Recipes / Canning, Freezing & More Preserving / Sips & Syrups

Vietnamese Preserved Lemons (Chanh Muối) and Salty Lemonade

Vietnamese preserved lemons (chanh muoi) and salty lemonade

Growing up in an Asian family, I’ve seen my fair share of Eastern home remedies.

There was the hard-boiled egg that my mom would rub on my bruises to make them go away.

There was cạo gió, a method of scraping the skin with menthol oil and a coin to relieve aches and pains.

And then there were Vietnamese preserved lemons (also known as chanh muối), a drink that can be taken hot or cold for a variety of ailments from nausea to the common cold.

Chanh muối literally translates to “salt lemon.” It‘s a way of preserving lemons in salt for what seems like practically forever — I’ve heard of jars sitting on dusty shelves for decades! The preserved lemons and the home remedy drink go by the same name.

Whole lemons quartered and salted

And even though the term “home remedy” probably conjures up an unpleasant brew that you ingest because you have to, chanh muối actually makes a very refreshing summertime (or anytime) drink — especially if you’re more of a salt aficionado than a sweets person, like I am.

Because this recipe requires fermenting the lemons with their peels on, I recommend using the best organic lemons you can find. Choose small- to medium-sized lemons with blemish-free skins.

I like the tartness of Eureka lemons, but sweeter Meyer lemons also work; they’ll just give the chanh muối a slightly different, non-traditional flavor.

Four lemons washed and drying on a kitchen towel

Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Lemons)

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

1/4 cup kosher salt, plus more to sprinkle
1 1/2 cups water
3 to 5 organic lemons (more or less, depending on how many will fit in your jar)

Instructions

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the salt in water and then remove the brine from heat.

Wash and scrub your lemons thoroughly to remove any wax from store-bought lemons, or any dirt from homegrown lemons.

Slice off the top and bottom of the lemon so that a little flesh is showing.

Lemons on a cutting board with their tops and bottoms sliced off

Slice the lemon lengthwise into quarters, but do not slice all the way through.

A knife slicing a lemon into quarters
Whole lemons quartered three-fourths of the way through

Liberally salt the inside of your almost-quartered wedges and set aside while you slice and salt the other lemons.

Lemon liberally salted on the inside
Lemons salted on the inside

Pack the lemons into your jar and cover them completely with brine.

Salted lemons packed into an empty mason jar
Salted lemons in a jar covered in brine
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If you’re using a widemouth jar, or if your lemons won’t stay submerged, sink a glass weight in the jar (the kind used for mason jar fermenting — here’s what I use) to hold the lemons down.

Hand adding a glass fermenting weight to a jar of lemons
Mason jar full of salted lemons with a glass fermenting weight holding them down

Wipe any salt residue off the rim and seal the jar loosely with a lid, as you want to let the gases escape as your lemons ferment.

Leave the jar out at room temperature for at least three weeks. The lemons may turn darker and the brine may become cloudier during this time — that’s when you know they’re good and ready!

Jar full of lemons being preserved in brine

Always use a clean utensil to scoop the lemons out. Other than that, the jar will keep at room temperature indefinitely and does not need to be refrigerated.

Now for the drink…

Mashed lemon on the bottom of a glass

Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Salty Lemonade)

Makes 1 glass

Ingredients

1 chanh muối wedge
Soda water, still water, or Sprite
Sugar, to taste
Ice (optional)

Instructions

My favorite way to drink this is mixed with soda water (pumped from my SodaStream), but you can also use still water for a more traditional lemonade or Sprite for a refreshingly fizzy drink.

Separate and spoon a chanh muối wedge into a tall glass.

Vietnamese preserved lemon (chanh muoi) with a wedge removed

Muddle the lemon in your glass with a spoon to mash most of the juices out.

Wooden spoon muddling a Vietnamese preserved lemon in a glass

Add your choice of soda water, still water, or Sprite. If using soda or still water, stir in a few spoonfuls of sugar to taste. It should have a salty-sweet flavor that’s not too overpowering.

Add ice if desired, and serve!

Icy cold glass of chanh muoi (Vietnamese salty lemonade) with fizzy soda

For another variation that can help soothe your cold symptoms, simply steep a chanh muối wedge in a cup of hot water and stir in some honey. I swear this little home remedy works!

And if you liked this, you might also enjoy my Moroccan Preserved Lemons recipe!

