Preserved Lemon Tapenade

Preserved Lemon Tapenade adds zing to a simple dish like grilled chicken and is very easy to make. You can start with store bought preserved lemons but let me tell you how to make them yourself and save money. As we all know, lemons are a wonderful ingredient in food preparations. Because of the powerful essential oils in their rinds, they are a huge source of flavorings  A squeeze of the fruit’s juice adds that special something to just about any dish but you may not have tried using preserved lemons to add flavor to a dish. Once you have tried preserving lemons, you will be using them in lots of recipes.

Grilled Chicken With Preserved Lemon Tapenade
Grilled Chicken With Preserved Lemon Tapenade

Preserved lemons are best known as a Middle Eastern and North African condiment, but the concept of preserving lemons in some sort of brine is an ancient technique in lots of cultures.  They are lemons that are pickled in a brine of salt and their own juice.   You can add a few spices if you wish or leave them plain.  The fruit ferments at room temperature for up to a month. At the end of that time, you’ll have an authentic ingredient that will add brightness and enhance many dishes. This sour and salty condiment can be used in recipes such as Moroccan stews, tagines, and couscous.


There are many techniques and versions on how to preserve lemons. This is a simple process that I have found works for me but you might want to check other recipes.

Preserved Lemons: You will need a large sterilized canning jar, preferably with a rubber gasket, so the jar seals tight and can be easily opened and reclosed, 1 Tbsp. kosher salt for each lemon, and eight to ten organic lemons, depending on their size, plus two or three extra lemons for juice.

Wash the lemons, rinse well and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds. Wipe well to remove any wax. Some people cut the lemons into quarters but leave them attached at the stem end. Since I am usually cooking for two people, I cut mine into quarters as many times I don’t need a whole lemon. Using 1 Tbsp. of salt for each lemon, pack lemons tightly in the canning jar, salting and pressing each layer as you proceed. Let the lemons sit for several hours and then top with juice, making sure the lemons are completely covered with lemon juice. Seal the jar and place in a dark cabinet to ferment for two or three weeks and up to a month until the rinds have softened and are no longer white. Usually only the skin is used in recipes after removing the pulp and rinsing well.

IMG_7643 Perserved Lemon TapenadeTapenade:

  • 1/2 c. of chopped pitted black and green olives
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rind only, washed and chopped
  • garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and let sit for a few minutes for the flavor to meld. If you wish, anchovies, capers, mustard and other herbs are optional ingredients that could be added to suit your taste. (Any leftover can be refrigerated for a week or two.)

I used the preserved lemon tapenade as a topping on grilled chicken breasts served with marinated roasted red peppers and an arugula salad dressed with a feta cheese vinaigrette. This tapenade is also delicious served along with crostini or crackers as an appetizer, with roasted meats or as a condiment on sandwiches.

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198 thoughts on “Preserved Lemon Tapenade

    1. Hi Kay, I’m glad that my post has got you thinking about preserving some lemons. They are easy to make and I believe you will find lots of uses for them.

    1. Hi Marie, Do try making the lemons again. It is important to completely cover the lemons with juice. You can use a small plate to weight down the lemons if they float above the juice.

  1. Excellent that’s a fantastic tapenade! Oddly preserved lemons are cheaper to buy here than to make, but I’m sure the bought ones are not organic 😉

    1. Thank you Mad Dog, I’m happy you like the tapenade. Preserved lemons are very expensive where I live and that is if I can even find them in a specialty food store.

  2. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew you could make your own preserved lemons, but I never got around to it. That delicious tapenade alone is all the reason in the world to preserve lemons. I can only imagine how great they would be with other dishes. A real winner Karen.

  3. Oh wow! This looks delicious! I have never made preserved lemons, but I know it isn’t too difficult, but the tapenade… it sounds and looks amazing! It reminds me a bit of the traditional Moroccan preserved lemon and olive tagine, except that the tapenade doesn’t get cooked, and I can imagine the flavors are stronger this way.

