Kerala Style Lemon Pickle/ Vella Naranga Achar

Pickles are inevitable side dishes on an Indian menu.  There are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties of pickles available in the market.  But I always prefer a good homemade pickle over store bought ones.

Growing up in Kerala, I remember my Grandma used to preserve the seasonal produces like mangoes, lemons, Bilimbi, Hog Plums in many ways.  Pickling them in big batches for off season was one method.  As kids, we used to curiously gather around and watch her fill the big earthern pots with different kind of pickled produces and tie the lid tight with muslin cloth to keep them safe from moisture.  The earthern pots will stay untouched for months till the monsoon season comes.  And during monsoon time, the big pots were carefully opened and small batches of pickles will be transferred into small bottles for monthly usage in many dishes.   Rest of the picked items will be sealed and saved in the bigger pots for months to go. It's amazing how our ancestors have derived these tried and tested recipes of preserving the seasonal produces, which not only prevented the wastage during surplus, but also provided healthy probiotics during off season.

Here I am sharing one of the easy pickles I used to grow up with.  I usually make a small batch of some kind of pickle during the lent season.  I use Meyer lemons for this pickle, since their skin is very tender and is similar to the lemons we get in India.  This lemon pickle is easy to make and can be used soon after they are made.


5 - Meyer lemons

15 - cloves garlic sliced

1/2 inch - thinly sliced ginger

3 - hot green/red chili sliced

5 - birds eye chilis/Kanthari

1/2 tsp - turmeric powder

1/2 tsp - asafoetida powder

1/4 tsp - fenugreek seeds

1/2 tsp - mustard seeds

3 sprigs - fresh curry leaves

3 tbsp - sesame seed oil

3 tbsp - vinegar

1/2 cup - boiled water

1 tsp - sugar

salt to taste


  • Wash the Meyer lemons and steam them in a steamer for 3 minutes.  Don't over steam the lemons.
  • Remove them from the steamer and let it cool for 5 minutes.  Wipe them with a clean kitchen towel to remove the moisture.
  • Warm 1 tbsp of sesame oil in an earthern pot/chatti or a non-reactive pan.  Add the lemons to the hot oil and toss for a minute on low heat.  Remove them from the oil and let it cool completely.
  • Cut the lemon into half.  Then cut each half into 4 wedges, The wedges can then be cut into halves or left as such.
  • Add 2 tbsp of the remaining oil into the same pot.  Splutter the mustard seeds, followed by fenugreek seeds in the oil.  Add ginger and garlic slices.  Cook for a minute.  Add the chilis and lower the flame.  Add turmeric, & asafoetida powder, salt, followed by the cut lemon pieces and curry leaves.  Toss them slightly and add vinegar and hot water.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes and add the sugar and mix well.   Adjust the salt and turn off the flame.
  • Transfer the pickle into sterilized glass jar and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Over steaming the lemon will turn them mushy and you won't be able to cut them into slices.  So make sure not to steam over 3 minutes.
  • Don't skip the step of tossing the lemons in the hot oil.  This helps to remove the bitterness of the lemon skin.
  • Remember to use dry spoon when taking the pickle. 

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