Yield: 1 quart

Chanh Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Lemons and Salty Lemonade)

Whole lemons quartered and salted

Chanh muoi (Vietnamese preserved lemons) is the secret home remedy used by families to soothe everything from nausea to common colds. Now you can make it yourself!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Additional Time 21 days
Total Time 21 days 18 minutes

Ingredients

For the Preserved Lemons

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, plus more to sprinkle
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 to 5 organic lemons (more or less, depending on how many will fit in your jar)

For the Salty Lemonade

  • 1 chanh muối wedge
  • Soda water, still water, or Sprite
  • Sugar, to taste
  • Ice (optional)

Instructions

To make the preserved lemons:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the salt in water and then remove the brine from heat.
  2. Wash and scrub your lemons thoroughly to remove any wax from store-bought lemons, or any dirt from homegrown lemons.
  3. Slice off the top and bottom of the lemon so that a little flesh is showing.
  4. Slice the lemon lengthwise into quarters, but do not slice all the way through.
  5. Liberally salt the inside of your almost-quartered wedges and set aside while you slice and salt the other lemons.
  6. Pack the lemons into your jar and cover them completely with brine.
  7. If you're using a widemouth jar, or if your lemons won't stay submerged, sink a glass weight in the jar (the kind used for mason jar fermenting — here's what I use) to hold the lemons down.
  8. Wipe any salt residue off the rim and seal the jar loosely with a lid, as you want to let the gases escape as your lemons ferment.
  9. Leave the jar out at room temperature for at least three weeks. The lemons may turn darker and the brine may become cloudier during this time — that's when you know they're good and ready!

To make the salty lemonade:

  1. My favorite way to drink this is mixed with soda water (pumped from my SodaStream), but you can also use still water for a more traditional lemonade or Sprite for a refreshingly fizzy drink.
  2. Separate and spoon a chanh muối wedge into a tall glass.
  3. Muddle the lemon in your glass with a spoon to mash most of the juices out.
  4. Add your choice of soda water, still water, or Sprite. If using soda or still water, stir in a few spoonfuls of sugar to taste. It should have a salty-sweet flavor that's not too overpowering.
  5. Add ice if desired, and serve!
  6. For another variation that can help soothe your cold symptoms, simply steep a chanh muối wedge in a cup of hot water and stir in some honey. I swear this little home remedy works!

Notes

Always use a clean utensil to scoop the lemons out. Other than that, the jar of preserved lemons will keep at room temperature indefinitely and does not need to be refrigerated.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1 glass

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 17Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1776mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

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

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on February 22, 2012.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

39 Comments

  • Sarah
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Hi there! I’m keen to give this a go but have never preserved lemons before. What size jars do you use and where do you get them from? Thank you

    Reply
  • OrganicLor
    November 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    5 Stars for this recipe!
    About five weeks ago I followed your recipe except that I cut up the lemons a bit smaller & after 3 weeks, I used a small piece in my guacamole and the flavor is fantastic! A week later I used a piece (chopped up) in a homemade olive oil for salad dressing and it added really amazing flavor. I also added a piece to a cauliflower curry that I made… at the very end when it was served so the heat hopefully didn’t kill the good bacteria. YUM!!! The liquid is cloudy and the lemons have softened a lot so they mash up easily.

    Thank you for this recipe! I’m making my 2nd batch so I can share it without regret (haha).
    *Every day I checked for bubbles and used a sterilized chopstick wedged down the side & around the jar to allow the bubbles to rise to the surface.

    Reply
  • Amy
    November 15, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Found your beautiful blog in Pinterest. Can’t wait to make this recipe. It’s one of my favorites!

    Reply
  • Jason Ware
    November 15, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    This is my second time making these, but the first recipe I followed was quite a bit different. In this case I got a whitish layer (presumably the yeast mentioned) totally covering the surface, but then that solid layer molded (gray blue) just on the very top of the solid layer of yeast. This is true for all four jars I preserved. I’ve removed this layer and the liquid and lemons and everything look fine, but I’m not sure whether or not to be concerned about the contents. It seems like the salinity of the solution would make it next to impossible to spoil, but I could be wrong…

    Reply
  • Rebekah
    May 22, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi, I made the salty lemon on May 3, 2017 and one of my jars has 2 white blobs floating on the top and all of my lemons are in the brine. Should I throw this jar out? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      May 23, 2017 at 1:06 am

      If all your lemons are submerged (and you’re sure they haven’t been in contact with air and you properly cleaned all your jars and utensils before using), then I’m unsure what the white blobs could be. They might be harmless kahm yeast or they might be the beginnings of mold. When it doubt, throw it out.

      Reply
      • Rebekah
        May 23, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Yes all of my lemons are preserved and I cleaned my jars. The little blobs are only in one of my jars so I will throw it out, I have 3 more:) Thank you and I love your page, it has inspired me to start pickling and preserving.

        Reply
        • Rebekah
          May 24, 2017 at 8:39 am

          I want to thank you for introducing me to the micro zester the heavens opened up and I heard angles sing. No more busting my hands up with the cheese grater:)

          Reply
          • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
            May 25, 2017 at 5:03 am

            One of the most-used tools in my kitchen!! I love it for grating ginger and turmeric too.

