Rockin’ Moroccan cranberry sauce (with preserved lemon).

Right about now, all across America, folks are flipping out while planning their Thanksgiving dinners. There are tons of phone calls being made… who’s sitting next to who, who isn’t speaking to whom, which cousin is bringing the potatoes au gratin, who’s making the pie, is Aunt Linda making her rice dish this year, which niece is allergic to gluten, what cranberry sauce should we have, etc.

So I thought I’d complicate your life a little more. Let me throw a(nother) possibility into the ring for you guys:

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

When I say this is Moroccan, I don’t really mean it. It’s not a traditional Moroccan dish at all. I’m only saying that because of the use of preserved lemon. The rest of it isn’t terribly ethnic or unique. Although, it is somewhat unique given the fact that at this time of year most cranberry sauces are fairly traditional. But really I’m just being an asshole American: coming up with a clever name at the expense of another culture. So let’s say it’s Moroccan-style, okay?

But… there is some cumin & cardamom in there too! So its definitely not your grandma’s cranberry sauce.

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

I came up with this idea after seeing Local Kitchen add preserved lemon to plum jam. Genius! I thought about it & realized it would be an amazing addition to cranberry sauce; especially seeing as how cranberry & lemon go hand in hand like… I don’t know. Things that hold hands.


Then I decided to add some cumin. Then the cardamom popped out of the cabinet. And the rest was history!

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce made with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemons. Not your grandma's cranberry sauce!

According to many reputable sources, you can indeed make this sauce shelf-stable should you prefer to “can” a lot of it (or keep it out of the fridge). The acidity of the cranberries plus the added lemon & lemon brine, in addition to the sugar makes it a worthy candidate for water bath processing. Depending on the size of the jars, I’d process it for either 10 minutes (half-pint, 4-oz) or 15 minutes (pint).

This recipe could definitely be doubled- or even tripled- as far as I can tell.


Makes about 19-20 ounces


  • around 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 whole preserved lemon slice, rinsed off and chopped into small pieces (1 slice meaning one quarter of the lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon preserved lemon juice/brine from jar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (depending on taste)


  1. Combine 2 cups of the cranberries in a saucepan with the 1/2 cup water. Cover, and cook until all of the cranberries pop open & it’s bubbling. Remove from heat & mash with a wooden spoon to get it to a sauce-y texture.
  2. Add the rest of the berries, 1/2 cup sugar, the preserved lemon & the brine. Cook until heated & the whole cranberries are softening & beginning to pop. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the ground cardamom & cumin. Taste. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar & cook on low until dissolved- if needed.
  4. Add more cumin or cardamom to taste (also if needed).
  5. Place in clean jar(s) and let cool. Refrigerate or serve immediately.
*I used cumin seeds & ground them with a mortar & pestle, but you can certainly use pre-ground cumin.

I made a jar of preserved lemons back in February for my mother. She’s a fan of Mediterranean/Indian/Middle Eastern food & unique dishes, so I thought she’d appreciate them. She spends her time making ghee & turmeric tea with honey, so, duh. She definitely did enjoy them- making soups & cous cous & adding the lemons to it, using them on ice cream, etc. I’ve got more pedestrian tastes myself, so I didn’t make a jar to keep.

I realized my mistake.

I had to get my mother’s jar to use for this recipe. Lesson learned: have a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge, just in case. It’s brainless to make. Plus, a jar doesn’t take up much room. Besides, I can always make an 8-oz jar instead of a pint since I don’t use them much. Because … seriously… a little goes a long way, & one jar lasts forever. Case in point:

Homemade preserved lemons.

Yes, that’s the same jar as seen here. You’ll notice that the salt completely disappears, the color is different, and you can even tell that the lemon slices are mushier-looking. That’s all to be expected. You only need to use a tiny bit of the lemons (usually just the rind) to add to dishes, so literally one jar can last for infinity & beyond. You can use any kind of lemon you want. Meyer lemons are a bit more sweet & floral-y. But either way, the finished product is a clean, totally-not-bitter pure lemon flavor (& scent) that you’ll love.

