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Homemade Dried Lemons – an easy way to preserve lemons

Using a dehydrator or oven is a quick way to make dried lemons to use for food, seasonings, beverages, and crafts. While dehydrating lemons is not hard, there are a few tips you’ll want to be aware of before starting.

During the winter, when lemons are in season, spend a little time making dried lemon slices, zest, and powder to use throughout the year.

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.

One of the great things about dehydrating lemons is that they retain pretty much all their vitamins and minerals and are just as good for you as fresh 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 I have quite a bit of lemons to dehydrate I’ll also use my larger dehydrator.

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 turn dark; they aren’t the beautiful bright yellow of fresh lemons. So don’t be surprised when you open the dehydrator.

Once the lemon slices are fully dry, store them in an air tight container. I store mine in large mason jars and use a food saver to seal the jar.

You can also peel the lemon before slicing it or peel some of the lemon slices before dehydrating. This will give you some lemon slices without the peel and pith which will be useful if you want to make lemon powder.

Can you dehydrate a whole lemon?

Yes…but, you’ll need to cut wedges out of the sides. You can use a knife to cut small wedges out of the sides, leaving the stem and flower ends intact. It will look kind of like an Chinese lantern.

These look nice on a dried citrus garland or as decoration for fall and winter.

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 dehydrator on a low temp (125°F degrees) for about 10 minutes.

Make dried lemons in an oven

While using a dehydrator is certainly the easiest way to dehydrate lemons, it’s not the only way. You can also use an oven to make dried lemons. Use the lowest bake setting on your oven, most will be about 170F and leave the door ajar. You may need to prop the door open with a wooden spoon, that’s what I have to do to keep mine ajar.

How to store dried lemons

As long as the lemon slices and lemon zest are fully dry they’re shelf stable. As I mentioned earlier, I like to store them in mason jars that have been sealed with a food saver in the pantry. As long as they are in an airtight container, dehydrated lemons will last for about 12 months. After that, the quality will start to deteriorate.

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.

If you are making dried lemon powder, keep the majority of the lemon slices whole and only grind them as you need them. Once ground the lemon powder tends to stick together when exposed to air and humidity.

How to use dried lemons

There are many, many uses for dried lemons. Before preserving any food, I like to figure out how I’m going to use it. That way, I can preserve it in a way that’s most useful.

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. If lemon powder is your plan for the dried lemon slices, peel the lemon before slicing and remove all the pith.

Dried lemons can also be used to infuse water or tea, just remember that dried lemons are darker than fresh lemons.

You can use dried lemon slices for crafts such as potpourri with cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves or use for a citrus garland.

Dried lemon powder can be used in teas or to flavor water.

Dried lemon zest can also be used in teas or baked goods (see above).

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Yield: 8-12 slices per lemon

Homemade Dried Lemons

Homemade Dried Lemons

Using a dehydrator or oven is a quick way to make dried lemons to use for food, seasonings, beverages, and crafts. During the winter, when lemons are in season, spend a little time dehydrating lemon slices, zest, and powder to use throughout the year.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 15 minutes

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

Image of dried lemon slices and lemon zest

So, what would you do with dehydrated lemons?

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Kelley

Saturday 30th of July 2022

If I soak the sliced lemons in a bit of fruit fresh, will that help them maintain their color? I know lemon juice is an alternative to ascorbic acid.

Angi Schneider

Saturday 30th of July 2022

It's worth a try!

Kelly

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

This article is great! I always have an abundance of lemons that end up going bad. Now I know what to do with them.

Shelby

Monday 24th of January 2022

This is a wonderful idea! Homemade lemon zest from them would be so potent!

TB

Tuesday 7th of December 2021

hi there - do the times/temps listed work for regular ovens as well? I don't have a dehydrator, but am willing to babysit an over especially on a cold day! Thank you!

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 7th of December 2021

Yes, they should. If your oven doesn't go that low, leave the doo open just a bit.

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.

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