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The 5 Best Substitutes for Preserved Lemon

If you like some lemony tang in your food, you need to keep a jar of preserved lemon handy.

It’s an ingredient that you can use in many dishes.

However, it isn’t readily available all the time and in all the places.

It’s simple to make, though, and you can make a big batch and store it for several weeks.

But it takes time to obtain the right flavor, so you may get impatient.

But you don’t need to panic because you can use several items in place of preserved lemon.

Continue reading to learn of at least 5 best substitutes for preserved lemon.

These will come in handy when you can’t find the wanted item.

What is Preserved Lemon?

what is preserved lemon

Lemon cured in salt and spices and kept for a while transforms into preserved lemon.

It’s a pickled condiment popular in Moroccan, Indian and North African cuisine.

The original method uses only salt in the pickle, but modern varieties contain many components, including red chilies, turmeric, peppercorns, cinnamon, coriander seeds, sugar and fresh lemon juice.

You can add the spices to the condiment according to your preference.

The market has readymade stuff, but you can easily make it and use it in your dishes.

You can make the item simply using salt, lemons and a jar and allow them to sit for at least a month.

The technique lowers the lemons’ strong, tart taste and heightens their lemony essence.

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Add it to rice, salads, stews, meat dishes, marinades, fish curries, salsa, barbeque, noodles and much more.

But if you don’t have the ingredient, check out what else you can use.

The 5 Best Substitutes For Preserved Lemon

While you may not get the exact flavor of preserved lemon, the following can come in handy during emergencies.

1 – Lemon Zest

lemon zest

If you have fresh lemons at home, the zest can work pretty well as a replacement for preserved lemon.

The flavor and aroma are milder naturally, but it produces the essence of lemon.

It’s also easy to take out the zest, and you can cook your dish without wasting time.

You can use it in any dish that demands preserved lemon and come up with a delicious and aromatic dish.

Include it in marinades, soups, salads, stews and sauces.

You can add it to ice creams, desserts and baked products.

It can also be a delicious addition to dry rubs, meat and fish dishes.

Lemon zest is not only delicious but also contains a high amount of fiber and vitamin C.

it also has some magnesium, calcium and potassium.

So, it may offer several health benefits.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 rind preserved lemon = 1 teaspoon lemon zest (add more if needed).

2 – Lemon Paste

lemon paste

The next item as an alternative for preserved lemon is lemon paste.

You may spend some time making it, but it can be very useful when your favorite option is unavailable.

You can find readymade variety in the stores but can make at home also.

First, take a big lemon or two medium ones and chop off both ends.

Next, cut them into thin slices and put them in a pan with one tablespoon salt and four tablespoons of lemon juice.

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Put a lid and boil it for about ten to twelve minutes or till the rind is almost transparent.

Once it cools down, use an appliance to make a paste.

You can add the required amount to any dish that demands preserved lemon.

But give a taste before adding salt.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 rind preserved lemon = 1 teaspoon lemon paste.

3 – Lemon Juice with Sea Salt Flakes

lemon juice with sea salt flakes

If you keep fresh lemons and sea salt flakes at home, you don’t have to worry even if you have preserved lemon.

A blend of salt and juice can give a fantastic flavor and aroma that will suit any dish you make.

Lemon juice alone may be more intense, but when you mix it with the sea salt flakes, you will have an ingredient close to preserved lemon.

Sea salt flakes are a popular condiment with chefs around the world.

The less refined is great to sprinkle on chocolate chip cookies or salads, while the refined is ideal for everyday cooking.

You can use either type of salt, depending on availability.

But the less refined variety is more expensive than the refined product.

Once you add it to lemon juice and it dissolves, you can use the product in various dishes.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 rind preserved lemon = 1 teaspoon lemon juice with sea salt flakes (taste and add if needed).

4 – Lemon Skins Preserved in Salt

lemon skins preserved in salt

It’s another item that can replace preserved lemon in several recipes.

You can get a readymade product or make it quickly at home if you don’t have it.

You need some lemons, salt and a bottle.

Squeeze out all the juice from the lemon and cut them into slices the size similar to a rind of preserved lemon.

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Add salt and mix them well and place the skins in the jar.

Keep it for up to an hour and use it as required.

The flavor and aroma will resemble preserved lemon if it sits for a more extended period.

But if it’s an emergency, you can use it in your dishes after resting it for one hour.

If you make a large batch, it will taste even better the next time you use it.

Lemon skin contains nutrients, and so its addition to your diet can be beneficial.

Apart from boosting immunity, it can lower the risk of heart diseases and stroke, manage weight and improve gut health.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 rind preserved lemon = 1 lemon skin preserved in salt (taste and add more if required).

5 – Lemongrass


It’s the final item in this list and also the last option.

You can use lemongrass in your dish only when nothing else is available.

It’s a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian) but can replace preserved lemon in other cuisines too.

Cooks and chefs use the delicate, white center portion for its distinct citrus flavor.

Earlier, people mainly used it in savory dishes, but chefs are now using it in desserts too.

When using lemongrass, remember to remove the stalk after cooking your food.

Besides, it’s only suitable to bring out the aroma of a preserved lemon and not the flavor.

So, you won’t have the tang and saltiness.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1/2 a rind of preserved lemon = 1 stalk of lemongrass (Add if you want more fragrance).


Since preserved lemon has a distinct aroma and flavor, it can be hard to get the exact replacement.

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However, all the items mentioned above can help in some ways.

Besides, it’s better to use something than nothing.

You can use the ingredients in your dish as the recipe demands it.

If there is no recipe, you can create your unique taste and come up with something delicious.

It can be refreshing, a surprise and fun.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are preserved lemons?

Preserved lemons are a traditional Moroccan condiment made from whole lemons that have been cured in salt and their own juices for weeks or months.

This process leaves them soft and intensely flavored, with a tart, salty taste that’s perfect for adding zing to any dish.

Are there any substitutes for preserved lemons?

Yes, if you don’t have access to or can’t find preserved lemons, some common substitutes include fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon paste.

Each of these ingredients has its own unique flavor profile, but all will add acidity, saltiness, and complexity to a dish.

How can I use these substitutes?

All of these substitutes can be used in place of preserved lemons to add a zing to dishes.

Lemon juice and zest can be added at the end of cooking, while lemon paste can be cooked with other ingredients or just sprinkled on top for extra flavor.

Experiment with different amounts and techniques to find which combination works best for you!

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Preserved Lemon

The 5 Best Substitutes for Preserved Lemon
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Lemon Zest
  • Lemon Paste
  • Lemon Juice with Sea Salt Flakes
  • Lemon Skins Preserved in Salt
  • Lemongrass


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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