Hot, Sweet, Sour, Tangy Lemon Pickle!

Lemons in India are different – they’re lemony (well, duh!) but rounder with much thinner skins than the ones we see most commonly in the UK.

Sweet and Spicy Lemon Pickle

Indians in the UK sometimes choose to use limes in place of Indian lemons when cooking, although my mum recommends against this as lime skins are much tougher than lemon skins. She wonders whether the ubiquitous lime pickle served in Indian restaurants here in the UK is actually made from lemons bought in Indian grocery shops that import them from India or whether it is actually made from limes.

In any case, I found some small, spherical lemons in a local market that seemed to be somewhat closer to the thinner-skinned Indian variety and that’s what I used to make my pickle. If you use regular lemons, just give your pickle longer to mature in order for the skin and pith to soften up properly.

Mamta's Kitchen Hot Seet Sour Tangy Lemon Pickle


  • 250 g lemons
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 200 g jaggary or dark brown or muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp brown cardamom seeds (coarsely ground)
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (coarsely ground or whole, as preferred)
  • 1 tsp nigella sativa seeds (kalonji)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (coarsely ground)
  • 2-3 tbsp malt vinegar


Note: The amounts for sugar, salt, chilli and vinegar are a guideline so itโ€™s best to have extra available should you wish to adjust to taste. Likewise, the amounts for the flavouring spices are also approximate and can be adjusted as you prefer.
Note: I scaled the recipe up for 1.5 kilos of lemons.


  • Scrub the lemons clean in hot water - waxed lemons will probably need more scrubbing.
  • Cut into small pieces.
  • Steam in a microwave on full for 5 minutes.
  • Spread out on a plate or tray and leave in the sun to dry for a day (as the weather didn't co-operate, I popped mine into the oven, set as low as it would go, for about an hour).
  • If using block jaggary, crush and grate to break down.
  • Peel the caramom pods and crush or grind the seeds. Grind the fennel seed and black pepper.
  • Place salt, jaggary or sugar, ground cardamom seeds, chilli powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, nigella sativa seeds and ground black pepper into a large bowl.
  • Add enough vinegar to form a loose paste and combine all ingredients well.
  • Add lemons and mix gently to distribute paste evenly over the lemons.
  • Fill sterilised, airtight jars. Leave on a window sill or in hot sun.
  • Wait at least 2 weeks for the pickle to mature, longer if using thicker-skinned lemons. But not that this pickle really benefits from ageing. My mum cherishes a jar of 10+ year old lemon pickle which she reckons just gets better and better with time.

Sweet and Spicy Lemon Pickle


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14 Comments to "Hot, Sweet, Sour, Tangy Lemon Pickle!"

  1. Mani Pillai

    Aren't the lemons we get here waxed hence they are thicker than the ones we get in Asia? I know that Waitrose sells unwaxed ones and that they are far more nutritious than the waxed ones. The latter I found out from a financier who was into food!!


    The wax doesn’t add more than an incredibly thin layer of wax. It’s the different varieties in India that have much thinner skin and pith.There isn’t really an appreciable difference nutritionally, and wax used on citrus fruit is rated food safe, but it’s easy to give the skins a good scrub to remove it before using, especially if you are intending to use the zest / skin.

  2. Gloria

    It is fairly recently that I have become aware of varieties of lemons and it doesn't seem that we have a lot of choice here in the UK. Or have we? Perhaps I just haven't been looking hard enough. Shall now be on the lookout to record what is available and how different lemons can be. The pickle looks fab. Is your Mum not getting near the bottom of the 10 year + jar yet. Must be a jar like the tardis.

  3. Kavey

    Hi Mani!

    Much citrus is sold waxed but that contributes an extremely extremely thin layer and can easily be scrubbed off with a little elbow grease!

    It's the actual types of lemons that govern how thick the skin is, how much pith there is etc!

    I don't think she has that one very often! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Mamta

    Hello Gloria
    The 10 year old pickle was probably 15 years old! It is gone now, but I have jars of different ages, because I make one lemon pickle or the other all the time, whenever I have lemons left over! They come in very handy to add to vegetable bhajies (what you would call a curry without gravy) and all sorts of other Indian dishes, in place of mango powder or Amchoor. They are preserved lemons in their simplest form.

  5. Foodycat

    These look delicious! I can't imagine being able to resist eating them for 10 years! AND it'll give me a reason for using the nigella seeds I bought (and then couldn't remember why).

  6. The London Foodie

    I was lucky enough to be given a small jar of this delicious pickle, and now I've got the recipe, fantastic! I love making preserves and also make my own pesto which I freeze, you can never beat homemade pickles.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  7. S

    mmmmm nimbu achar. i must buy a bottle of your mum's achar when i am in London next. esp the sliced chili one. adore achar- your mum is an expert. x shayma

  8. Anonymous

    I want to prepare this pickle but there is no sun. without sun how can i make this pickle

  9. Kavey

    I guess you can try it in the winter sun, there is still some, after all. But I would leave it a fair while longer to mature, rather than just few weeks.

  10. Sandy

    I love lemon pickle ! I work for a Indian lady and she has some that’s 40-50 years old !!! Her mother-in-law made it in India !!! Needless to say it is black and spreads like butter…it is sooooooo delicious !
    I’ve also had lemon pickle that is “fresh” ( a few weeks old) , that is also delicious. I have yet to make it…will this summer !!!!

    I’m so happy I found this blog, because I was looking all over the internet on information about aged lemon pickle (40-50 years old or older), and havent found anything about it….other than people saying it is better with age….It’s hard to believe I can eat something so old & survive !



    Wow, Sandy, that’s super super old! How impressive! I think the high acid and sugar in such pickles make them a poor environment for bacteria to breed, I guess that’s how they last so long. Can I suggest you check out my mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen, from where this recipe was taken.


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