South Asian pickle

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South Asian pickle
Gujarati-style mango pickle
Alternative namesAchar, pacchadi, loncha, oorugai, avakaai
Place of originIndia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
Region or stateIndian Subcontinent
Main ingredientsFruit (mango, plums), vegetables, or meat
Ingredients generally usedOil, chili powder, spices, mustard seeds, fennel seeds
VariationsAcar, Atchar

A South Asian pickle, also known as Avalehikā, Pachchadi, Achaar (sometimes spelled as Aachaar), Athaanu, Loncha, Oorugaai, or Aavakaai is a pickled food, native to the Indian subcontinent, made from a variety of vegetables and fruits, preserved in brine, vinegar, or edible oils along with various Indian spices.


Etymology for pickles in South Asia varies regionally, it is known as Uppinakaayi in Kannada, Avakaya in Telugu, Urukai in Tamil, Uppillittuthu in Malayalam, Loncha in Marathi, Athanu in Gujarati and 'Āchār in Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Nepali and Bengali.[1] Early Sanskrit and Tamil literature uses the terms 'Avalehika', 'Upadamzam', 'Sandhita', and 'Avaleha' for pickles.[2] While the Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) term Āchār entered popular use under the Mughal Empire.

According to Mohsen Saeidi Madani, Indian-style pickle is called achar (ISO: acār) in Hindustani,[3] itself a loanword of Persian origin adopted during Mughal Empire. Ācār in Persian is defined as "powdered or salted meats, pickles, or fruits, preserved in salt, vinegar, honey, or syrup."[4] According to Hobson-Jobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India, the word ‘āchār’ finds a mention in CE 1563, in works by Garcia da Orta, a Portuguese physician, described a conserve of cashew with salt as ‘Āchār’ under the Mughal Empire.[4]


Early known pickle recipes in South Asia come from Ayurvedic and Sangam period texts which mention varieties of pickles, including earliest known mention of mango pickles.[2] Nalachampu written by Trivikrama Bhatta (915 CE) describes pickles made from green mango, green peppercorns, long pepper, raw cardamom, lemon, lime, myrobalan, hog plum, stone apple, fragrant manjack.[5] Early medieval cookbooks such as Lokopakara (1025 CE), Manasollasa (1130 AD), Pakadarpana (1200 AD), Soopa Shastra (1508 A.D.) mention pickles recipes made from green mango, fresh green peppercorns, fresh long-pepper, lemons and limes, turmeric root, mango-ginger root, ginger, radish, bitter gourd, cucumber, lotus root and bamboo shoots. Lingapurana of Gurulinga Desika (1594 CE) mention more than fifty kinds of pickles.[6] Unique pickles made from edible flowers are also mentioned in Ni'matnama (1500 CE) cookbook.[7]

Chili peppers were introduced by Portuguese traders in ports controlled by Mughal Empire in western coast of Gujarat, it is unclear when red chili peppers came to be used in pickles as they are today, since medieval texts do not mention their use in pickles.[2] Black pepper (piper nigrum), Long pepper (Piper longum), Piper chaba in both fresh and dried form were main source of heat in ancient and medieval pickles before introduction of chili peppers by Portuguese.


Indian mixed pickle, containing lotus root, lemon, carrot, green mango, green chilis, and other ingredients
Achar gosht, a meat curry cooked with tastes borrowed and amalgamated from pickle

Although it varies by regions within the Indian subcontinent, some of the notable ingredients used are limes, lemons, mangoes, ginger, eggplants, and other regional ingredients, but the decisive ingredient is the chilli pepper.[8]

In India, there are two main types of pickles, one is made with sesame or mustard oil, and the other is without oil. Non-oil based pickles use salt to draw out the moisture from green mangoes or lemon to create its own brine to make pickles. Mixture of lemon or lime juice with salt is also used as brine, Kurumilagu Oorugai (fresh green peppercorn pickles) is example of this process. Traditional ganne ka sirka (sugarcane vinegar) is also used as brine for pickles.[3] Jaggery (cane sugar) is also used as main ingredient as preserve in some pickles, notably in some pickles from Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Homemade pickles are prepared in the summer and are matured by exposing to sunlight for up to two weeks.[9] The pickle is kept covered with muslin while it is maturing.[10]

Regional variations[edit]


Sweet and spicy pickle made out of mango, in West Bengal, India.

