November 30, 2020

Spicy Lemon Pickle


Spicy Lemon Pickle is a traditional Indian condiment made with fresh lemon, salt, red chili powder, and gingelly oil. 

Pickling is the oldest food preservation method used for several food items like lemon, mango, cucumber, meat, etc. Generally, pickling is done to preserve the ingredients for a long time so that it can be used even after a season. In India, summertime is the perfect season for pickling. Most of the houses will be filled with fresh mangoes and lemons. The prepared pickles are stored and consumed during the winter season. 

The raw ingredients are immersed in an acetic acid until it changes in texture and taste or until it is no longer raw. The pickles can be prepared either fermented or unfermented method. The fermented pickles are further classified into two ways: sour fermented pickles and sweet fermented pickles. The sour fermented are made by immersing the raw vegetables in a dilute brine (i.e 2-5% salt). In this method, the bacteria grow naturally in 1-2 weeks to produce lactic acid and helps to prevent the growth of food poisoning bacteria and other spoilage microorganisms. And in a sweet fermented pickle, acetic acid, sugar, and salt are used for preservation. Likewise, the unfermented pickles are produced by two methods: Salt - stock pickle and vinegared pickle. In a salt-stock pickle, concentrated brine is used and the preservation is done due to salt and not by fermentation. And in vinegared pickles, the vegetables are immersed in acetic acid/vinegar, salt and sugar. The pasteurization is done by heat in the unfermented pickles method. 

Home pickling is always the best because sometimes, the store-bought pickles taste too salty or the vinegar taste dominates the pickle which eventually spoils our taste bud. The pickling process is quite easy and interesting. Pickle is one of the best condiments for most Indian dishes. It can be served with roti and rice varieties. Personally, I love pickles with curd rice. 

Pickles always reminds me of my mother. She is an expert in pickle making and every summer, she prepares jars of pickles like mango pickle, dried lemon pickle, grated mango pickle, cut mango pickle, sweet mango pickle, spicy lemon pickle, etc and distributes to our relatives. For my today's pickling recipe, I chose my mother's "Spicy lemon pickle". Prepared this spicy and tangy pickle under her guidance over the phone and it was a great learning for me. The pickle came out well and it exactly tasted like my mother's pickle. Though it takes a week time to consume, it is worth the wait :) 

In this recipe, lemons are washed and dried using a kitchen towel. Moisture is the biggest enemy when it comes to pickling. So, always make sure to dry the vegetables and jar. The jar should be sterilized and dried. The washed and dried lemons are cut into pieces and salted along with turmeric powder. Then, the salted lemons are fermented for a couple of days. The fermented lemons are mixed with red chili powder to give s spicy taste and then added to the oil. In this method, pasteurization is done by heat. The oil is heated up and seasoned with mustard seeds, asafoetida and then, the chili powder coated lemons are added to it. Generally, the pickles are removed from the flame, cooled, and transferred to a jar but if it is to be consumed immediately, then the cooking process should be extended for 5-7 minutes until the peel of the lemon gets soft. I did not cook the lemon in this recipe so removed the pickles immediately from the flame and transferred it to the same jar in which salted lemon was fermented. 

Ingredients used in this recipe:

Fruit: The fruit used in this pickle is lemon. The quality of lemon is very important when picking for pickle. Always pick blemish-free and fresh lemon. Cut the lemon into small pieces and also, reserve the juice while cutting the lemons. Add the reserved lemon juice along with the lemon pieces. 

Salt: Traditionally coarse salt is used in pickling. If not available, table salt can be used but be cautious while adding salt because too much salt, makes the pickle too salty. 

Turmeric powder: The turmeric adds an earthy richness and gives a lovely color to the pickle. And also, turmeric is good for our health. 

Oil: Gingelly oil which is also known as sesame oil or Til oil is best for this pickle. This oil is rich in vitamins and also, controls the heat from the spices. The nutty flavor goes well with the pickle. 

Asafoetida: Asafoetida is an Indian spice. Since it has a strong and pungent flavor, only a pinch of it is used. This spice is very good for digestion and used in most Indian curries. 

Mustard seeds: This is one of the important ingredients in many regional foods. The mustard seeds should be added to hot oil and it should splutter before adding the next ingredients. 

Red chili powder: Red chili powder is added to give a spicy taste. Adjust the quantity of chili powder according to taste bud. I have used Kashmiri red chili powder in this recipe to get a lovely color. 

Fenugreek seeds: Slightly dry roast the fenugreek seeds and ground them to a fine powder. The fenugreek powder has a strong bitter taste, so add just a pinch of it. Fenugreek seed is supposed to have a cooling effect on the body. Since this pickle contains chili powder, fenugreek powder is added to balance the heat from the spices.


