Lemon Pickle

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This incredibly easy and oil-free lemon pickle recipe makes the most bright and tangy condiment for enjoying with your favorite Indian dishes. Homemade spiced lemon pickle (or lime pickle) only includes 4 simple ingredients, and is naturally low-fat, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly. Follow our step-by-step instructions with photos to quickly make a batch now that’s ready to enjoy in just a few days!

lemon pickle in a glass jar on a blue board

About this recipe

This family lime pickle recipe is tried and true for making a spiced and wonderfully sour condiment to perfectly compliment nearly any Indian meal.

It adds a terrific punch of flavor to the table, and although it is effortless to prepare it is a welcomed side that seems really impressive to guests.

My homemade lemon pickle recipe does require a 4 to 5 day pickling process in some sunlight, but I promise it is very easy to prepare and well worth every minute.

Lemon or Lime

Usually, in many Indian pickle recipes, lemons and lime can be swapped for each other. So it is with this pickle.

  1. Lemon: Fresh, ripe and thin-skinned lemons are the best here. Lemons having thick skin can make the pickle bitter and will take more time to soften. You can have any size of lemons. But they should be juicy and not dried or wilted. So use fresh lemons. Do not use lemons that have become browned or discolored from outside.
  2. Lime: We always make this pickle with lemons. You can even make it with limes. If the limes do not soften, let the pickle mature in the sunlight for a couple of days more. If using limes, then go by the weight measurement of 250 grams.

Spices in the pickle

The spices are minimal in this lemon pickle recipe, just about two – carom seeds and red chilli powder with a seasoning of some salt.

  • Carom seeds: The major spice ingredient in this recipe is carom seeds (ajwain in Hindi). These small seeds are light brown in color and have thyme like aroma with a pungent and sharp taste. Carom seeds are excellent for digestion. This spice is not replaceable with any other spice. You can easily buy carom seeds online in an Indian grocery store if you live outside India.
  • Red chili powder: To add a bit of heat red chili powder is used. The red chili powder, that we use in Indian cuisine, is simply ground dried red chilies. It is not the Mexican chili powder having oregano or cumin. Cayenne pepper or paprika is a good substitute. Smoked paprika would also taste great.
  • Salt: Any kind of edible salt works fine. Sea salt, kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt, food-grade, and edible rock salt all can be used. If you want to use black salt, then use it in combination with some other salt. Remember to add some salt on top of the pickle in the jar when you keep it for sun-drying. The addition of salt prevents the pickle from getting spoiled on the top.

Continue reading to learn how to make your own lemon pickle from scratch with no oil or cooking needed.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Lemon Pickle

Step 1 – prepare the lemons

1. Firstly, rinse 6 or 7 medium-sized lemons or 7 or 8 limes (250 grams or about half a pound) with water and either air dry or towel dry.

Note: Take extra care to make sure that your cutting board, workspace, and hands are very clean and well dried before proceeding. This will ensure that you do not contaminate the jar of lemon pickle during the pickling process.

rinsed and dried fresh yellow lemons on a kitchen napkin

2. Once the lemons are dry, one at a time take each lemon and cut four slices while being careful to keep the fruit whole (like in the picture below). Do not cut through completely!

lemon being sliced

3. Squeeze a bit of juice – about ¼ to ½ teaspoons from each lemon piece into a bowl. But do not squeeze the lemons too much – you want them to keep their shape and fullness.

Set the bowl of lemon juice aside to use later. Adding some lemon juice helps to preserve the pickle.

If the seeds drop when you squeeze the juice, then remove them with a small spoon and discard. If the seeds remain in the lemon, then simply let them be. No need to remove them.

lemon being squeezed to get some juice in a yellow bowl

4. In another plate or bowl, add 1 tablespoon of carom seeds (ajwain), ½ tablespoon of red chili powder or cayenne pepper, and 1 one tablespoon of salt.

carom seeds, red chili powder and salt in a small white plate

5. Mix very well.

spices and salt mixed well to make lemon pickle or lime pickle

6. Use your fingers or a small spoon to stuff and coat the inside of each lemon with the spice mixture.

There will be some spice mix left after you have completed stuffing the lemons. Reserve this spice mix as we will be using them later.

