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Homemade Dried Lemons – an easy way to preserve lemons

image of lemon slices in dehydrator for drying

I love preserving food in a variety of ways and citrus is no exception. We have a wonderful Meyer lemon tree that gives us hundreds of pounds of lemons most years. Once you’ve had a Meyer lemon, regular lemons just won’t do. So, every year I spend time freezing, fermenting, and dehydrating lemons.

I make several kinds of dried lemons because dehydrated lemon slices isn’t always what I need. Sometimes I just need the zest, or lemon salt, or lemon sugar. Yep, you can use sugar and salt to preserve lemons.

While I pretty much just dehydrate lemons you can use these same methods to make any dried citrus. 

To make dried lemons you can use a dehydrator, an oven, or even just the sun if your climate is hot and dry. This is the dehydrator I use most often; it’s reasonably priced, has a temperature knob, and doesn’t take up a lot of storage space.

If you are using the dried lemon peel for food, I’d suggest buying organic. If you’re just using them for crafts organic isn’t’ as important.

I like to keep a list of all the food I preserve using these worksheets. You can get a copy emailed to you by filling out the form below.

How to make dried lemon slices

Depending on where you get your lemons they may have already been washed or they may have dirt and bird droppings on them. So be sure to check them and wash the lemons if necessary.

You want fairly thin, fairly uniform slices. I’d say mine are about 1/4″ thick. I used a deli knife with a guard on it,  you could use a mandolin if you have one or just your regular knife, it doesn’t have to be super exact.

Lay the lemon slices on the dehydrator rack. It’s okay if they touch, so put them close together.

Dehydrate the slices on low or at 125°F degrees for about 10 hours. The slices should easily snap in half when they’re fully dry.

One thing you need to know about dried lemons is that they are dark; they aren’t the beautiful bright yellow of fresh lemons. So don’t be surprised when you open the dehydrator.

While you can use the dried lemon slices in a variety of ways, my favorite is to use them for infused water.

Some people like to grind the lemon slices into lemon powder which is a good idea (you can use a coffee grinder for this). However, the pith (the white part of the peel) is bitter, so if the lemon has a thick pith the lemon powder might be bitter. If lemon powder is your plan for the dried lemon slices, peel the lemon before slicing and remove all the pith.

Another use for dried lemon slices is potpourri with cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves. It can be put in a sachet for your closet or drawers, or it can be simmered in a pot of water.

image of dried lemon slices for dehydrating

How to make dried lemon zest

More than dried lemon slices I like to make dried lemon zest because I think there are more uses for it. Before we juice any lemons we zest them. It really doesn’t take much time and ensures that we’ll have plenty of dried lemon peels to use.

To zest citrus you’ll want a zesting tool which is a little different than a grater. You can use a grater but a grater cuts deep into the peel and you’ll get the white pith in your zest…and the pith is bitter. If you’re going to use a grater, use the smallest holes and very little pressure.

Most dehydrators come with a fruit leather tray liner and a mesh tray liner, I like to use the fruit leather liner to dehydrate lemon zest. If you don’t have one, you can line the tray with parchment paper with a few small slits in it for air flow.

Dehydrate at 95°F for about 4-6 hours. It should be crumbly when it’s fully dry. 

I probably use most of our lemon zest in herbal tea blends but I also use it to bake with when I make cranberry lemon biscuits and lemon loaf cake. It makes a great addition to herbal bath teas, too.

I like to use dried zest to make lemon powder because it doesn’t have the pith and it’s not bitter.

image of zesting lemons for dried lemons in dehydrator

How to make lemon salt and lemon sugar

In addition to making plain dried lemon zest you can also make lemon salt and lemon sugar. After you’ve zested the lemons but before you dehydrate the zest, mix the zest with either sugar or salt.

For lemon salt, use the zest of 2 lemons to 1/2 cup of salt.

For lemon sugar,  use the zest of 1 lemon to about 1-1.5 cups of sugar.

Spread the lemon salt or lemon sugar out on parchment paper and put in oven on a very low temp (135°F degrees) for about 10 minutes.

How to store dried lemons

As long as the lemon slices and lemon zest are fully dry they’re shelf stable. I like to store them in mason jars in the pantry. I once stored the dried zest in a jar in the freezer  and we had a power outage. When I pulled out the jar of zest all the lemon oil had leached out of the  zest and it was as soggy mess. So, I don’t store dried citrus in the freezer any more.

