Lemon pickle is one of my favorite accompaniments to Indian food. Its savory, salty, tangy bite is the perfect thing to go with a full flavored, hit you upside the head lamb curry, or just the thing to spice up a plain, fragrant bowl of basmati rice.
There are as many recipes for lemon pickle as there are Indian cooks and since I am not blessed with an Indian mother, I am free to wander. Nik Sharma’s Spiced Lemon Pickle from his great new cookbook Seasons: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food appealed to me, though of course I needed to play with the recipe a bit.
Quick Lemon Pickle
First of all, I have halved the recipe because 2 pounds worth of lemons seemed like an enormous commitment. I also added cumin and mustard seeds because I like them and thought they would add another dimension of flavor. You can leave them out if you wish. Oh, and I reduced the suggested 2 tablespoons of red chili flakes by half. Please make this recipe your own; I certainly have. Okay, and I made a mix of lemon and limes because a) that is what I had, and b) I think it pretty.
This is a quick, easy and flavorful lemon and lime pickle, only requiring you to wait for 1 week until you can serve it up.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Lemon Pickle Recipe (Nimbu ka Achar)
- 1 pound lemons ~ Ideally organic and Meyer lemons
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons fine sea or table salt
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 5 teaspoons Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutions
- 2 cups neutral oil ~ Or enough to cover the lemons
- Sterilize a one-quart jar (with a tight-fitting lid).
- Wash and dry the lemons and cut into 8 equal pieces and deseed. Mix the lemon pieces, lemon juice, and salt together and place in the jar. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- While the lemons are pondering their fate, measure out all the seeds you are using. In a small pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the seeds and just bring to a sizzle; about 1 minute. Cool and mix with the chili powder or flakes.
- Transfer the spices to the jar of lemons, add the 2 cups of oil, or enough to cover the lemons. Seal and shake to mix everything thoroughly.
- Place in a cool dark place and give the jar a good shake once a day for a week. Open the jar and make sure that the oil is covering the lemons. If you need to, press the lemons under the surface of the oil. You can use the lemon pickle now, but I think it really comes into its own in week 3. Store in the refrigerator after the 2nd week, up to 2 months.
- Before serving, bring the pickle to room temperature before serving; about 10 minutes. Be sure to use a clean dry spoon to scoop out the pickle.
- Water promotes spoilage so make sure your cutting board, lemons and the knife you are using are dry.
- Feel free to substitute limes for lemons for this lemon pickle recipe.
- Additional flavoring ideas: nigella seeds, asafetida (hing), toasted fennel seeds, and sub out some of the salt with black rock salt.
- Any leftover oil is perfect for flavoring rice, salad dressings, and roasting vegetables.