spice and salt mixture stuffed inside an almost cut lemon

Step 2 – place the lemons in a jar

7. Carefully stuff the spiced lemons into a clean jar that has a lid. At this point, you can let the empty jar soak in the sun for 1 to 2 hours before you move on to this 7ᵗʰ step if you like.

stuffed lemon with the spice mixture in a glass jar

8. Next, remove the seeds and pour in the lemon juice you previously squeezed and set aside.

lemon juice being poured in the glass jar

9. Now add the extra spice mixture that was set aside by sprinkling it over the lemons in the jar.

adding the remaining spice and salt mixture on top

10. Then sprinkle some salt (about ½ to 1 teaspoon) all over the lemons. This is essential so that the lemons don’t spoil during the pickling process.

salt sprinkled on top

Step 3 – cover the lemon pickle and wait

11. Cover the jar securely with a lid and keep in sunlight for 4 days. Every day give the jar a good shake. I keep mine on the kitchen window sill so it gets good light and I remember to shake it daily.

lemon pickle in two glass jars on a bright window sill

12. The lemon pickle will be ready to enjoy after 4 to 5 days. Then it’s ready to serve with your meals, no cooking or additional steps required.

lemon pickle in a glass jar on a blue board

Storage

Store the lemon pickle in an air-tight jar in your refrigerator. Do not keep it at room temperature. When you want to serve, remove it with a clean dry spoon. Close the lid of the jar and keep it back in the refrigerator. This lemon pickle keeps well for a month when refrigerated.

Tips

Helpful tips

  • Clean and dry utensils: When making the pickle, ensure there is no moisture on the knife, chopping board, bowl, spoons, and jar. They should be completely dry. Even your lemons should be dry and without any moisture. If you have removed them from the fridge, then let them come to room temperature and gently wipe away any fine moisture droplets from them. You can even sun dry the jar before you place the lemon pickle in it.
  • Sun-drying: Keep the lemon pickle jar in sunlight for 4 to 5 days or until the lemon pieces have softened and the pickle has matured. Everyday, gently shake the jar.
  • Scaling: You can make a big batch of this lemon pickle recipe and refrigerate it.

FAQs

How do you store homemade lemon pickle?

After 4 to 5 days of pickling in the sunlight move the sealed jar of lime pickle to the fridge. It will keep well for up to one month in the refigerator.

What dishes go well with lemon pickle?

Pickles are often had as a condiment with Indian meals, like lentils (dals), curries, and khichdi. The sour citrus taste of the lemon pickle is great for balancing delicious Indian flavors! Try this pickle with rich and hearty Paneer Butter Masala, Potato Curry (aloo curry), Khichdi, Dal Palak (lentils with spinach), or any of your favorite Indian dishes.

Is lemon pickle healthy?

Eaten in small quantities lemon and lime pickle have many health benefits. The citrus has vitamin C and the spices are good for digestion. However, you should be mindful that there is a nice amount of salt in this recipe, and if you are on a low sodium diet, then it can be bad for your health.

  1. Amla Pickle – Spicy, tangy pickle with Indian gooseberries
  2. Mango Pickle – Tart, spiced Punjabi pickle recipe with unripe green mangoes and mustard oil
  3. Red Chilli Pickle – Vibrant stuffed fresh red chili pickle
  4. Andhra Avakaya – Spicy raw mango pickle in sesame oil from Andhra cuisine.
  5. Naranga Achar – Tangy, spicy Kerala style lemon pickle with spices and sesame oil.
  6. Garlic Pickle – Spiced, salty, sour Punjabi garlic pickle recipe with mustard oil.

