Salted Citrus: A No Cook, No Freeze Method for Preserving the Harvest

Can you tell which one of these tangerines is TWO YEARS OLD?

Every year at this time, my neighbor’s tangerine tree is bursting with fruit. Wanting to preserve some of that goodness, I decided to try salting them.

Well, it worked. Because guess what?

One* of those tangerines in the image up there is two years old.

Let’s be clear – these salted tangerines are not for eating. The preserved fruit is incredibly salty and best reserved for cooking. But people. This is a super easy way to preserve citrus of any kind.

Salt Preserved Citrus


  • Enough citrus to fill a gallon sized jar
  • 1-2 cups of salt (avoid salt that has anti-caking agents like sodium silicoaluminate or sodium ferrocyanide)


Make four equally spaced, vertical cuts almost to the center of the fruit. You want the core to hold the fruit together, but the deep cuts allow salt to enter the fruit.

Cutting your fruit for salted citrus.

Sprinkle a layer of salt on the bottom of your jar. Set a layer of fruit on top of the salt and shake around a bit. Continue alternating layers and shaking until the jar is full. Make sure that the fruit is well-coated with salt.

Preserving citrus with salt.


Preserving citrus with salt.

Secure lid in place and set in an out of the way spot. The fruit will begin to release juice; occasionally turn the jar over and back gently, just to redistribute the salt and juices. Set aside for a couple of months. Or years. This is what my two-year-old jar of salted tangerines looks like:

Preserving citrus with salt.

While my tangerines remained very true to color, it’s actually quite common for the fruit to turn brown. Some people even put their jars of fruit out in the sun to hurry the preservation process; that seems to contribute to the browning of the fruit. 

One lesson I learned the hard way: Don’t use one of your nice jars. The combination of salt, moisture, and time will cause the lid to start rusting.

How to Use Your Salted Citrus

  • Add to marinades and salad dressings.
  • Stuff inside a chicken before you bake it.
  • Chop into salsa or chutney.
  • Use in Moroccan dishes like this tagine or this adaptation.
  • Chop finely and add to a pasta dish or couscous.

*If you haven’t figured it out already, the two-year-old tangerine in the top image is on the right.

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  • Jonnie ,

    What can you make with salted citrus?

    • Susie ,

      I would imagine any of the things listed under “How to use your salted citrus” in the article would be excellent places to start/

    • doubtful you could use it for anything really.

    • Arlene ,

      I adore lemons preserved this way. They are great when you have a sore throat. I just eat them.

      • Kris Bordessa ,

        Oh, now there’s a use I hadn’t thought of! Thanks!

  • Kristy ,

    This is very interesting and applicable to me since we live in SoCal and it’s citrus time! Thanks for posting it. How do you know when it’s done curing? Do you need to set it out in the sun, or can you just wait until the salt and citrus juice incorporates and it looks like your final picture?

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      Well, two years is certainly not necessary! I’d give it a month or two. And no need to set out in sun – I’ve stored mine in a cupboard.

  • Dana ,

    Pickled lemons, introduced in Morocco, I believe, have been around for ages.

  • Chris ,

    Kris, I love this. I have had two failed attempts at preserving lemons. In both cases the fruit started molding at the top of the liquid. Now I see my problem. I was trying to do it like pickles and I didn’t have enough salt. Yay! I think I can do this now. Thanks so much. Shared!

    • Kris Bordessa ,

      I was pretty blown away with HOW well preserved these end up!

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