  • Eric Ng
    May 14, 2017 at 1:22 am

    Why salt the lemons if they are going to be submerged in brine anyway?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      May 17, 2017 at 12:02 am

      Salt helps draw out the juices.

      Reply
      • Eric Ng
        May 17, 2017 at 12:37 am

        Sure, but wouldn’t submerging it in brine, which is effectively salt water, have the same effect of drawing out the juices too?

        Reply
  • Beetleblack
    August 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Made your pickled lemons a month ago, tried the slated lemonade today and it’s delicious. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Linda Ly
    June 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Love your idea of adding preserved lemons to dressings too!

    Reply
  • zombiexena
    June 19, 2015 at 11:17 am

    um, mine became gel at the bottom. I mean the lemons and brine are all there, just i went to pull out a slice and this lemony clear gel came with it. Is that ok or do I need to toss it?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      June 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      It sounds normal. As long as there’s no black mold or rotten smell, your preserved lemon is fine to eat.

      Reply
  • ItsKate
    April 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

    For my first jar, I forgot to make the brine.. is the brine an absolute necessity?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      April 23, 2015 at 1:49 am

      If your salted lemons aren’t submerged in a brine or their own juices, they can start to mold.

      Reply
  • Tamlucero
    March 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

    At what point if ever do you tightly close the lids?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      March 5, 2014 at 6:30 am

      I seal them normally after those 3 to 4 weeks of fermenting (though I usually open the jars once a month to check for spoilage, which can happen if the lemons float above the brine).

      Reply
  • deja73
    October 5, 2013 at 1:45 am

    How cloudy does the water get. I made three jars and I’m not sure if they are right. Also if a lemon got dislodged and floated out oh the brine is that whole batch bad? Or if the brine level dropped even with the lemons??? Do you have a pick of the cloudiness for reference? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      October 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      The longer the lemons sit in the brine, the cloudier the brine will get. Mine started out slightly “foggy” as it’s pretty salty, but gradually turned darker and thicker, which is completely normal.

      However, if you have lemons floating above the brine, that’s not good – those lemons will eventually mold on the surface where they have contact with air. Try to push them back down ASAP, as the brine is what’s preserving them. Another solution is to move your preserved lemons (with brine) into regular-mouth jars instead of wide-mouth jars, which help keep them down.

      Reply
  • Carl
    September 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I just salted a jar each of lemons and limes. I am excited!

    Reply
  • goodness
    February 11, 2013 at 2:41 am

    ขอบคุณค่ะน่ากินค่ะ หลายอย่างเลย มีมาส่งถึงที่นี่หรือเปล่าค่ะ ไปซื้ออะไรไม่ค่อยได้เลยค่ะ ปวดท้องอยู่เลย และขอบคุณค่ะที่เป็นห่วง ก็อยากไปเรียนทำบ้างนะค่ะ อาหารหลายๆอย่างด้วยค่ะ มีใครจะสอนแหววบ้างละค่ะ ขอบคุณค่ะ

    Reply
  • Xochi Navarro
    January 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This looks like the perfect cure for dehydration. Thank you! I’m off to preserve my lemon harvest. 🙂

    Reply
  • Andydang
    July 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    thank you linda for showing me how to make this salty lemonn

    Reply
  • Nikkoma96
    May 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    what wonderful ideas you have, and i am thinking of making some christmas gifts using some of these recipes!  thank you so much for posting!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      May 22, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      The longer that preserved lemons sit and age, the better they taste! I just opened a jar that I made last summer… yum!

      Reply
  • Eengel2
    February 28, 2012 at 7:59 am

    This looks wonderful.  I will definitely be giving this a try. I love all things lemon. Your photos are beautiful too.  I’m really enjoying looking around your blog~Eileen

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      February 28, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you Eileen! In another couple weeks, I should have my limoncello recipe up too. It’s steeping as we speak. 🙂

      Reply
  • Rcollins31
    February 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Do you think it’s okay to use meyer lemons in this?  They’re a cross between a lemon and an orange (maybe a mandarin orange), so I’m not sure if they’re as acidic as a regular lemon and if that has anything to do with the preservation.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      February 24, 2012 at 2:59 am

      Absolutely! The salt is what preserves the lemons, so feel free to use Meyer lemons (or any other citrus you have – it’s also a good way to preserve kumquats and oranges).

      Reply
  • Martin
    February 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

    That looks very interesting- will have to give it a go.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      February 24, 2012 at 3:00 am

       Let me know how you like it!

      Reply
  • meemsnyc
    February 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Oooh, I love lemons and I love salt.  I have to try this!

    Reply

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