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lemon pickle in a glass jar on a blue board

Lemon Pickle

This easy and oil-free lemon pickle recipe is a bright, tangy condiment for enjoying with your favorite Indian meals. Homemade spiced lemon pickle (or lime pickle) is made with 4 simple ingredients, and is naturally low-fat, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly.
4.91 from 32 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Cuisine North Indian, Punjabi
Course Condiment, Side Dish
Diet Gluten Free, Low Fat, Vegan
Difficulty Level Easy
Servings 1 small jar
Units

Ingredients

  • 250 grams lemons or 6 to 7 medium sized lemons
  • 1 tablespoon ajwain (carom seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon red chilli powder or cayenne pepper

Instructions
 

Preparation

  • Firstly rinse the lemons very well in water. Then place them in a clean plate or kitchen towel and let them dry naturally at room temperature. 
  • You can even wipe dry them very well with a clean kitchen cotton towel or napkin.
  • Before beginning with the recipe making, do make sure that your hands, chopping board, knife, kitchen towels, bowls, spoons and jar are clean and moisture free. 
  • Later take each lemon and cut four sides but keeping the lemon intact and whole. Do not cut through completely. Cut all lemons this way.
  • Squeeze a bit of juice – about ¼ to ½ teaspoons from each lemon piece into a bowl. But do not squeeze the lemons too much – you want them to keep their shape and fullness.
  • Set the bowl of lemon juice aside to use later. Adding some lemon juice helps to preserve the pickle.
  • If the seeds drop when you squeeze the juice, then remove them with a small spoon and discard. If the seeds remain in the lemon, then simply let them be. No need to remove them.

Making spice mix

  • In another plate or bowl, take 1 tablespoon carom seeds (ajwain), ½ tablespoon red chili powder and 1 tablespoon salt.
  • Mix very well and set aside.

Stuffing the mixed spices

  • Now with your fingers or a small spoon stuff this spice mix in each lemon. Set aside.
  • Place the lemons in a clean glass jar. You can sun dry the empty jar for 1 to 2 hours if you want.
  • Now remove the seeds and pour the lemon juice which was in the bowl in the jar.
  • Add leftover spice mix if any on the stuffed lemons in the jar.
  • Sprinkle some salt (about ½ to 1 teaspoon) all over the lemons. This is essential so that the lemons don't spoil during the pickling process.
  • Cover with a lid and keep the jar in sunlight for 4 days. Every day shake the jar. 
  • The tangy lime pickle will be ready after 4 to 5 days and then you can serve it with your meals.

Storage

  • Store the lemon pickle in an air-tight jar in your refrigerator. Do not keep it at room temperature. When you want to serve, remove it with a clean dry spoon. Close the lid of the jar and keep it back in the refrigerator. This lemon pickle keeps well for a month when refrigerated.

Notes

  • Cutting lemons: Don’t cut the lemons entirely. Make incision or cut on four sides.
  • Clean and dry utensils: When making the pickle, ensure there is no moisture on the knife, chopping board, bowl, spoons, and jar. They should be completely dry. Even the lemons should be dry and without any moisture. If you have removed the lemons from the fridge, then let them come to room temperature and gently wipe away any fine moisture droplets from them. You can even sun dry the jar before you place the lemon pickle in it.
  • Sun-drying: Keep the lemon pickle jar in sunlight for 4 to 5 days or until the lemon pieces have softened and the pickle has matured. Everyday, gently shake the jar.
  • Scaling: You can make a big batch of this lemon pickle and refrigerate it.
  • Lemons: Use fresh, ripe, thin-skinned, and juicy lemons. Lemons with thick skin or peels can make the pickle bitter and will take more time to soften. 
  • Lime: You can even make the pickle with limes. If the limes do not soften, let the pickle mature in the sunlight for a couple of days more. If using limes, then go by the weight measurement of 250 grams.
  • Note that the approximate nutrition info is for the entire jar of lemon pickle. 

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Lemon Pickle
Amount Per Serving
Calories 152 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Fat 5g8%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 7049mg306%
Potassium 423mg12%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 14g58%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 1241IU25%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 133mg161%
Vitamin E 2mg13%
Vitamin K 4µg4%
Calcium 78mg8%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 28µg7%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 26mg7%
Phosphorus 52mg5%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This lemon pickle recipe from the archives (Jun 2017) has been republished and updated on 15 January 2021.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi I just use rock salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Last time I used ajwain and inserted bay leaves in between. Everytime it’s fantastic. I make this every year as it’s a must have favorite item of mine.5 stars

    1. thank you for this lovely feedback and the rating. any warming spice will do this in this lemon pickle recipe. ground black pepper is also a good option. thanks also for sharing these variations.

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