4 Big Lemons 

3/4 Cup Coarse Salt 

1 Tsp Tumeric powder 

1 Cup Gingelly Oil 

2 Tsp Mustard seeds 

A pinch of Aesofatida / Hing powder 

1 Tbsp Red chili powder (Adjust according to taste bud) 

1 Tsp Fenugreek seeds 


Sterilize the glass jar, wipe it dry, and keep it aside. 

Wash the lemons, dry them using a kitchen towel. 


Cut the lemons into small pieces and transfer them to a bowl. 


Add coarse salt and turmeric powder. Mix well.


Transfer it to a jar and let it rest for one or two days. Shake the jar at least once a day so that the pickle blends well and gets a uniform texture. 


After a couple of days, transfer the lemon pieces to a bowl and add red chili powder. Mix well. 


Heat gingelly oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Once it starts spluttering, add aesofatida and the lemon pieces.  



Mix well and immediately remove from the flame. If you want to consume the pickle the same day, then cook it for 5 minutes so that the lemon gets cooked fast.


Cool the lemon mixture and transfer it to the jar. Rest it for a week by shaking the jar at least once a day. 


After a week, the lemon gets soften and looks like the one in the below picture. 

Serving Options: 

Serve with Curd rice, Sambar rice, and Rasam rice.  


Variations can be made by substituting with Wild lemon, Mango, and Lime. In the North and East part of India, mustard oil is used in pickles to retain body heat as they have a colder climate. Nowadays, as a trend and dietary reason, olive oil is used but there will be a huge difference in the flavor. Jaggery can also be added to the lemon pickle to balance the citrus flavor. Ginger can also be included which is good for digestion. 

The same recipe can be prepared without adding oil and red chili powder. If you want to prepare in that way, just make a cross-cut on top of the lemon and add turmeric powder along with coarse salt. Leave it for a week and use it. The same can also be sun-dried. This pickle is perfect for digestion and especially, we include this pickle in our diet when are sick. 

The main advantage of pickling is to prevent spoilage and it extends the shelf life. Pickles are the best way to use leftover vegetables. The same recipe can be prepared using just lemon peel instead of throwing it away and also, with vegetable peels, orange peels, etc. This controls food wastage. 


Since Mustard is one of the priority allergens, people who have mustard allergy should not consume this pickle. If not, while preparing this pickle, just skip the mustard and follow the procedure.  

Health benefits:

Indian pickles have antioxidants properties. Pickles boost immunity and improve the process of digestion. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals. People who have high blood pressure should control the intake of pickles since the salt content is high. 

Reflection and Sensory Evaluation: 

The Spicy Lemon pickle took around 7 to 8 days to get soften. Usually, it takes around 5 days and it depends on the thickness of the lemon peel. Since the lemon which I have used had a thick peel, it took around a week. After adding salt, the lemon started leaving juices which helped to soften them. The texture of the lemon before seasoning was hard. After seasoning, the lemons were immersed in the oil. Approx. around the 6th day, noticed the change in texture and taste. The final product of the pickle tasted salty, spicy with a sour taste. The texture of the pickle was soft enough that it got cut by the fork. The pulp of the lemons blended well with the oil and salt and gave a thick saucy texture. The pickle looked succulent and tasted delicious with rice. Shaking the bottle helped to get the uniform texture. The pickling process changed the taste, color, and texture over the period of days. 

Critical points to follow while making and using pickle:

Make sure the jar is sterilized well and no moisture in it. 

The vegetable or fruit should be washed and dried well before adding to the jar. 

Do not touch the pickle, it may spoil very soon. 

Always use a clean and dry spoon while taking out the spoon. 

Make sure that the pickle has enough oil in the jar. 


Coue, P. (2020). Whole Fruit Cooking: Indian Lemon/Lime Pickles from Leftover Rinds - The Cook's Cook. The Cook's Cook. Retrieved 28 November 2020, from

Avey, T. (2020). History in a Jar: Story of Pickles | The History Kitchen | PBS Food. PBS Food. Retrieved 28 November 2020, from

Blogs, WebMD. "What Pickles Can Do For Your Health". Webmd, 2020,

Sudhanshu S. Behera, Aly Farag El Sheikha, Riadh Hammami, Awanish Kumar, Traditionally fermented pickles: How the microbial diversity associated with their nutritional and health benefits? Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 70,2020,103971, ISSN 1756 4646, https :// (http://www.sciencedirect. com/science/article/pii/S175646462030195X) 

Masala, V. (2020). Health Benefits of Indian Pickles (Achar) in your regular diet. vasant masala. Retrieved 28 November 2020, from

Mustard. [electronic resource] : a priority food allergen in Canada : a systematic review ([desLibris e-book]). (2011). Health Canada.


  1. Oh wow. I love lemon pickle but always thought that it would be hard to make.Love your easy to follow instructions. What can I use instead of Gingelly Oil as I am not sure I can get it here

  2. by seeing this, my mouth is watering with that pickily taste in my taste buds, looks so delicious.

  3. Nice post on pickles, they are one of the essentials in our daily meals. I too make mango and lemon pickle. Lovely post.