Image of dried lemon slices and lemon zest

Homemade Dried Lemons

Homemade Dried Lemons

Ingredients

  • Sugar (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Lemons
  • Other citrus (optional)

Instructions

Dried Lemon Slices

  1. Wash the lemons - if needed
  2. Cut the lemon in thin slices crosswise (no bigger than 1/4" thick)
  3. Lay the lemon slices on the dehydrator rack. It’s okay if they touch, so put them close together.
  4. Dehydrate the slices on low or at 125°F degrees for about 10 hours. The slices should easily snap in half when they’re fully dry.

Dried Lemon Zest

  1. Wash the lemons - if needed
  2. Zest the lemon being careful not to cut into the white pith
  3. Lay the zest out on the fruit leather tray in the dehydrator
  4. Dehydrate on low or 95°F for 4-6 hours. The zest should be crumbly when fully dry.

Lemon Salt

  1. Use the zest of 2 lemons to 1/2 cup of salt.
  2. Spread the lemon salt or lemon sugar out on parchment paper and put in oven on a very low temp (135°F degrees) for about 10 minutes.

Lemon Sugar

  1. Use the zest of 1 lemon to about 1-1.5 cups of sugar.
  2. Spread the lemon salt or lemon sugar out on parchment paper and put in oven on a very low temp (135°F degrees) for about 10 minutes.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

So, what would you do with dehydrated lemons?

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Naomi

Monday 25th of October 2021

Hi, Is there an easy trick for removing the pith after removing the zest?

Angi Schneider

Monday 25th of October 2021

I just peel it like an orange.

Michelle

Saturday 22nd of February 2020

I’d love a copy of your list for ways & recipes to preserving lemons!

Kathy

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

I noticed that you left the seeds in your slices. Is that because you aren’t turning your slices into powder? I have 6 racks of lemon slices in the dehydrator now that I am drying for powder with Meyer lemons and I took all the seeds out first. And there were lots of seeds! Wondering if I can leave them in next time. Hopefully the powder won’t be too bitter with the pith this time.

Angi Schneider

Saturday 22nd of February 2020

My list for preserving lemons is just handwritten notes in my preserving notebook. I have an article on how I preserve the whole lemon in various ways, https://www.schneiderpeeps.com/preserving-meyer-lemons-zero-waste-kitchen/. I also have an article with a list of Meyer lemon recipes, https://www.schneiderpeeps.com/meyer-lemon-recipes/. You also might like this list from Rootsy, https://rootsy.org/ways-to-use-lemons-for-food-and-healing/.

If you don't already keep a preservation notebook, these worksheets can help you keep track of what and how much you preserved, https://www.schneiderpeeps.com/home-preserved-pantry-worksheets/

Nicole

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

You can use a vegetable peeler to peel the zest off, too. Just make sure it peels thin enough. I have two peelers and one peels very thin (great for fruit and cucumbers) one peels thicker (better for potatoes and other "bumpy" things. I use it to get long thin strips of zucchini, cucumber or carrots to use in soup, lasagna or as decoration) :-) I have a lemon and a lime (and other fruits and veggies) drying right now, I cut thin slices as far as I could then turned the fruit on its cut side and cut the "butt" into slices so they're crescent shaped. Can't wait to try them in water along with dried cucumber. I'm hoping for more flavour than I get from u-dried fruit.

Michelle

Sunday 11th of October 2020

No matter how hard I try, just can't stop grating my knuckles so I've got 2 separate peelers myself, and it works great!

Angi Schneider

Wednesday 31st of July 2019

Thanks for the tips, Nicole. I never would have thought to use a vegetable peeler!

Christine Carnahan

Tuesday 21st of January 2014

What a great idea! I never really thought about dehydrating lemons before, but I like to have a glass of water with a lemon slice in it first thing in the morning. I am going to have to try this!

Jennifer at Purposeful Nutrition

Tuesday 7th of January 2014

Great post. Since I am getting some organic lemons soon I will be doing this. :))

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 7th of January 2014

Thanks, Jennifer. I try to use the entire lemon. I zest the peel, then juice them, then put the leftover pith into a bucket with vinegar to use for cleaning. Let me know how it works out for you.

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