In case you’re too lazy to go back & get the instructions for making these, I’ll put them here one more time. Just for you.

How to make your own preserved lemons.



  • Clean, sterilized jar; pint or quart
  • Meyer or regular lemons, scrubbed clean (preferably organic), 3-4 for pint jar, 8-10 for quart (maybe a little more if using Meyers, since they’re smaller)
  • Kosher salt or all natural sea salt
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Bay leaf, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, or other spices (optional- I added none for my first batch)


  1. The concept is very simple: cut the lemons into quarters, but not all the way through (leave a part attached so that the four pieces aren’t completely separated). If there are little nubbins on the ends, specifically if using regular lemons not Meyer, cut those off first.
  2. Then open the lemon, and add a tablespoon of Kosher salt to it. Add a layer of Kosher salt to the bottom of your clean jar, and add the first lemon. You can lay it sideways or stand it up, depending on how much room you have, how big your jar is and how many lemons you’ve got to use. Add another sprinkling of salt on top. Repeat until all the lemons are used & your jar is full. If you want, add your spices along with two tablespoons lemon juice (both optional), then add a layer of Kosher salt on top before closing the jar (not optional).
  3. Give the jar a shake every day for three to four days, and every other day open it and press down on the lemons to expel more juice. After the fifth day, they should be submerged in their own juices. If they are not, at this point you’ll have to top them off with extra lemon juice. Any “exposed” lemons can turn nasty.
  4. Now this is the part where people have a difference of opinion; some say at this point you should refrigerate them for 3-4 weeks and then they’re ready for use. Others say you can now process them in a waterbath for 10 minutes and they’ll be shelf stable until you’re ready to use them. And others still say they can be kept out of the fridge on the counter for use right away. I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion & taste, so do as you like.

If you want to make this exact recipe for Thanksgiving, and you don’t have any preserved lemons, I’m afraid you’ll have to buy a jar (try an ethnic market). You can still make some yourself & then make this sauce for Christmas. However, if you’re lucky enough to already have some lemons, you’re in the clear!

If you’d still like to make it, a little lemon zest added to it should somewhat mimic the flavor. Enough to get by, anyway. But I really recommend that you get on makin’ a jar of preserved ones.

How to make an easy Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon.

And here are a couple more options, in case the “Moroccan” thing doesn’t rock your world… Chinese-Apple (pomegranate) Cranberry sauce, Amaretto cranberry sauce, New England cranberry compote, and apple-cranberry ginger preserves (admittedly sweeter, but a excellent twist on tradition).

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  1. PhilipB

    Hi Marilla–
    Does “1 whole preserved lemon slice” mean one lemon, or less than that? THANKS! and thanks for this fine recipe!

    Also – my favorite pet peeve – can’t stop myself – shouldn’t even mention it, but – can’t stop – forgive me – can’t stop…. when you write above, “so literally one jar can last for infinity & beyond”, I’m guessing that you don’t know what “literally” means. As a result, Its hard to take you seriously as a writer. I’d hope that food-bloggers would be as careful with their words as they are with their ingredients, as discerning with their writing as they are with their cooking.

  2. Marilla

    One whole slice- just one quarter of the lemon 🙂 Sorry about that! I’ll edit the recipe.

    But I am not a writer, Philip. I am a blogger. Never been published by a publishing house, do my own editing, and publish posts twice a week as well as doing the regular life-stuff. So no, you can mention it, but I’ll just laugh, as I did. Also… you really don’t know that this jar won’t last until infinity, do you? I mean it might not be edible, but it could last that long. How long is infinity? How far away is it? If you have proper refrigeration, why couldn’t it last? And what is the meaning of life?

    Basically… lighten up a little. I’m not a writer, nor an English major. I’m an artist & blogger having a little fun 🙂 I have as much fun with my words & writing as I do in the kitchen, or with my clothes, or with my makeup. Thats what life is about.

    Enjoy the sauce!

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