    1. Hi Darya, I’m glad that you enjoyed the tapenade recipe. Your comparison of a traditional preserved lemon and olive Moroccan tagine is spot on…the flavor is much brighter in the tapenade. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Mandy, You are lucky to have lemons that you can pick off your own tree. I’m with you…I use lots of lemons in cooking. The preserved lemons add a different flavor which I enjoy using as a condiment.

  4. My father used to make preserved lemons, but I never paid attention to how he made it, I believe it is similar to your recipe. Thanks for the tip on removing the wax from the skin. Am going to make this for sure.

    1. Hi Norma, I’m glad you liked the tip about removing the wax. Unless you grow your own lemons, most all ones purchased at a store will have been waxed. I’m glad you are going to make some preserved lemons…I think you will enjoy them in many of your dishes.

  5. The jar of preserving lemons are very pretty though I’m a bit iffy on the tapenade itself due to the olives which are another food item I’m not comfortable with yet. I’ve eaten a total of one olive in my life. I was not impressed. 🙂

    1. Hi Boleyn, You made me smile because I do remember our conversations about you not liking olives and I use them in so many recipes. You would just have to use preserved lemons in other recipes. 🙂

  6. I’ve not had much success either making preserved lemons. Perhaps I’ll give it another go. It seems such a waste to only use the peel, can you use the rest of the lemon as well?

    1. Hi Pamela, I’ve never had a problem with preserved lemons but you must keep them covered with juice during the fermentation. You can use the pulp in stews and sauces but it is the rind that has most of the flavor. I hope you try making them again.

    1. Hi Tin Man, I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. How wonderful that you lemon trees have been very productive. Preserving them will be a terrific was of using some of them in the future.

  7. I tried using preserved lemons in a recipe once and either the recipe wasn’t a good one or it was the lemons, but my results weren’t very good. You have me inspired to give it another try. This tapenade looks really good.

    1. Hi Karen, It seems that several of my readers say they have had problems preserving the lemons. I would say that it is important to keep the lemons under the juice…weighted with a small plate or something similar can help. The tapenade is delicious and makes a nice condiment…I’m glad you like it.

  8. Everything looks fabulous Karen, especially that tapenade! I’ve cooked with preserved lemons before…actually, I still have some sitting in the fridge. But I bet they taste nothing like your home made ones! Everything home made is always better!

    1. Thank you Lidia, for your nice compliment. Since you have some preserved lemons, I hope you give the tapenade a try. I agree with you about homemade being better. 🙂

  9. We had delicious preserved lemons when we were in Morocco a few years ago. They really do add a lovely flavour; making them into tapinade sounds very tempting, though I’ll have to wait for lemons to go on sale. I thought of my friend Kelly over at Inspired Edibles, she recently moved to California from Ottawa and her son’s classmate gave her a bunch of lemons from their backyard lemon tree!

    1. Hi Eva, I had great food in Morocco too and preserved lemons were in several dishes. It is nice when you live in a part of the country where you have lemons in your backyard. Instead of lemons, I have apples and pears growing in mine. 🙂

    1. Hi Tessa, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post on preserving lemons…they are so easy to make. Yes, unless you have lemons that you pick off a tree you will need to make sure that the wax is off the skin. A few readers said that they had problems preserving lemons and the wax may have been the problem.

  10. I started preserving lemons just this year – so much cheaper than buying them. There’s a jar in the cupboard that’s almost ready to use… now I know what I’m going to use some of the lemons for, your tapanade sounds delicious!

    1. Hi Sarah, I have to agree with you about making your own preserved lemons. They are much cheaper than buying a jar and so easy to make. I’m happy to know that you are going to try the tapenade recipe. Thank you and enjoy!

