Vietnamese preserved lemons (chanh muoi)
Canning, Freezing & More Preserving, Recipes, Sips & Syrups

Vietnamese Preserved Lemons (Chanh Muối) 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 was 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 into “salt lemon.” It is a way of preserving lemons in salt for what seems like practically forever — I have heard of jars sitting on dusty shelves for decades! The preserved lemons and the home remedy drink go by the same name.

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 drink — especially if you’re more of a salt rather than a sweets person, like I am.

Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Lemons)

Makes 1 quart


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


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.

Wash and scrub lemons

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

Slice off the tops and bottoms of the lemons

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

Slice the lemon lengthwise into quarters

An almost-quartered lemon

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

Liberally salt the inside of the lemon

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

Pack a quart jar with salted lemons

If you’re using a widemouth jar, or if your lemons won’t stay submerged, you can wedge a couple of 3-inch toothpicks (the “party toothpicks” used to skewer burgers and such) inside the jar to form a single or crisscrossed grill.

Use a 3-inch toothpick to keep the lemons submerged

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 (in the sun, if you wish, though I’ve found no difference in quality) 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!

Vietnamese preserved lemons (chanh muoi)

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…

Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Salty Lemonade)

1 chanh muối wedge
Soda water, still water, or Sprite

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 an easy fizzy drink.

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

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

Vietnamese salty lemonade (chanh muoi)

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.

Vietnamese salty lemonade (chanh muoi)

If you want to 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!

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  • Rebekah

    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.

    • 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.

      • Rebekah

        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.

        • Rebekah

          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:)

  • Eric Ng

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

    • Salt helps draw out the juices.

      • Eric Ng

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

  • Beetleblack

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

  • Love your idea of adding preserved lemons to dressings too!

  • zombiexena

    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?

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

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

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

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  • Tamlucero

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

    • 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).

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  • deja73

    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.

    • 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.

  • Carl

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

  • goodness

    ขอบคุณค่ะน่ากินค่ะ หลายอย่างเลย มีมาส่งถึงที่นี่หรือเปล่าค่ะ ไปซื้ออะไรไม่ค่อยได้เลยค่ะ ปวดท้องอยู่เลย และขอบคุณค่ะที่เป็นห่วง ก็อยากไปเรียนทำบ้างนะค่ะ อาหารหลายๆอย่างด้วยค่ะ มีใครจะสอนแหววบ้างละค่ะ ขอบคุณค่ะ

  • Xochi Navarro

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

  • Andydang

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

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  • Nikkoma96

    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!

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

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  • 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

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

  • Rcollins31

    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.

    • 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).

  • Martin

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

    •  Let me know how you like it!

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

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