Technique Thursday: Recipe: Cambodian Pickled Limes

Makes 6 pickled limes

Pickled limes add a sharp citrus kick to recipes.  As the rind softens, it releases a bitter note than permeates throughout the lime. The insides break down as they set in the salted water, so the texture becomes rather mushy. Use a sharp knife when slicing to preserve the beautiful lime shape.

Cambodian pickled limes are easy to make but take a little time – you’ll probably need start two weeks ahead. Hot and sunny temperatures are necessary to dry out the limes quickly. When we made them, temperatures were floating around 104 (with a heat index of 111F). I may have set a world record for time to dry out six limes. Two days!

NOTE: You could also use small key limes for this recipe.

Special thanks to Karen Coates of Rambling Spoon whose post Ode to a Grandmother inspired this recipe.


6 limes
water, as needed


Dry a bunch of clean, fresh limes in the sun. Rotate as needed to get all sides dry.

I put them on my driveway, because it is the sunniest part of the house. My neighbors love me.

Here they are after just one day! What a heat wave we had!

The side that sat in the sun all day was brown.  I can’t get over how cool they look. And the warm lime scent is pretty awesome too.

The next day I rotated them to do the other side. That night, when I went out to check them, I couldn’t believe my eyes – they were done!! Normally, if you aren’t living in an inferno, this process takes about a week. You’ll know they are done when the skin becomes a smooth tan color.

Now for some pickling fun. This was my first time. Boil a small pot of water.

Add a palm full of salt.

And place the limes in a big, clean glass jar. You’ll probably want to wipe them off since they outside world isn’t so sterile. Dust and spiders and all that stuff.

Cover with the boiling salted water. Be careful :)

They look like a science experiment, don’t they? I love it! And so easy…

Cover at least one week, until the limes are soft. This is the perfect time to take a family vacation to Virginia! Or you know, wherever. That’s just what we did!

Although the boiling water makes things sterile, I still refrigerated them. I’m paranoid like that. I’m not sure exactly how long they’ll last, but I’d suggest using them up in a month or so.

The acidic punch tastes great in Chicken and Pickled Lime Soup, or muddled up with some seltzer water and sugar.

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  1. Do you take them out of the brine after a week or do they stay in until you use them?
    Thanks for this great site. It’s a wonderful journey and very educational – and tasty!

    • globaltable says:

      Hi Rike! Keep them in the brine – in fact, the longer they sit in the brine, the more they “pickle” :)

    • I’m Cambodian, and I love these to death. The proper way to make them is in the summer and to leave them in a glass jar outside in the summer sun and let it sit in the brine for about a month til it turns really brown. Make sure to adds tons of salt to perserve them.

      You can keep them for up to a year. Yes they will get darker with color, and they have such a better flavor. Once I put them in the soul I actually like to eat the pickled limes in the soul (some people like it some don’t)

      But that is the real way to make it. It isn’t the real thing until it has been sitting for atleast 2-3 months. And yes it is safe to it like any other thing you pickle.

  2. I should have asked this before: do you think I could put the limes on the dash in my car (on a cookie sheet) to dry out? We have too many interested critters living around our place to leave any food outside unprotected.

    • globaltable says:

      I think that would probably be fine. My only thought would be that you’d start to smell the lime in the car -not necessarily a bad thing.

      If you try it out, let us know how it works out for you :) I’m guessing the heat of the car would dry them out faster.

  3. I put 6 limes (on a plate) on the dash of my husbands truck in the afternoon and they were done before noon the next day! With the truck facing south in 100+ degrees I could go into production!

  4. Lorraine Ray says:

    My mother and I made a yearly visit to Salem Willows Beach Park in Massacusetts when I was a child. In addition to to their wonderful flavored popcorn we were addicted to their pickled limes that we ate like you would an apple.

    I wonder if anyone has a recipe for these.

  5. could i possibly dry them in the oven?

  6. Very helpful, I am young Cambodian living in NYC miss the pickle! And I am looking for a recipe to make lime pickle in Cambodian way, and I found this :) although at this month at the east coast, we don’t have much sun, can I put the limes on the top of the heat machine? Thanks in advance

  7. Sasha Martin says:

    @hannah and @veasna I’d try maybe a super low-heat oven (like just below your 200F degree mark… like 175, as you’d use to dry fruit. That should help!

    @Rike – whoa! That’s fantastic!!

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