  11. I tried making preserved lmeons once in my life & it worked out great but I haven’t got the recipes anymore so thanks! Your whole dinner looks just amazing & must be very fragrant indeed! 🙂 YUmmmm! x

  12. It’s been ages since I’ve made preserved lemons! And their flavor is so tremendous I need to again. Your recipe for them is particularly clear and thorough. I love the idea of the preserved lemon tapenade. I make tapenade all the time, but have never thought to incorporate lemon (either preserved or not) into it. Great idea! Lemon makes almost anything better. Good post — thanks.

    1. Hi John, It had been a while since I had preserved lemons as well. I believe you would really like the flavor that the lemons add to the tapenade. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you for your compliment.

    1. Hi Amy, The flavor combination is great and I agree that it is a nice condiment to use with with fish as well as chicken. Thank you for your compliment.

  13. Karen, I have never made preserved lemon tapenade before but I have heard so many wonderful things aboout it – your version sounds quite delicious and it looks so bright and fresh and flavorful! I would love this with grilled pork tenderloin I think – next time I come across a big batch of wonderfully fragrant organic lemons, I shall remember your recipe!

    1. Hi Andrea, I think you would enjoy this tapenade and it would be perfect with pork tenderloin. I hope you will enjoy the recipe when you get a chance to make it. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Amy. I’m happy that you like the tapenade recipe. Preserving lemons is very easy, I hope you will give it a try.

    1. Hi Tanya, Believe me, the meal was as good as it looks…I’m glad you like the looks of it. I do hope you get a chance to preserve some lemons before you leave for England.

    1. Hi Arlene, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post. Preserving lemons is very easy and once they are ready to use, they are delicious in recipes like the tapenade. I appreciate your comment.

  14. I’ve been fermenting veggies for some time, but I’ve never preserved lemons. That’s about to change after reading your post ahahah 🙂 I’m, really curious now. Lovely post. That tapenade looks amazing!

    1. Hi Paul, I’m happy to know that my post about preserved lemons has inspired you to make them. They will probably be one of the easiest things you will make. Once ready to use, I think you will have a lot of fun using them in lots of new recipes. 🙂

  15. I must tell you that this recipe excites me. We reap the benefits of a neighbor’s lemon tree and really, I can only use so many! I’ve always heard about preserving them, but never had the whole picture. In fact, I couldn’t have told you that it’s the rind you’re using! So thanks for this tutorial. I’m on it! And I love the tapenade recipe. I know I’d frequently enjoy using this, too! 🙂

    1. What a nice compliment, Debra. I’m glad that I have given you a recipe that you can use with your fresh picked lemons. I think that you will really enjoy the tapenade…it is a great condiment to use on so many things. 🙂

    1. Thank you Anne, for your nice compliment. The preserved lemons will be terrific in a lamb tagine. I’m happy that you are going to try the recipe.

  16. That tapenade would be amazing with the grilled chicken. What incredible flavours it must have. I made my own preserved lemons this year and found them to be so superior in flavour to the ones I have been buying in the stores. There’s a cleaner, fresher flavour that seems more pure. I have been enjoying cooking with them and adding them to dishes xx

    1. Hi Charlie, I’m glad to know that you make your own preserved lemons. Your are absolutely right about their fresh flavor. The tapenade was perfect with the simple grilled chicken…it gave it a real zing.

  17. Great post. I’ve got two brands of preserved lemons in the store and I tell everyone either make them yourselves but it takes a lot of forethought, or buy some because it just makes everything pop.
    While I’m on this fermenting kick, I’m going to do lemons. I’ve been wanting to and needed a kick in the pants. Where might you add a little olive oil into the recipe? Is that possible?

    1. Thank you Wendy, for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and that it has inspired you to preserve some lemons. Yes, there is olive oil in the tapenade but you could always add a little more. 🙂

    1. Hi Lynda, I hope my post will inspire you to try making preserved lemons…they are super simple to prepare. Lemons and olives are a great combination of flavors. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad you like the recipe.

  18. I preserved my first batch of lemons last winter. Citrus here in north Florida happens in early winter. I have a Meyer lemon tree that produced in excess of 200 lemons…I was giving them away, juicing them, baking with them and finally I preserved them.

