Salted Citrus: A No Cook, No Freeze Method for Preserving the Harvest 15

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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 those tangerines in this image is two years old.

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

Let’s be clear – salted citrus is 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.

Salted Citrus


  • Enough citrus to fill a gallon sized jar (tangerine, lemon, orange, grapefruit – whatever you like!)
  • 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.

Or you could simply quarter the fruit.

Preserving lemons with salt is an easy way to have that fresh lemon flavor on hand for cooking all year long.

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 tangerines with salt is an easy way to have that fresh citrus flavor on hand for cooking all year long.

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.

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 rust.

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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15 thoughts on “Salted Citrus: A No Cook, No Freeze Method for Preserving the Harvest

    • 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/

      • Maat

        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!

    • Arlene

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

      • Kris Bordessa Post author

        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 Post author

      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 Post author

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

  • Pam

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

  • Indu garg

    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.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

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