Indian Lime Pickle

I am always looking for ways to reduce food waste and utilise surplus seasonal produce. This has lead to the Janeys Jars project, a small social enterprise, that sees Kyle-Scott Services collecting surplus produce to turn into a range of Jams, Pickles and Chutneys in donated recycled jars. These tasty treats are then used to support the student of Kairos Community College by donating them for student consumption or donating the proceeds of sales.

As my own diet is decreasing in sugar, I was conscious that many of the Jams and chutneys I make are very high in sugar and I looked for an alternative to making marmalade from limes. It was in this search that I discovered this Fermented Lime Pickle…and thought “why not”? Like me, you may have heard that naturally fermented stuff is good for our gut. Right? Or so everyone tells us. This science of the gut microbiome is based on the presumption that the make up of microorganisms in our gut is related to our health in significant ways….and fermented foods support the health of these microorganisms.

There are many recipes for Nimbu Ka Achaar on the internet with varying methods and spices that I wove together for this one based on some personal spice preferences, ease of instructions and the use of an ingredient I had never heard of before. Asafoetida is a gum from a variety of giant fennel, which naturally has a strong and pungent smell, rather like rotting garlic (as in foetid). It’s a very useful spice for those who can’t or won’t eat onion or garlic, as it adds a similar depth and savouriness to food. Indeed, Jain and Brahmin Indians, who are prohibited from eating garlic and onions, use it a lot in their cooking.

Prep time: 20 Minutes + 6 weeks

Yield: 5-6 Cups


  • 1 kg of Limes (about 18 limes)
  • 4 Tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Turmeric powder
  • 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Mustard seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 cup Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Asafoetida Powder (optional I found it at a local Indian spice Shop)
  • 1/4 cup Fenugreek seeds crushed – or pre-ground as Methi Powder.
  • 2 Tablespoons Cayenne pepper


  1. Prepare the limes –  if you need to clean you limes wipe them…if you wash them they must be totally dry before you continue. Cut each lime into 8 wedges – next time I would halve then slice into 5-10mm slices so the skins end up as more manageable bites.
  2. Place ingredients in fermenting vessel – Place the cut limes into fermenting vessel (glass wide-mouth jar etc) and toss with the salt, turmeric and vinegar. Because I was doing a quadruple mix, I mixed the salt and turmeric together and sprinkled in in layers of limes as I went.
  3. Cover and wait 4 weeks – Cover with a lid (not screwed on as you need to allow gas pressure to escape), a towel, or better yet an airlock. Let it ferment for 2 weeks, stirring every few days. Don’t forget to stir it to ensure that the salt and acid liquid from the bottom continues to coat all of the fruit. This initial fermentation period helps to tenderize the lime peel and to make them more edible.
  4. Toast the Mustard Seeds, Asafoetida Powder and Cumin seeds – Use about 1/4 of the oil to gently fry the seedsa na powder until the seeds start popping. Toasting the seeds (or Frying in oil) helps to moderate their heat and enhances the flavor.
  5. Add in the other ingredients – Once the seeds have cooled add them with the oil they were cooked in, the remaining oil, crushed fenugreek and cayenne pepper
  6. Allow to sit for 4+ weeks – This resting period will allow the fermentation to continue and also for the flavors to merge and settle in. Continue to stir very few days. The mix will change in smell and consistency as the fermentation raks down the limes and matures the spices
  7. Jar it up and refrigerate – This should keep indefinitely when refrigerated. I’ve heard of some that was enjoyed after about 4 years and it was still said to be as potent and delicious. Always be your own best judge when it comes to food safety, however.

I did 4x the recipe and fermented in a large plastic bucket covered with an elasticated plastic showercap.

Serve as an accompaniment to Indian meals, lentils or rice. Also great on your cheeseboard, Cold meat and pickle sandwiches etc

2 thoughts on “Indian Lime Pickle

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