this thing's incredible

The Funky, Salty Lemon Paste I Put in Cocktails (and Everything Else)

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

I’m a chef who would rather (gently) squeeze tomatoes at the farmers’ market than do nearly anything else — good thing, because the Euro-size fridge in my flat in London requires near-daily grocery trips. But while stocking those two tiny shelves is always a joy, whittling down my condiment collection to make room for fresh produce has become a painful exercise in choosing a favorite child.

One item I’ll never get rid of, though, is New York Shuk’s Preserved Lemon Paste. In May, when a friend told me about the PLP, I was curious but not that curious — preserved (salt-cured) lemons usually come whole, and I’ve never made my way through a jar fast enough to allow it to muscle out a single member of my chile-crisp collection. (Although I do love the acid, salt, and funky umami fizz preserved lemon adds.) But after I registered the word paste, the PLP quickly earned a spot in the fridge. Finely dicing a whole lemon to add to, say, salsa verde is nice in theory, but so is taking a break from dicing on my days off. This lemon, thankfully, doesn’t need to be cut at all — in fact, the creators wanted to make a more intuitive version, so they blended two to three plump citrus fruits into each jar.

Paste is a bit of a misnomer. Instead of being creamy, its texture is soupy, which means it melts into a sauce or vinaigrette without any concerted whisking. It’s super-potent too: I tend to start with a tablespoon or so and go from there. I’m still scarred from the $22 jar of pistachio cream I went through in two weeks, so I’ve been thrilled that my $16 PLP has lasted all summer despite constant use.

When it’s hot out (which is every day), I drop a spoonful into a shaker full of ice, then empty a can of sparkling water over the top for a salted-lemonade spritz. Another spoonful of PLP mixed in my water bottle pre-run is possibly the best version of lemon-lime-flavored Gatorade. In the evening, I stir whatever leftover herbs I have — cilantro, mint, shiso, basil — together with some PLP and pour in a thumb of gin.

Photo: Lauren Joseph

Somehow, drinking it in every form hasn’t dissuaded me from cooking with it. When combined with full-fat yogurt, the preserved lemon’s brightness balances smoky grilled zucchini; brushed over a fat-capped pork chop, PLP cuts through the richness of the meat. And it works just as well in sweets — I whooshed a tablespoon through the batter of this easy olive-oil cake to impart a ton of flavor without messing with the alchemy of baking. And taking inspiration from pastry chef Rose Wilde, I stirred some through a simple yogurt-mousse cake frosting and into a finished crème anglaise before drizzling it over summer strawberries. But when friends come over and it’s too hot to cook, let alone bake, I’ve taken to swirling preserved-lemon paste through just-melty vanilla ice cream and sprinkling over some crushed pistachios.

Some other spreads and sauces we've written about

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Salty Lemon Paste I Put on Grilled Meat and Ice Cream