze with powdered sugar—the saltiness will cut the sugar and balance the sweetness of any dessert it’s drizzled on. Using fresh lemon juice, thin one tablespoon of preserved lemon puree to a pourable consistency and mix with powdered sugar.
Brighten Rich, Savory Stews and Braises
Preserved lemon traditionally is used to sharpen the spices and offset the unctuousness of decadent Moroccan dishes like tagine. We love using them in our Moroccan Meatball Tagine with Green Olives and Lemon with a side of flatbread to soak up the flavorful sauce, but it’s lovely in beef stews, bean stews and any hearty dish that could benefit from some zingy citrus. You can stir in the finely chopped rind for a toothsome bite or melt in the soft, juicy pulp—or do both if you’re feeling adventurous.
Throw Together a Savory Yogurt Dip
Spoon out a few dollops of Greek yogurt or labneh and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Dust it with coarse salt, black pepper, fresh herbs, chili flakes and any other savory fixing of your choice. Fold in the chopped, tender rind of the preserved lemon. Scoop it up with hunks of crusty bread or some crudites—or just devour it yourself with a spoon (no judgement here).
Fold Into Beans and Grains
Let these fermented fruits upgrade your grain bowls. The brininess and brightness of the lemons help cut through starchy grains and legumes. Chop them up and mix into lentils, bulgur or couscous, or incorporate them into this Mediterranean-inspired rice dish: Toast 1½ cups of nutty basmati rice in 3 tablespoons salted butter with 3 minced shallots, 2 teaspoons coriander and 2 teaspoons salt. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and let cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the basmati is tender. Off heat, stir in a squeeze of lemon juice, the chopped preserved lemon rinds, toasted hazelnuts and fistfuls of fresh herbs like tarragon and parsley. Equally good for a side dish or the main event.