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Salted Lemons and Tangerines: A No Cook, No Freeze Method for Preserving the Harvest

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Salted citrus an easy way to have that fresh flavor on hand for cooking all year long. Try salted lemons, tangerines, and salt preserved oranges to keep a variety of flavors on hand.

preserved lemons in glass jar

Early in the year, our local citrus trees are bursting with fruit. Wanting to preserve some of that goodness, I decided to try salted citrus. Well, it worked. Because guess what? One* of the tangerines in the image below is two years old. Isn’t that wild??

one fresh tangerine, one preserved tangerine against black background

Related: Tangerine Jam Recipe with Ginger and Vanilla

Let’s be clear – preserved lemons and other salted citrus is not for eating out of hand. 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. Salted lemons and salted tangerines will keep for years at room temperature.

close up of salted tangerines in a glass jar

Related: Easy Canning Recipes for the Novice Home Canner

Making salt preserved lemons and tangerines

While my salted lemons and tangerines remained very true to color for the first couple of years, it’s actually quite common for the fruit to turn brown as they age further.

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 rust. Opt for a recycled jar that you won’t mind getting rid of once your batch of preserved oranges is used up.

Related: Tangerine Season: Homemade Simple Syrup

close up of preserved oranges and tangerines in glass jar

Related: Tangerine Season: Homemade Simple Syrup

How to use salt preserved oranges, tangerines, or lemons

  • Add to salted lemons to marinades and salad dressings.
  • Stuff preserved oranges inside a chicken before you roast it.
  • Chop salted lemons or limes 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 salted tangerine in the top image is on the right.

salted lemons in a glass jar

★ Did you make this recipe for preserved citrus? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Salted Lemons, Tangerines, or Oranges

Salted Lemons, Tangerines, or Oranges

Yield: 25 flavor fusions for cooking
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Let's be clear - salted citrus is not for eating. These preserved oranges, lemons, and tangerines are incredibly salty and best reserved for cooking. 

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. 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. tangerine with cross cuts
  2. Or you could simply quarter the fruit.

Get salty

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 25 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 24Unsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 4528mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 2g

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

27 comments… add one
  • Jonnie Jan 12, 2014, 2:44 pm

    What can you make with salted citrus?

    • Susie Jan 14, 2014, 12:43 pm

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

      • Maat Jan 7, 2016, 9:19 am

        We’ve used salt-preserved lemons in stews, and it’s really good steamed with rice. I also like to use the salt while cooking. Great article!

    • xMachineC0r3x Jan 14, 2014, 2:35 pm

      doubtful you could use it for anything really.

    • Arlene Apr 16, 2015, 5:56 pm

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

      • Kris Bordessa Apr 16, 2015, 6:18 pm

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

  • Kristy Jan 12, 2014, 7:25 pm

    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 Jan 13, 2014, 5:51 am

      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.

    • Ruita Feb 15, 2020, 11:34 am

      Aloha!
      May I use plastic jar for it?

      • Kris Bordessa Feb 15, 2020, 1:21 pm

        yes.

  • Dana Jan 13, 2014, 7:37 am

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

  • Chris Sep 23, 2014, 7:59 am

    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 Sep 23, 2014, 8:28 am

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

  • Pam Jun 22, 2016, 7:20 am

    You can purchase plastic lids for your canning jars. This solves the rusting issue.

  • Indu garg Dec 31, 2016, 6:38 am

    In India we pickle lemons this way. Red chilli pwd ,ginger,n Garam masala( a combination of hot spices) r added to it.It is served with food.

  • Becky Apr 2, 2017, 3:32 pm

    Do you use the peels or just the fruit?

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 4, 2017, 7:31 am

      The peels, too, unless you don’t like them.

  • Jane DuBose Dec 28, 2017, 11:36 am

    This is GREAT! I don’t have citrus trees, but when the citrus is on sale, I can now buy with reckless abandon. Lol! We cook with citrus all the time. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Megan Apr 9, 2018, 8:13 pm

    I like to chop these into pasta salad.

  • Hadassah Jun 11, 2019, 8:02 am

    What a fun idea! I have an abundance of apricots and I was looking for interesting ways to preserve them. I may try this.

  • Terri Oct 26, 2019, 3:39 am

    At what point can u tighten the lid for storage? Ie, how long must the lid be kept loose for the fermentation process? Thanks

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 31, 2019, 8:04 pm

      These will not ferment and bubble as some do. You can tighten the lid right away.

  • Katie B Nov 10, 2019, 10:59 pm

    My favourite is salted Meyer lemon. The peels are much thinner and they have a sweet and sour flavour. Yum.

  • diane Dec 3, 2019, 8:03 pm

    add some sugar + ice cubes + sparkling water to make a refreshing drink in hot summer days

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 6, 2019, 7:59 am

      Ah, that’s a fun idea!

  • Denise Carter May 24, 2020, 5:13 pm

    Hi there! I’m excited to try this. I have a question about the level of freshness of the fruit that can be used. I discovered some getting kinda shriveled oranges in my crisper. Can I preserve them? Or do these need to be juicy, fresh fruit? Thanks so much!

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2020, 3:29 pm

      I haven’t tried this, but my guess is it should work.

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