Nimbu Ka Achaar (Spicy Lemon Pickles)

  • Serves

    makes About 4 Cups


A salt and spice cure transforms fresh citrus into tart, briny pickles that perk up many Indian meals. Cookbook author Smita Chandra uses them as a condiment to punch up soft naan flatbreads and steamed white rice. This recipe first appeared in our August/September 2014 issue with her story Preserving Culture.


  • 10 small lemons, preferably Meyer, quartered, seeded, and sliced ¼" thick
  • 14 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 12 cup canola oil
  • 12 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 12 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 12 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 12 small green Thai chiles or 6 serranos, halved
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (2") piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 cup white vinegar
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. red chile powder or cayenne


Step 1

Rub lemons with salt and turmeric in a bowl; pack into a sterilized 1-qt. glass jar. Cover with lid; place near a window with direct, warm sunlight. Let sit 1 week; shake jar daily to disperse brine. After 1 week, heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high; cook mustard, cumin, and fenugreek seeds until they pop, 1–2 minutes. Add chiles, garlic, and ginger; cook until golden, 4–6 minutes. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and chile powder. Pour over lemons; reseal lid. Shake to combine; chill 1 week to infuse flavors. Keeps up to 1 year.

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