    This is awesome.


    1. Hi Velva, You are so lucky to have a Meyer lemon growing in your yard. I really envy your predicament of having so many lemons…glad to hear that you preserved some of them. 🙂

  19. Have made preserved lemons every year from my own Meyer lemons ‘forever’ and use them in so many dishes. However have never prepped a tapenade like this and it looks SO moreish! Would you believe my last two of this season went last weekend: am looking with somewhat jaundiced eyes at a rather expensive jar someone gifted me – may try altho’ waiting for the next lemon harvest may be best – I look like getting a mid-season crop 🙂 ! Oh, I do the cut the fruit into quarters like a flower attached at the bottom ‘bit’ and stuff extra salt in between the leaves . . . I was also advised to add a bay leaf or two and once also put some thyme twigs in: probably not very authentic 🙂 !

    1. Hi Eha, You and Velva are killing me. You are both so lucky to have Meyer lemon trees in your backyards. Your way of cutting them is what most people do. I just hate to take a whole lemon out of the jar when I just need a little in a recipe for the two of us so I cut them all with way into quarters. I’ll add some thyme and bay to my next jar…sounds good. 🙂

    1. Thank you Sylvia, I’m glad to know you like the tapenade recipe. I hope you find the preserved lemons, I think you will find lots of uses for them.

  20. Karen, I have yet to try making my own preserved lemons… what I love about this post is that you have made it look so simple. Thank you for the recipe! One for my retirement xxox

    1. Hi Celia, I think you will enjoy adding the lemons to tapenade…it is a nice mix of flavors. I’ll have to try preserving limes next time.

    1. Hi Amy, I hope you get a chance to try the preserved lemons. They can be used in lots of recipes and I love their lemony, tart and salty taste in this tapenade. Thank you for your compliment.

    1. Thank you Southern, for your nice compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and photos. The lemons are easy to prepare and good in so many dishes.

  21. Oh how gorgeous! A dear friend gave me a jar of her homemade preserved lemons and I will love to use them in a tapenade like yours. 🙂

    1. Thank you Krista, I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I do hope you use one of your preserved lemons to make the tapenade. I believe you will enjoy this tasty condiment.

    1. Hi Larry, I use lemons in lots of different ways and I really enjoy the preserved ones. Their tart and salty taste is great in lots of dishes. Thank you for your compliment.

  22. Hi Karen!

    Looks like you have a gorgeous Tapenade there! I’ve never preserved lemons but I think it is not only a refreshing condiment to have on hand, it’s so versatile too! I really need to get my tush in gear and give it a go.

    Thank you so much for your step by step and for sharing too…

    1. Hi Louise, Thank you for stopping by to visit and your nice compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and recipes. I do believe that you would find lots of uses for the preserved lemons. They were great in the tapenade.

  23. I just happen to have a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge and am learning how to use them. They are a new ingredient in my kitchen. Love this tapenade, Karen, and know it will dress up some fish fillets. It’s so much fun to try something new.

    1. Hi Cathy, It sounds like my post was timely since you have a jar of preserved lemons. The tapenade would be great on fish. I have also used it with lamb chops…delicious. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  24. Yum yum yum … I am so lucky .. my mother makes preserved lemons for me! I didn’t know about blanching them first, I shall tell her about that. And a question which might have something to do with the blanching…. I notice that the lemons lose their bright yellow colour after a while. Do yours too? they sort of become a beigy mustard yellow, if you know what I mean….

    1. Hi Jo, How nice that your mother makes preserved lemons for you. Blanching the lemons softens the skins a little, makes them a little juicier and makes it easier to remove any wax, if present. I do know what you mean about the color, they do darken a little and the juice gets thicker after several months.

  25. Really delicious Karen! I can taste the “zing” form here – lovely looking meal – I’ve always wanted to preserve lemons but never have!
    Mary x

    1. Thank you Mary, for your compliment. I do hope you get a chance to preserve some lemons. They are nice to have in your pantry as they give great flavor to many dishes.

