If you’ve been experimenting with fermentation, you already know that lacto-fermented vegetables are delicious and have the bonus of living, beneficial microbes.  Did you know that you can also lacto-ferment fruit?  My favourite fruit to culture is citrus.  The lacto-fermentation process really adds a tangy flavour and probiotic zing to the citrus zest!  You can use any citrus, and today I chose lemons. Culturing lemons adds an extra salty, tangy flavour dimension to the unique sweet tartness that we love from this sunny, healthy fruit.  The winters here in Quebec are so long and snowy that any ray of sunshine and vitamin C is much appreciated.

The below recipe is based on the traditional Moroccan method of preserving lemons and will keep indefinitely (I’ve had mine in the fridge for over a year).  To use, rinse off the preserved lemon and use slices of the fruit or rind.  Traditionally used in tagines in Morocco, these cultured lemons can replace fresh lemons in any dish and really kick up a cocktail as a garnish!


Fermentation time: 1 month

Lacto-fermented lemon ingredients
  • Meyer Lemons (preferably organic)- regular lemons can also be used
  • Salt (non-iodized)- kosher, sea salt, or Himalayan
  • Sterilized jar
  1. Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt into sanitized jar.
  2. Wash and dry lemons.  Cut each lemon into quarters, stopping approx.1/4″ from the bottom

    Slice each lemon in quarters stopping approx. 1/4″ from the bottom
  3. Pack 2 tsp salt in each lemon. Pack the lemons in the jar until it is full, pushing down after each addition to release the juices.

    Add salt to each lemon
  4. Lid the jar and place it at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for 5-6 days. During this time, the salt will draw the liquid out of the lemons creating a brine, which will help cover the fruit.  If the lemons are not completely covered by liquid after 6 days, add freshly-squeezed lemon juice and leave to lemons to ferment at room temperature.

    Let lemons ferment for at least one month out of direct sunlight

5. After one month, your lacto-fermented lemons are ready!  Transfer the jar to the fridge to decelerate the fermentation process. The lemons will continue to soften over time in the brine.  You can also use this brine in recipes as it is now infused with the sweetness and saltiness of the lemons. I think I might try it in my next cocktail!

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12 Responses

  1. There’s a little bit of blackish mold floating on the top of the brine after 4 weeks. Will it be ok if I remove this? The lemons look ok and it doesn’t smell bad.

    1. Hi Jim- you can try scraping off the mould and give it a few days to see if it reoccurs. I generally advise tossing the batch if you find mould. Even after you scrape all visible mould off the surface, there is a strong chance that it is still present in the ferment. Try and keep the ferment as airtight as possible to avoid allowing any oxygen to enter the ferment and encourage the growth of pathogenic organisms.

  2. Hi, I made the mistake of adding a bit of water to my lemon juice to top it off as not to expose any fruit to the air, i did not realize I had to wait a few days for the salt to release water to make the brine … will this affect my ferment? Thanks

    1. Hi Thomas- no problem, it should be fine if you only added a bit of water- you might want to put a bowl or plate underneath to capture any potential overflow as the lemons gradually release their juice (not sure how juicy your lemons were)

  3. Multiply the weight of your lemons in grams times (x) 0.2. This equation will = your gram weight of sea/kosher salt to add. This is also a golden rule for perfect sauer kraut!

    1. Hi Don- yes, you can be specific by weighing the lemons and using 2% salt as in sauerkraut, but I have found in my research and experience that this isn’t really important for this style of ferment.

    1. Hi Tatiana- These fermented lemons are traditionally used in Moroccan braised meat dishes. These lemons pair well with any protein (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, fish). I also use them as a substitute for fresh lemons in savoury dishes, and add them to hummus and tzatziki in place of fresh lemon.

  4. Jody, just to clarify; is it 2 Tablespoons of Sea Salt in each lemon?
    That sounds like a lot?
    Or is it 2 teaspoons in each lemon?
    You replied 2 TSP, usually tsp. Is teaspoons but you capitalized it.
    Where you?re from does TSP designate Tablespoons?
    I?ve a bunch of lemons from a friends tree in the freezer. I like your recipe and want to make sure I get it right. I?m an old hand at fermentation, sauerkraut, carrot, kimchi, garlic and other things.
    Thank you for clarifying this for me!

    1. Hi Darrel- thanks for your question. Yes it is 2 teaspoons of salt. Lemons (fruit) requires a higher concentration of salt to ward off unwanted microbes. These are salty when done but you can rinse them off a bit before using and reduce the salt in the dish you are adding them to. If you are concerned about the amount of salt, you can reduce the amount to 1.5 tsp/lemon.

    1. H Fahriye- Thanks for your interest. Sorry for the mistake, it is 2 TSP, I made an error when I was creating the recipe card. Enjoy the fermented lemons, they’re amazing!

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