Despite using the same main ingredients, the differences in preparation techniques and spices can lead to a wide variation in Indian pickles. A mango pickle from South India may taste very different from one made in North India—the southern states prefer sesame oil and tend to produce spicier pickles, while the northern states prefer mustard oil.

In the northern state of Haryana, Panipat is famous for being the hub of making commercial varieties of tasteful achar. Single main ingredient varieties prepared with mango, chilli and lemon are ever popular, but the city is famous of pachranga (literally 'five colors', prepared with five vegetables) and satranga (literally 'seven colors', prepared with seven vegetables) which are matured in mustard oil using main ingredients such as raw mangoes, chick peas, lotus stem, karonda and amlas or limes, pickled with whole spices. Pachranga achar was first created by Murli Dhar Dhingra in Kaloorkot village in Mianwali district (now Pakistan) in 1930, his Dingra and Malik descendants brought it to India in 1943. Panipat produces over 500 million (equivalent to 610 million or US$7.6 million in 2020) worth of achar every year (2016 figures), supplied to local markets as well as exported to UK, USA, and the Middle East.[11][12][13]

In Southern India, most vegetables are sun-dried with spices, taking advantage of immensely hot and sunny days throughout the year, thus making pickles an everyday staple. The sun-drying naturally preserves the vegetable, along with spices such as mustard, fenugreek seeds, chili powder, salt, asafoetida, and turmeric. To speed up the process, vegetables may be cooked first.

Indian spicy mango pickle

The states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are famous for their spicy pickles. Unripe mango with garlic and ginger (āvakāya in Telugu), unripe tamarind coupled sometimes with green chillies (cintakāya in Telugu) and red chillies (korivi kāram in Telugu) are a staple with everyday meals. Gooseberry (usirikāya in Telugu) and lemon (nimmakāya in Telugu) are also widely eaten pickles as well.

The state of Tamil Nadu makes a mango pickle called māvaḍu, which is usually made early in the summer season when mangoes are barely an inch long. The preservation process uses castor oil, giving the pickle its unique taste. Another pickle from Tamil Nadu is nārttaṅgai, consisting of unripe citrons cut into spirals and stuffed with salt. Tamilians also use sun-dried chillies stuffed with salted yogurt, thus making a dry condiment called mōr miḷagai that is typically eaten with rice.

In the state of Karnataka, the tender whole mango pickle, called māvina uppinakāyi in Kannada, is a traditional pickle recipe. This is preserved entirely by dehydrating tender whole mangoes with salt and is very salty and sour. A special type of this is jīrige miḍi prepared using special tender mango with a refreshing aroma.

Southern Indians living in the coastal areas also pickle fish and meats. In Tamil Nadu, karuvāḍu is made by salting and sun-drying various species of fish. Nettili karuvāḍu, made from anchovies, is among the more popular varieties of karuvāḍu. In Kerala, tuna and sardines are finely chopped and marinated in spices and later cooked on the stovetop, resulting in mīn acār. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana also make fish and shrimp pickles but are more famous for their lamb and chicken pickles, which are known for their spiciness.

Unripe mangoes, lemon, green chilis, gundā (Cordia dichotoma) and kerda are commonly used as key ingredients in Gujarati cuisine. Varieties of pickled mango commonly found in Gujarati households include salted mango pickle made with groundnut oil and spiced with fenugreek seeds, and red chili powder; hot and sweet mango pickle made with groundnut oil and jaggery, fennel seeds, dry dates (khārēk), mustard and red chili powder; and hot and sweet mango pickle made with sugar syrup, cumin and chili powder.

