Salted lemon dishes brighten up winter months

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mackerel in a salted lemon marinade, foreground, and tuna and asparagus pepperoncino with salted lemon

Lemons typically turn yellow as autumn moves into winter. Here’s hoping that the cheerful-looking fruit with its nutrient-rich peel can get us through another chilly season.

For that, nutritionist Maki Shibata is here to help with some salted lemon recipes.

“Lemons are full of Vitamin C, and the peel has Vitamin E, among other nutrients,” she said. “Salt softens the peel and makes it easier to eat.”

Salted lemon

Ingredients (for a 750-milliliter glass jar):

5 lemons

75-100 grams salt


1. Thoroughly wash the lemon and then completely dry it.

2. For slices, cut lemons into 5-millimeter slices. For wedges, slice them vertically in half first and then cut each half into four to five pieces.

3. Thoroughly wash a glass jar with hot water to sanitize it, then dry it out prior to use.

4. Layer the ingredients into the jar. Start with salt, then add lemon and repeat. Put salt on last and then close the lid.

5. Store the jar away from direct sunlight in a cool spot for about a week. Shake the contents of the jar once daily so that the juice emanating from the lemons combines with the rest of the ingredients. Using the bottom of something like a small cocotte to press the lemons inside the jar can help with the pickling process.

Shibata offered a couple of recipes that make good use of pickled lemons. The first one is mackerel in a salted lemon marinade. The salted lemon helps remove the smell of blue-backed fish such as mackerel, and also harmonizes with the fatty mackerel flavor, making for a refreshing dish.

Mackerel in salted lemon marinade

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 salted lemon slices

1 tbsp cooking sake

2 portioned fillets of mackerel, cut into pieces

½ onion

¼ red bell pepper

1 tbsp potato starch

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp sugar


1. Place the mackerel and one salted lemon slice in a bowl. Add the cooking sake to the bowl and set it aside for at least 10 minutes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Use a cocotte or something similar to press the lemons inside the jar.

2. Thinly slice the onion and the red bell pepper.

3. Add the potato starch into the bowl with the mackerel and then mix.

4. Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the mackerel on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat and fry the other side for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the second lemon slice to the bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar, onion and red bell pepper. Mix everything together.

6. Mix the mackerel with the contents in the bowl and serve.

Shibata also showed how to make peperoncino using salted lemon. The refreshing scent of the lemon peel is distinctive in this pasta dish.

Peperoncino with salted lemon

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 salted lemon wedges

200 grams spaghetti

4 asparagus spears

½ bag of shimeji mushrooms

140 grams tuna

2 tbsp olive oil

1 chopped garlic clove

A pinch of sliced red peppers


1. Boil the spaghetti in a large pot of hot water and cook for one minute less than recommended. Set aside 80-100 milliliters of the water from the pot.

2. Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan, add garlic and red peppers and cook over medium heat until fragrant.

3. Slice the asparagus spears diagonally. Add the asparagus and the shimeji mushrooms to the frying pan.

4. Finely chop the lemons. When everything in the frying pan is cooked through, add the lemons. Drain the can of tuna and add the tuna to the frying pan.

5. Add the cooked spaghetti and the pasta water that had been set aside to the pan.

6. Mix everything together and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

“Salted lemons are like umeboshi pickled plums in that you can use them for years,” Shibata said.

The jar of lemons should be refrigerated. To avoid damaging the lemons, use a sanitized pair of chopsticks or a spoon to lift the lemons out of the jar.

“You can enjoy how the saltiness gradually mellows out,” Shibata said. “I hope many can delight in the various uses of salted lemon.”