Lemon is at once pervasive and underappreciated. It appears as a garnish on countless plates, its juice flavors countless dishes. Always a bridesmaid, lemon seems destined to play a supporting role, albeit an important one. But we think it’s time for lemon to take its place at the altar and prove that its bright, tart flavor can star in a dish. From complex Moroccan tagines to zesty potato salad to creamy lemon curd, we’ve rounded up our favorite lemon recipes.
Lemon’s bright acidity makes it great for cutting through rich, creamy foods. Lemon curd is an eggy, sweet-tart spread that is delicious on toast or as an ingredient in other desserts. It serves as the filling for lemon bars and as a frosting for our lemon layer cake, which also uses lemon zest in the batter and lemon syrup between the layers.
Like with desserts, lemon can cut through creamy savory dishes with ease. Our lemon mayonnaise smashed potato salad is rich without being heavy. Try cooking up a creamy batch of orzo and flavoring it with sweet Meyer lemons and earthy mushrooms.
Preserved lemons are a staple of North African cuisine. You can make them at home with lemon juice, salt, bay leaves, and seasonings like coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and black peppercorns. One of our favorite uses for preserved lemons is Moroccan tagine, where we combine them with chicken, green olives, and spices.
Find all of these dishes and more in our collection of lemon recipes.
Lemon Custard Tart
Use leftover dough from the butter crust of this creamy lemon custard pastry to make decorative cookies to adorn the outside.
Lemon and salt—powerful on their own, but even better when combined and let mature into preserved lemons, a North African pantry staple.
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
A quintessential muffin recipe combines the nutty flavor of poppy seeds with a generous hit of fresh lemon zest.
This recipe for whole fried fish with garlic, fiery chiles, lemons, and earthy spice originated in Yaffa and came courtesy of The Gaza Kitchen.
Lemon Parmesan Dip
Creamy and bright-tasting, lemon parmesan dip makes for an excellent accompaniment to a chip or crudité platter.
Chopped whole lemon and spicy fresh ginger lend brightness to hearty roasted vegetables including sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and carrots.
Spicy Lemon Pickle
A salt and spice cure transforms fresh citrus into tart, briny pickles that perk up many Indian meals. Smita Chandra uses them as a condiment to punch up soft naan flatbreads and steamed white rice.
Complement this dish’s intense lemon flavors with a hefeweizen served with a lemon wedge.
The Best Damn Meyer Lemon Cake
Lemon extract, juice, and zest permeate a rich and moist loaf to create what really is is the best damn lemon cake we’ve ever had.
Lemon Layer Cake
Lemon infuses this layered masterpiece in three ways: zested into the batter, in a tart syrup that get drizzled over the cakes, and in a thick lemon curd frosting.
Corsican Lemon Mousse
This rich, silky mousse brightened with tangy lemons makes an elegant end to a meal.
Chicken, Olive, and Lemon Tagine (Djaj Mqualli)
Tagine, the Moroccan stew, shares its name with the terra-cotta pot it’s traditionally cooked in, whose neat conical lid promotes convection and even cooking. There are many versions; maybe the most classic is braised chicken, green olives, and lemons in a sauce fragrant with ginger and coriander.