    1. Hi Consuelo, I’m like you as I couldn’t get preserved lemons where I live either. They are easy to make and I think you are going to enjoy them.

  26. Love this tapenade and can’t wait to make it! I make a jar of preserved lemons 2 to 3 times a years so I’m always looking for another way to use them. Totally agree with the deliciousness of cooking chicken with preserved lemons!

  27. Karen – this tapenade sounds incredible! And I love making my own preserved lemons – i am one of those you mention who preserves them not completely cut into quarters. I can just imagine how this tapenade would enliven any dish, but I can’t wait to try it on grilled fish!

    1. Thank you David, for your nice compliment. I believe you will enjoy the tapenade. It is outstanding on grilled lamb chops and chicken…I’m going to use it on fish as well. Enjoy!

    1. Hi B, I do hope that this post inspires you to make preserved lemons. They are incredibly easy to prepare and you will certainly enjoy using them in so many dishes. 🙂

  28. That’s a marvelous tapenade recipe, Karen. I’ve preserved lemons, never thought to use them this way, though. Might have to start another batch!

    1. Thank you Barbara, for your nice compliment. I’m glad that you like the tapenade recipe. I love the flavor the lemons add to the condiment. Hopefully you will get a chance to make another batch.

    1. Hi Diane, I have to agree with you about the lemons making a nice countertop display. I bought the special canning jar with the bright yellow top just for that reason. 🙂

    1. Thank you Darryl, for your nice compliment. I’m happy that you like the dishes that I prepared. You are right, besides being a tasty addition to many recipes, the lemons do make a pretty display in the kitchen.

    1. Hi Paula, I’m happy that I am inspiring you to rethink that empty jar that you keep washing. I know that once you make the preserved lemons…you will wonder what took you so long. 🙂

  29. This tapenade looks delicious, although I never had preserved lemon I can imagine how it taste…mouthwatering.
    Thanks for the inspiration and hope you are enjoying your week 😀

    1. Thank you Juliana, for your nice compliment. The tapenade is terrific and adds a lot of flavor to several dishes that I have prepared. I hope I have inspired you to try making a jar of preserved lemons…I think you will enjoy using them.

    1. Hi Katerina, You are correct about preserved lemons being a regular ingredient in Moroccan dishes. The lemons add wonderful flavors to tangines and stews as well as a condiment like I have used it in the tapenade. I do hope you try the lemons…they are a wonderful ingredient.

    1. Hi Azmina, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and that it was timely. Preserved lemons are wonderful in a flavorful tagine.

  30. I love how you make everything seem so easy and carefree! I have never made my own preserved lemons but after reading your post that it sounds heavenly. I am always looking for new and fun ways to reinvent boring grilled chicken and this tapenade sounds like the perfect cure! Take care, BAM

    1. Thank you Bobbie, for your kind words. I always hope that anyone, no matter their cooking abilities, will find my recipes easy. I believe you would enjoy the lively flavor that the tapenade adds to grilled chicken.

    1. Hi Jo, The recipe is very simple to make and does look pretty sitting on a kitchen counter. Since it is apple picking time in our orchard, I know what you meal about peeling. 🙂

      1. Sorry about my reply getting a little mixed up but back on track now. 🙂 Lucky for you being the recipient of such goodies.

  31. Okay I had to laugh at myself when reading your post. I realized I was making noises at work while looking at this beautiful chicken and my mouth got watery and then I thought I’m way loud and need to eat lunch LOL. Love this

  32. I’ve been thinking about making perserved lemons for a while now, but I only have one or two recipes that use them. But this tapenade looks so fabulous it is reason enough to make a batch!

