Recipes: Here are 3 delicious dishes you can make with Meyer lemons

I suspect that cooks who own a Meyer lemon tree cherish every single juice-packed lemon. Often more spherical than the more common Eureka variety, Meyers have thinner, brighter yellow skin. Their scent and flavor hint of sweet tangerines.

They are a hybrid (a cross between a lemon and either a common orange or a mandarin orange), brought from China to the United States in 1908 by Frank Meyer of the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Alice Waters, owner and founding chef of the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley (she is often described as the mother of California cuisine and the creator of The Edible Schoolyard program), has touted Meyer lemons for use in everything from drinks to desserts, entrees to sauces to salads.

“To those who have never tasted them,” Waters writes in “Chez Panisse Fruit” (Harper Collins, $34.95), “our recurring insistence on Meyer lemons may seem like an irritating California eccentricity, but I don’t know many people who have tried one without getting hooked.

“Ripe Meyer lemons are sweeter than other lemons, and the skin has a distinctive floral fragrance. …  At the restaurant we add a squeeze of lemon to a dish almost automatically, to boost flavor or balance acidity.”

Meyers can be used in many of the same ways as ordinary lemons, but you need to make allowances for their lower acidity. When substituting Meyer lemons for more common Eureka lemons, if the recipe calls for zest, add a little more Meyer zest. And if a pucker-producing pie or tart is what you’re aiming for in, say, a lemon meringue pie, you might want to use juice from a Eureka — or use half Eureka and half Meyer.

The following recipes show off some of my favorite ways to use Meyer lemons.

Food writer David Lebovitz makes preserved lemons by packing them with salt and keeping them in a jar with coriander seeds, a bay leaf, dried chili and a cinnamon stick for a month. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

David Lebovitz’s Moroccan Preserved Meyer Lemons

Here is food writer-author David Lebovitz’s recipe for preserving lemons. He likes to finely dice preserved lemons and mix them into sautéed vegetables, such as green beans, fava beans, or carrots. Lebovitz also likes to mash them into butter with some minced fresh herbs, then smear it on top of grilled fish or a nice hunk of caramelized roasted winter squash.

Yield: As many lemons as will fit in your jar


Meyer lemons, about 8 to 10 in my big jar

Kosher salt or sea salt, about 1 tablespoon per lemon

4 coriander seeds

1 bay leaf

1 small, dried chili

1 cinnamon stick


1. Scrub the Meyer lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off. Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there’s a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you’ve incised the lemon with an X shape. Pack coarse salt (such as kosher or sea salt) into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don’t be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.

2. Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want.

3. Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight. The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for in 2 to 3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren’t too juicy, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice until their submerged (I generally need to do this). After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they’re ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.

4. To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.


Lemon-Kissed Bucatini not only has a perky taste, but its quick prep time makes it a weeknight godsend. (Photo by Curt Norris)

Lemon-Kissed Bucatini

Sauces that can be put together in the time it takes to cook the pasta are a little piece of weeknight heaven. The citrus perkiness in this sauce is balanced with a little butter and some whipping cream. The addition of chopped cooked chicken or shelled shrimp is inviting, but if you prefer a vegetarian version, it can easily be omitted.

I like the flourish of small leafy greens at the end of the prep, either arugula or baby spinach. They add color and texture, as well a nutritional bonus.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings


Kosher salt

12 ounces bucatini pasta or spaghetti; see cook’s notes

2 Meyer lemons, about 2 tablespoons zest and 1/2 cup fresh juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional: 3/4 cup chopped cooked chicken

Pasta cooking water

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/4 cups baby arugula or spinach

Freshly ground black pepper to taste, and salt if needed

Garnish: Chopped fresh parsley or fresh tarragon

Optional garnish: Cherry tomatoes

Cook’s notes: Bucatini, also known as perciatelli, is a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center (like a tube). The name comes from Italian: buco, meaning “hole.” If you prefer, use spaghetti.


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on high heat. Meanwhile, zest lemons, enough for 2 tablespoons. If using Meyer lemons, sometimes the skin is so thin a microplane won’t work for zesting; in that case cut off colored portion of peel and mince it. Squeeze enough juice to make 1/2 cup.

2. Add bucatini or spaghetti to boiling water. When pasta has cooked 4 minutes, start the sauce. In a large skillet, heat oil and butter on medium-high heat. When melted and heated, add cream and bring to simmer. Add chicken (if using), lemon juice and zest; simmer 2 to 3 minutes until slightly reduced.

3. When pasta is al dente, scoop it directly into sauce. Add about 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and Parmesan; toss vigorously. Add arugula and if needed, a little more cooking water to loosen sauce. Add pepper and taste to see if it needs salt. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley or tarragon. Garnish with cherry tomatoes if desired.

Lemon Budino is a pudding that uses both Meyer and Eureka lemons. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Lemon Budino

Budino is a pudding, this lemon rendition laced with spongy cake. Notice that the recipe calls for both Meyer lemons and Eurekas, a mix of floral and tart flavors.

When preparing a recipe that calls for using my electric stand mixer for two different steps, I’m grateful that I have two bowls for my mixer. It saves a lot of time.

Yield: 6 servings


Soft butter for greasing cups or ramekins

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel; see cook’s notes

1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh regular lemon juice

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Garnish: Sweetened whipped cream

Cook’s notes: Remove zest from lemons before juicing.


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice in large bowl of electric stand mixer; mix on medium speed until well blended. Drizzle in milk; mix until blended. Set aside.

2. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in clean, dry large bowl until frothy. With motor running, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and then beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into lemon mixture in 2 additions. Divide mixture among prepared custard cups. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes. Remove cups from water. Serve warm or cold topped with sweetened whipped cream.


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