In a (lemon) pickle: recipe

I’m running my first ever pop-up dinner next week (eek!) and thus spent last weekend playing the part of the diligent (half-)Indian (non-)housewife, slaving away over pickles and garam masala as step one of Operation Make Lots of Money for Nepal

When I was growing up I used to get really annoyed with my dad for making his gross pickles, as I saw them back then. You’d open a curtain or a cupboard and there’d be an old jar or large former-chapati container that had been stained yellow from the haldi (turmeric) and the spicy pickle smell engulfing all my clothes – making me a not-so-popular teenager. And if he even tried to get me to eat the stuff I would usually hide it in my napkin and flush it down the toilet later – a trick that did me and my sister wonders throughout childhood. Not because my dad’s food was bad – it the complete opposite – but because there was just so much of it. And every last scrap had to be eaten. Pickle and all. 

But as with an appreciation of olives, a genuine taste for wine, and an ability to get at least two questions correct in The Guardian crossword, good things come to those who age. And thus my pickling adventure began.

I decided to try two different pickles: nimboo achaar – lemon pickle, which is common in Nepal, and very similar to the lime pickle popular in India, and good old hari mirchi achaar – green chilli pickle. EDIT: post-event – this pickle was perhaps the most loved part of the meal! It is mouth-wateringly delicious. Do try! I pickled mine on a windowsill for 2 weeks and it was a perfect pickle. #projectpickle is my next venture me thinks…

I don’t think I’ve ever cut as many lemons and chillies in my life – the latter was exceptionally tedious. I made epic portions as I am cooking for 35 people and wanted to have plenty spare, so in the recipe I’ve quartered what I did which should give you a good jar or two full, but do feel free to multiply up. 

This recipe is based on a recipe from the Sherpa Sisters. You can also check out my chilli pickle recipe – warning, it is super hot!

lemon pickle (nimboo achaar)


  • 4 lemons
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (ground) or cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 chilli flakes and 1/2 Schezuan peppercorns ground down together)
  • 2.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (ideally black)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder


Ensure you have a large clean, dry jar or a couple of smaller jars. I use old olive, jam or pesto jars, as well as larger storage jars which you can pick up in Poundstretchers for £2.

Slice the ends off each lemon and then cut them into small wedges – I quartered then quartered them – and put them in a large bowl.

Add the sugar, salt and ground chilli/cayenne.

Heat the oil and cook the mustard and fenugreek seeds until the fenugreek seeds go a lovely dark red/brown colour. Take off the heat, add the turmeric and stir.

Add the oil and seeds to the lemons and mix until all are coated in spicy goodness.

Put into jar(s) and leave in a sunny spot like the windowsill for at least one week. Then dish up with your favourite curries!


  1. I have never heard of pickled lemons before but this looks amazing and is worth trying. One question though, how do you eat the pickle? With what kind of foods? Also the pickle is eaten with the rind too?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very common in Nepal & India – less common in the UK or other western countries where lime pickle is more common. Patak’s make a popular jarred line pickle.

      You eat the whole thing! Once it’s pickled it doesn’t have that tough bitter skin. It’s best with curries – just dolloped on the side. Or with some rice & yoghurt. I used to dislike pickle when younger but love it now.

      Thanks for stopping by & following the blog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I usually have a few lemons, as well as a bottle of lemon juice, in the fridge. First thing in the morning I have a cup of hot water and lemon, which helps get me going. Lemons are yet another great source of vitamin C. I also use lemon juice in salad dressings a lot and usually put lemon in any fresh juice I make. And then of course I used all the lemons in my lemon pickle! […]


  3. Cool recipe. Our fridge always contains preserved lemons and now I’m going to add these alongside. Always seeking new culinary terrain to explore and Indian pickles are definitely new to me (except in restaurants). Thanks for the recipe. Also, as a Dad, I have sympathy for your father. 🙂 Ken


    • Thanks Ken! Glad the recipe is of interest to you. I absolutely love this pickle – it goes with everything. A lot of my recipes are Indian, as it’s what I grew up on, so hopefully there will be lots of interest to you here. Thanks for the follow! Do let me know how you get on if you make the pickle. I have a couple more pickle ideas under my hat so hope to make them soon and share the outcomes!

      Liked by 1 person

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