    1. Hi Afra, I’m happy I could give you another recipe to prepare when you make your preserved lemons. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  33. I’ve yet to try using preserved lemons! Yet, I love anything to do with citrus. The irony. Next week, when I’m hopefully at the superstores, I really must look out for organic lemons as I used to collect and dry the zest of both lemons and oranges and have those to hand. Especially in colder months when I want that taste of the Med in tomato based sauces. Thanks for the jolt!

    1. Hi Johnny, I’m happy to have inspired you to make preserved lemons…I know you will find lots of uses for them. I hope you have luck finding organic lemons the next time you are at the superstore.

  34. I do so wish I had a lemon tree – I use them in everything. If there was an overflow, this would be such a great idea for using them all before they rotted.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I know what you mean. I go through so many lemons…starting with my cups of tea each morning. Even if you don’t have a lemon tree, it is nice to have a jar of preserved lemons in your pantry.

  35. These home made preserved lemons are a great idea!
    Only natural ingredients, that’s so much healthier and I bet much tastier as well!
    Love the picture,so beautiful 🙂

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Kathy. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post. The lemons are so easy to preserve and they add such wonderful flavors to so many dishes.

  36. Karen – I cannot wait to try this – thank you so much this wonderful post. I’ve thought about preserving lemons before but never quite got myself around to it. I will now. Once the fruit is fermented at room temperature – do you know how long the preserved lemons can be stored? And I presume once you open the jar – you need to refrigerate it? Just curious before I get started. 🙂

    1. Hi Lindy, Thank you for your lovely compliment…I’m happy that my post has inspired you to preserve some lemons. I personally do not refrigerate my lemons once they have completed their fermentation and have never had any problems as they are completely submerged under the thick lemony brine. Salting was always a way of preserving foods before refrigeration. I do know people who refrigerate the lemons once they have been opened so I think it is totally what your are comfortable with. 🙂

  37. I love the look and the texture of this tapenade. I just love tapenade … thick spread on a good bread. So I will bookmark this one! Fantastic photos as always.

    1. Thank you Viveka, for your compliment…I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I hope that when you are feeling better that you get a chance to make this tapenade. I think it is a terrific condiment and as you said, it is delicious spread on a crusty slice of bread.

      1. I like the look of yours, because I can see what it’s made off … normally it is just like a black mince – have bookmarked your post. I think I would love it with some poached Atlantic cod.

    1. Thank you Stacy, for your nice compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and recipe for the tapenade. Enjoy! I hope you have a great week as well.

    1. Hi Spree, I’m glad that you like my idea of using preserved lemons in tapenade…it is a nice combination. Thank you for your compliment.

  38. THis is something I’ve seen a few times on TV but have not actually tried myself! Looks soo wonderful with the tapenade 🙂

    Lately I’ve been making jars of sliced lemons soaked with honey instead but hopefully will get around this preserving lemons one day!

    1. Hi Vivienne, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I do hope you get a chance to make preserved lemons sometime as they add a lovely flavor to many dishes. Your lemons soaked in honey must be delicious.

  39. I have a batch of homemade preserved lemons and haven’t been using them lately – this tapenade is a brilliant idea, Karen! All the briny, citrusy flavor sounds just wonderful. Thank you for the inspiration!

  40. Hi Karen, I’ve been living in the south of France for the past six months ( and love your recipes for lemon tapenade. There are wonderful farmers’ markets in most of the villages here and just last week I saw preserved lemons and thought about getting some although I wasn’t quite sure how I would use them–they just looked beautiful. I was also interested in your posts about Maine–I have friends in Rangely and have spent several lovely summers up there.

    1. Hi Janice, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the tapenade recipe using preserved lemons. We are at our cottage in Maine each summer but have returned to our home in New Hampshire for the rest of the year. Actually, we are in Europe on holiday at the present time.

  41. Karen, does this technique work with water bath canning if I wanted to seal them in mason jars? I think these would make lovely Christmas presents!

    1. Ruth, I wish I could give you a good answer to your question but I really don’t know. Perhaps you could check with Ball on an 800 number or your local agricultural extension service. Sorry I can’t be of anymore help.

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