Recipe: Sugar Preserved Lemons

This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite orders at Bob’s Well Bread, the Gravlax Platter.  The meal comes with a house-made bagel, lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, capers, and the most perfect, sweetened lemon slices that you can eat whole and enjoy on your bagel.  They are so bright, offer all of the zesty lemon flavor, while delivering a sweetened, lemonade-like acidity to the dish.  They complement the heavier ingredients in the bagels and lox, and have quickly become one of my favorite things to order and eat.  As it is peak lemon season here in California right now, I set out to make my own batch of sweetened preserved lemons with my freshly picked lemons from our tree.  They turned out great, and I’m excited to share the recipe with you today!

This recipe really only needs two ingredients – lemons and sugar.  It’s as simple as slicing the lemons into thin slices and layering with sugar, and allowing them to marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours to allow the lemons to soften and fully sweeten.  By preparing the lemons this way, you can eat the entire slice (zest, rind, and fruit!), and it reminds me of a simplified, fresher lemon marmalade.  Because these lemons aren’t heat preserved, I would definitely keep these stored in the refrigerator at all times to maintain freshness as safety, and try to consume them within a couple of weeks of making.  Consider these preserved lemons as a fresh, sweet addition to your fridge pickle rotation – they certainly have a new spot in mine!

These lemons are a great addition to any meal, and I’ve recently been putting them on anything and everything.  Obviously great with fish and smoked salmon, these are also great as a topper for toasts, roughly chopped and mixed into fresh salads, and mixed in with roasted veggies.  Anything that could benefit from the brightness of a lemon, roughly chopped or full slices of these sweetened preserved lemons will do the trick.  I’ve had them mixed into roasted cauliflower to brighten up my sides, paired with roasted beets to make a delightfully fresh salad, and mixed into my every-day lunch salads to add additional brightness and keep my lunches fun. 

These sweetened preserved lemons are super versatile, and are a new staple in my winter kitchen.  I hope you make them and give them a try!

Recipe down below, along with pictures!

Recipe: Sugar Preserved Lemons


  • 6 lemons, washed and dried
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your lemons.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the lemons into thin slices (cross-wise), removing any seeds and the tip and stem ends of the fruit. 
  3. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar into the bottom of an air-tight container or jar.  Begin to layer the sliced lemons into the bottom of the container.  Add another sprinkle of sugar to the bottom layer of lemons, and continue to add more lemons, adding more sugar between each layer of lemons.  Continue to sugar each layer of lemons until the 1 cup of sugar is used up and all of your lemons have been added to the container.
    1. If you need more sugar than the one cup, go ahead and use it!  It’s most important that each layer gets a good amount of sugar and that you don’t skip layers, because you want all of the slices to become nice and sweet.
  4. Place the lid on the container or jar, and refrigerate the lemons for at least 24 hours before enjoying.  Juices will start to release from the lemons as they sit, and the lemons will marinate in the sweet juice.
  5. Use lemons as needed, pushing the remaining lemons back into the juice in the jar between uses.  Store in the fridge for up to one month.
  6. Enjoy!


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