Essentially a quick, dry-brined lemon rind, this Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute makes a passable substitution when recipes call for the rind of a preserved lemon.
What are Preserved Lemons?
Real preserved lemons are lemons that have been salted and packed into jars, and then allowed to ferment for several weeks to months. Fermentation naturally preserves the lemons, and the process results in a delicious condiment that features prominently in North African and Moroccan cuisine.
Is there any good substitute for preserved lemons?
An indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking, the unique pickled taste and texture of preserved lemons cannot be duplicated with fresh products.
That said, preserved lemons are not something everyone keeps in their pantry - and sometimes you just don't have the means to get them. (Like during a pandemic.)
When in need, this Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute makes a passable substitution when recipes call for the rind of a preserved lemon.
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How do Quick Preserved Lemons compare to the real thing?
There is no way a 1-hour hack can even come close, so if you have real preserved lemons, by all means, use them!
We decided to compare the flavor of our Moroccan Carrot Salad made with and without real preserved lemons. Our conclusion: the authentic preserved lemons add a more complex, unique flavor - one that is lost in when using Quick Preserved Lemons.
However, if you don't have them on hand (that's why you're here, right?) make our Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute!
We find that, while our quick-fake lacks the depth of flavor that the preserved lemons impart, it is otherwise a quite satisfying lemony, bright, and mildly briny substitution in the salad.
Where are preserved lemons from?
Salt-preserved lemons originated in the Middle East, and are now found in cuisines all over the world.
Mr B and I were introduced to preserved lemons when we took a Moroccan cooking class at our local Sur La Table. Not only did we have a fabulous time together, but we left with some amazing recipes to try at home, too!
Our instructor for the day was Chef Priscilla Umeda, a beautifully warm, captivating woman with great passion and skill for cooking. Chef Priscilla, originally from Nigeria, shared with us that she grew up as the oldest female child in a family of eight children, so it fell to her to “insure her siblings were fed.” Thus, the seeds for creating delicious food and educating others in culinary arts were planted early.
Now a trained, professional chef (with a degree in Business Administration) Chef Priscilla is actively engaged in the culinary training of both home cooks like us and professional chefs.
Before we got to work, Chef Priscilla gave us a little history about Moroccan cuisine. We learned that Moroccan cuisine is considered one of the most important cuisines in the world, due in great part to the remarkable diversity of colonizers and immigrants who have influenced it over the last millennia.
The cuisine of Morocco’s first inhabitants, the Berbers, still exists today in dishes like tagine and couscous. It took on spices, nuts and dried fruits, and the sweet and sour combinations from Arab invasions; olives, olive juice and citrus from the Moors; pickling from Moroccan Jews; and kebabs from the Ottoman Empire. The short-lived French-Moroccan colony left behind a culture of cafes, pastries, and wine.
During our class, Chef Priscilla walked us through the preparation of four traditional Moroccan dishes, including Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits, which became the foundation for our Apricot Chicken Tagine with Ginger & Mint recipe; and the bones for the recipe that inspired this post: Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta & Mint.
We really wanted to share this salad, but we also know that the majority of our readers probably don't have preserved lemon sitting in their pantry. So here you go!
How to Make a Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute
For each preserved lemon rind, you will need one lemon and ¾ teaspoon kosher salt.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the lemon rind. I aim for halfway between the fruit and the zest, in the middle of the rind.
Mince the lemon rind, but don’t pulverize it.
Sprinkle salt over lemon rind, and work together with the back of a spoon. Allow to sit for at least one hour, and preferably overnight before using.
Use as is. Do not attempt to rinse lemon rind.
Quick Preserved Lemon Substitute
- 1 lemon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- For each preserved lemon rind, you will need one lemon and ¾ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the lemon rind. I aim for halfway between the fruit and the zest, in the middle of the rind.1 lemon
- Mince the lemon rind, but don’t pulverize it.
- Sprinkle salt over lemon rind, and work together with the back of a spoon. Allow to sit for at least one hour, and preferably overnight before using. Use as is. Do not attempt to rinse lemon rind.¾ teaspoon kosher salt
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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