Lemon Pickle – South Indian Style


IMG_4037When life offers me lemons I make pickles of them. I’d suggest the same to anybody who even remotely likes the citrus family. Because making lemonade out of them, to me is like saving the wrapper and throwing away the candy. The peels with all their essential oils, vitamins, etc ., have so much good in them that it is wasteful to throw them away. This doesn’t in anyway imply that I don’t drink lemonade. I’m guilty of that pleasure very often. But, I do try to micro-plane their zest into anything I’m cooking that day. Another way I manage to use up the lemon as a whole is to preserve them in salt, let them pickle for weeks and then when they are done I slice up the rinds and add them to any recipe void desserts that calls for lemon juice, zest or rinds and a nice tangy bite pops up here and there in the food.

So last November, when my friends-in-law the Rs, who have these two big lemon trees in their backyard that produce tons of voluptuous sweet lemons every winter, gave me these two big bags of citrus fruit, my innate citrus love decided it was pickle time again.


I mostly pickle lemons the South Indian way for no good reason but habit. The main difference between the pickles from the South to that of the North is the oil in the vinaigrette. The South uses sesame oil and in the North it is mustard. Both give very distinct unique flavors and for me it is hard to say which I like better.

Lemon pickles take a while to get done. roughly around 1.5 to 2 months. There is an unconventional method however (not acceptable to  the gurus of pickling), that speeds up the process of pickling for you. – Gently cooking your lemons to a boil. Though this speeds up the softening process and your pickles are ready for consumption in a week, it does reduce the shelf life of the pickle. So I’d advice you to do it only if you don’t have the patience to wait for a couple of months and you plan to refrigerate your pickles.

6 –7 lemons, cut up into triangular bite size pieces, base the number of lemons on size, it  should fill up about 3 cups
2 tbsp ginger grated 
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup chopped green chilies
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp roasted fenugreek powder (dry roast fenugreek seeds and powder them)
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp turmeric
3- 4 tbsp sesame oil (the golden, cold-pressed kind not the dark brown from toasted seeds found in the chinese market)
1/3 -1/2 cup salt ( base it on taste, they should taste saltier than normal when just made.)


  • Add chili, salt and turmeric to the lemon pieces and mix well. Make sure every piece of lemon is coated well.
  • Heat oil, add asafoetida, mustard and fenugreek powder and saute till the mustard pops.
  • Add ginger and green chilies and saute for 2-3 mins.
  • Cool it down to room temperature.
  • Add to the lemon pieces and mix well.
  • Bottle it in airtight jars and store in the coolest part of your pantry. Every couple of weeks give the jar a nice shake.

    It takes about 45 – 60 days for the pickles to be ready for consumption. When the pieces are soft you know your pickle is done


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    2 Responses to “Lemon Pickle – South Indian Style”

    1. Alex says:

      Just finished bottling – now the patience of waiting 2 months…

    2. david says:

      I will remark on the success …can’t wait/ I have 3 lemon trees heaving with fruit !!

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