South Indian Lemon pickle

BM #115 : Week 2, Day 3
Theme : Accompaniments

In my opinion, my mother in law’s pickle are the best! Especially her lemon pickle. When I was in India, I would always be stocked up on her pickles. Some of my friends are also huge fans of this pickle.

Since we were in the same city as my mother in law and I was getting the pickles on a regular basis from her, i never bothered to learn the recipe. Once we moved to US, I assumed it was a labor consuming recipe and never asked her for it. When she was visiting us last fall, I mentioned how I miss her pickles. I couldn’t believe myself she explained how easy it is to prepare! She made a batch for me, which I am still using, I clicked every single step of the process. I have shared the recipe with my friend who has already made this couple of times.

The pickle has almost zero oil(except for the oil used to roast fenugreek seeds) and does not need refrigeration. The stepwise pictures where taken last fall but the picture of the final pickle was taken today – a few months short of an year after it was prepared. As you can see, it stores and stays well for a long duration. You can substitute mangoes for lemons and follow the same recipe.

The recipe is simple. A few precautions are needed. All the vessels need to be dry as you don’t want any water to get into the pickle. Moisture from lemon is fine, but water is not. So keep everything dry, the knifes and the lemons, cutting board – everything. For 5 measures of chopped lemon (or mango), add one measure of rock salt and one measure of chili powder. You have to take one measure of rock salt and then powder it and add. Mix everything well, cover and store it in a clean plastic or ceramic vessel. Keep mixing it once a day for the next 4 days. On the fifth day, roast and powder a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds and a little bit of hing. Add it to the pickle and let it rest. That’s it! Transfer to a bottle and use it. The more it sits, the tastier it gets.

It’s important that all the bowls, knives and the lemons are completely moisture free. Wash and clean the lemons. Dry them thoroughly using a towel. In a DRY bowl, add half a teaspoon of salt. Squeeze the lemons into this bowl to remove the seeds and also to remove most of the juice.

Cut each half of the lemon into at least four pieces, so at least 8 pieces per lemon. You can cut into even smaller pieces too. Measure out 5 cups of this into a DRY big bowl. Using a strainer, add the lemon juice back. Discard the seeds.

Use the same bowl/cup that you used to measure lemons and fill it with rock salt. Grind the measured salt into a fine powder using a blender. Add 90% of this salt to the lemons. Measure out chili powder in the same bowl. Add this to the lemons and mix well.

Once it’s well mixed, keep it in a ceramic/glass/plastic vessel with lid. Metal might corrode. I used plastic here. Let this rest for 4 days. Once a day, you have to mix this to evenly distribute everything. The pictures above are taken after mixing on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4. You will find that it is releasing more liquid and becoming softer and less bright yellowish. During one of these days, you can taste test and add the remaining salt if needed. Else use it for something else.

On the fifth day, heat a small kadai with a tablespoon of oil. Add 1” piece of dry asafoetida( my MIL stores it as small balls coated in a little bit of flour to avoid sticking), so she used 5 of those balls. You can use 1 teaspoon of powdered hing too. Once the hing is cooked, add 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds. When it changes color, remove from heat, let it cool down and blend into a powder. Add this to the pickle. Mix well and set aside for at least 3 weeks. I moved it to a glass bottle at this point. Do not mix it during this resting period. At the end of three weeks, see whether the lemons have become soft enough to be served, else wait for another week before using. The longer you wait, the better the pickle is.


  • 5 cup lemons, diced after squeezing the juice and removing seeds
  • 1 cup rock salt
  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1” piece of asafoetida/hing or 1 teaspoon powdered asafoetida
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds


  1. Wash and dry the lemons. There shouldn’t be any water left on it. cut them into half, Squeeze out the seeds and most of the juice into a bowl. Do not throw the juice away. Cut the lemons into small pieces.
  2. Measure out 5 cups of lemons in a big mixing bowl. Add the collected juice back to it using a strainer to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds.
  3. Grind one cup of rock salt into a fine powder. Add most of the salt to the lemons, reserving about 10% of it back.
  4. Add one cup of chili powder to the lemons and mix everything well. Store in a plastic or ceramic vessel with a lid. Set aside to rest for 4 days. On each of these four days, you have to mix the pickle well once a day to redistribute everything evenly.
  5. On the fifth day, sauté one teaspoon of asafoetida and fenugreek seeds until it changes color. Powder it once it’s cold. Add this to the pickle, mix well and let it rest for at least 3 weeks. I moved it to a glass bottle at this point.
  6. This pickle doesn’t need refrigeration. I store mine in the pantry. Be careful to avoid moisture and always use a clean dry spoon to take it out of the bottle.


5 thoughts on “South Indian Lemon pickle

  1. I am not a fan of achaar, but just looking at that picture makes me feel as if I could have a little lick at that…


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