Lemon pickle is my new addiction.  The first time I tried it was back in college when my best friend, Aruna, brought some back after visiting her parents over winter break.  It was tart, tangy, salty and spicy.  I was in love.  That little tub of lemon pickle didn’t last long in our dorm room and supplies were only accessible via trips home for Aruna so when it was available, it was treasured and savored.  After college I was completely cut off from the lemon pickle supply because Aruna and I lived far apart.  And to be honest, over time I forgot how amazing it was.  But because I’ve been making a lot of Indian food lately, a rush of lemon pickle nostalgia hit me like a tsunami and I was compelled to make some.  It also helps that I have a lemon tree in my back yard and that it’s lemon season.


Yes, that is a lot of salt. That is how fermentation works.

I love this recipe because it uses fermentation and I love to ferment stuff.  I love that it’s kind of like a science experiment and I love the funky sour taste it gives things.  I also love how salty stuff gets!  The smell that comes off these lemons when they are fermenting is nothing short of mouth wateringly amazing.  It’s hard to imagine that after it’s all said and done, it will taste even better.

There’s a bit of a cooking process that may or may not kill all of the beneficial properties that fermenting creates.  Actually, maybe because they’re lemons none of that stuff happens?  I honestly have zero clue and I couldn’t care less.  This is all about taste folks.  And when the lemons are cooked down with the tempered oil and chili powder magic happens.

L1060910 - Lemon Pickle

They are really this yellow. It’s like they just get super duper yellow through the fermentation process.


lemon pickle spices - Lemon Pickle

These are the spices that go into the cooked down fermented lemons. There’s a lot of chili in there. I use a mild cayenne and I recommend that you do the same if you have reservations about the heat.


fermented lemons cooking in spices - Lemon Pickle

After the lemons have cooked for a bit and the liquid has mostly evaporated, add the spices and cook for a bit longer… about 5 minutes or so. Make sure to stir often so it doesn’t burn!

I got this recipe from Padhu’s Kitchen.  Padhu writes her blog from India and focuses on vegetarian Indian food recipes.  She has a small garden where she grows a lot of her own food.  She also composts and creates her own rich soil which gives her badass status in my book.  The only time I tried composting I created maggot ridden mud.  It was so nasty.  So kudos to Padhu for being a whiz in the kitchen and the garden and giving me something to aspire to.  Most of all, thanks for giving me the tools to reconnect with a flavor from my past.

Delightful Recipe

Serves The Whole World
Adapted from Padhu's Kitchen


  • 6 juicy lemons with thin peels
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/4 cup of oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 5 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (mild cayenne if you don’t want so much heat)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seed powder
  • Rinse the lemons and then cut them in half and then cut each half into 6 to 8 pieces.  If your lemons are on the small side you can just cut each half into 4 pieces.  Try to remove as many seeds as possible but don’t worry about it if a few stay in.
  • Put them in a glass or nonreactive bowl with the salt and turmeric.  Mix to combine.  Cover the bowl and let it rest in a cool, dry place for at least two days and up to a week.  Stir them each day with a clean spoon.  You will see that they are giving off a liquid and that they are also developing a very strong (in a good way) aroma and color.
  • When the lemons are ready (you be the judge!) get your spices and oil ready.
  • Heat oil in a pot with mustard seeds and asafoetida.  When the mustard seeds begin to pop and sputter, add the fermented lemons and stir.  Let them cook down until most of the liquid is evaporated and they start to break down.
  • Add the chili powder and let the mixture cook down for a few more minutes.
  • Add the fenugreek powder and mix until well incorporated.  Cut the heat and let the lemon pickle cool to room temperature.
  • Put the lemon pickle in a glass jar or jars and store in the fridge.


So excited to try this recipe–I have had a massive addiction to this spicy pickled yumminess for years. Many an Indian buffet employee has questioned my knack for downing insanely large quantities of this and mixing it in with some chana massala. I thought it was only available at Indian restaurants but now thanks to you I feel confident to make my own. No more stink eye, I can gorge to my heart’s content!! Also I love knowing the history of your fetish through your college bestie Aruna. Thanks again! 

I’m excited that you’re excited!! Let me know how it goes making your own batch! I was surprised to learn how easy it is to make 🙂

[…] makes them a little bit sweet so they go well with other pickles or relishes such as my favorite, lemon pickle.  I also topped a bowl of saag with these and it kind of reminded me of meatballs in marinara but […]

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