Before it is too late for the chili peppers to not be in their summer prime I’d like to share a quick and easy version of the North Indian Chili Pepper Pickle recipe.


In my native India “pickles” are a staple in nearly every household.  Batches of mangos, limes, chilies, ginger, vegetables, lotus stems, sarsaparilla, berries and sundry are pickled yearly in every household. Jars of preserved pickles line every kitchen shelf and are brought out without fail at every meal.

The process begins with the women in the family readying their sparkly clean utensils, spices, salt, oil and the items to be pickled. Rainy days are avoided because of greater concentration of mold in the air. The area is cleared of errant children and men. A prayer is said for the longevity of the pickles to last until the next harvest. Then the person with the best hand [it is believed a few unlucky people turn the pickle rancid when they prepare it] ceremonially starts to layer the pickle with salt and spices following the family’s  recipe. It is then gently and expertly stirred so every morsel is coated with the pickling spices. Any spot left exposed invites decomposition. Then the spice dusted pickle is anointed with lots of oil and stirred again till a thin layer of oil pools on the surface forming a protective barrier from outside pollutants.

The pickle is then sealed and set aside with reverence, not to be touched or moved till it gets its next stirring, usually the next day. This goes on for a few days till the pickle is ready. The beauty of this pickling process is that the spices, salt and oil that are responsible for the taste also help preserve it. No cooking or refrigeration is required. In most cases it lasts for a year or more. Some pickles are left out in the sun for a few days for a sun kissed taste.

I love to pickle, but here in the US we don’t get baby mangoes or thin skinned lemons or any of my other favorite pickling ingredients. So I just stick to pickling chili peppers and mixed vegetables. Traditionally the Indian Chili Pickle is stuffed with a mixture of many different spices and served whole. I have taken liberties and kept it simple by chopping up the chilies and using the more common household spices instead of the full cast of characters and extras!  This quick and easy pickle is ready to play side kick to any meal in just one day.                                                                                                    


North Indian Chili Pepper Pickle

23-25 Serrano peppers                                                                                                             

[ You may substitute with Jalapenos or Red Hot Chilli peppers ]

2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds [methi]

1 tsp fennel  seeds [saunf]

1 ½ tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp asafoetida [hing]

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

juice of one lemon

5 tbsp of any neutral oil like Canola or light olive oil                                                   


Please see ‘Food Notes’ for important steps to take before and after the pickling process.

Prepare the pickling spices

Dry roast on a medium hot pan the mustard, fennel and fenugreek individually. Stir continuously while dry roasting so spices dont burn. Mustard, one minute; Fenugreek, 40 seconds; Fennel, 25 seconds. Mix together and spread on a plate to cool. Powder the spices coarse and add the rest of the ingredients through to the turmeric powder. This is the pickling spice mixture.

Prepare the oil

Pour the oil in a pan over medium heat and gently warm the oil. Watch closely till you see ripples in the surface. Turn the heat off soon as you see the surface shimmering and let the oil cool down to room temperature. I think the reason for heating the oil is to kill off  any harmful bacteria that might be present.

Putting it all together

Wash and air dry the peppers or wipe them dry with a clean paper towel. Remove stem and chop into 2 mm rings. You can remove the seeds if you wish to make it less hot. Put in a sterilized glass bowl. Add the pickling spices and stir to coat every exposed surface. Then add the lemon juice and stir. Then add the oil and stir several times again till all the oil is absorbed. Now put the pickle in a narrow mouthed sterilized glass jar and pack the pickle in and press the surface till a film of oil rises up and forms a protective barrier. This is very important in preserving your pickle from outside pollutants and fungal growth. Lid the jar and set it on a sunny ledge.                                                 

                                                                                                                                                               The heat quickens the pickling process. Stir every 24 hours for at least three to four days, remove from ledge and store. This pickle is actually ready in a day, though for best texture wait the few days.

Food Notes

  • Sterilize all equipment. I wash everything in hot water and leave it in a slightly warm oven till they dry out.
  • Toast the spices lightly. This is done so that any moisture in the spice is dried out. However you don’t want to roast the spices to a nutty brown color, this will change the taste.                                                                                                         
  • Stir the pickle almost every day, so bacteria does not get a foot hold. After every use, press the pickle down gently so the protective layer of oil covers the pickle, preventing mold growth. This way most pickles can stay unrefrigerated indefinitely. If this is not something you will do on a regular basis, allow the pickle to cure for the  first three to four days outside and then refrigerate.                           
  • The original stuffed version of this pickle is served with Indian flat breads and rice. The sliced version also makes a great sandwich condiment.                                                                              

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.