Karonda (karvanda) is used in the ancient indian herbal system ayurvedic as well as to make pickles, chutney, jams, jelly, etc., to treat acidity, indigestion, fresh and infected wounds, skin diseases, urinary disorders and diabetic ulcer.[14][15]

Myanmar (Burma)[edit]

The Burmese word for pickle is thanat (Burmese: သနပ်). Mango pickle (သရက်သီးသနပ်) (thayet thi thanat) is the most prevalent, and can be pickled using green, ripe, and dried mangoes, which are cured in vinegar, sugar, salt, chili powder, masala, garlic, fresh chilies, and mustard seeds.[16][17] Mango pickle is commonly used as a condiment alongside curries and biryani in Burmese cuisine.[18] It is also a mainstay ingredient in a traditional Burmese curry called wet thanat hin (ဝက်သနပ်ဟင်း).[19]


Nepali pickle made of Dalle Khursani (round chilies) And Tama (fermented bamboo shoot pickle)

In Nepal, achar (Nepali: अचार) is a popular technique of preserving vegetables, meat and fruits. Achars are eaten with the staple Dal-Bhat-Tarkari.[20] Many achar factories in Nepal are women-owned or operated by women.[21][22] Achar are made with spices such as mustard seeds, timur (Sichuan pepper), cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and chili powder. Some of the popular achar eaten in Nepal are:

  • Lapsi achar - Made of Nepalese hogplum (could be sweet, savoury or both)
  • Khalpi achar - Ripe cucumber preserved with mustard seed, oil and spices
  • Dalle khursani achar - Nepali round chilli pickle
  • Tama achar - Fermented bamboo pickle
  • Gundruk achar - Fermented mustard leaves pickle
  • Mula ko achar - Sun dried radish and daikon preserved in oil and spices
  • Karkalo achar - Made of stems of colocasisa plant
  • Kinema achar - Fermented soybeans pickle
  • Buff achar - Pickled buffalo meat
  • Chicken achar - Pickled chicken
  • Aanp ko achar - Unripe mango pickle (could be sweet, savoury or both)
  • Kagati ko achar - Lemon pickle
  • Timur ko chop - Powdered Sichuan pepper with spices
  • Jhinge machha achar - Fresh water shrimp pickle
Lasora achar, Pakistani pickle
Lasora achar, Pakistani pickle


The Sindh province of modern-day Pakistan is noted for shikrarpuri achar and hyderabadi achar. Both of these achar are commonly eaten in Pakistan and abroad.[23] Shikrarpuri achar is believed to have originated during the 1600s in medieval India.[23] The most popular of all the varieties of Shikarpur's pickle is the mixed achar comprising carrots, turnips, onions, cauliflower, chickpeas, garlic, green chillies, lime and mango.[23]

Sri Lanka[edit]

It is known as "acharu" in Sinhala or "Oorugai" in Tamil and is also popular as well.[24]


In South Africa and Botswana, Indian pickles are called atchar, and are sometimes eaten with bread.[25][26]

See also[edit]

  • Indian relish
  • Acar – Vegetable pickle made in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Brunei.
  • Atchara – Pickle made from grated unripe papaya popular in the Philippines, pickled unripe papaya from the Philippines
  • Piccalilli – British relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices, a British variant of South Asian pickle
  • Amba (condiment) – Mango pickle condiment, an Israeli/Middle Eastern variant of South Asian pickle


  1. ^ A Brief History Of The Humble Indian Pickle
  2. ^ a b c The Story of Our Food by K.T. Achaya (2003)
  3. ^ a b Mohsen Saeidi Madani (1993). Impact of Hindu Culture on Muslims. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-81-85880-15-0.
  4. ^ a b "A Brief History Of The Humble Indian Pickle". Culture Trip. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  5. ^ Social Life in Medieval Karnāṭaka, pg7, Jyotsna K. Kamat · 1980
  6. ^ Culinary Traditions of Medieval Karnatak The Soopa Shastra of Mangarasa III By Maṅgarasa. N. P. Bhat, Nerupama Y. Modwel, Es. En Kr̥ṣṇajōyis (2012)
  7. ^ From night jasmine to banana blossoms: India’s centuries-old love affair with edible flowers by Priyadarshini Chatterjee Jul 13, 2018
  8. ^ Jean Andrews (2005). The Peppers Cookbook: 200 Recipes from the Pepper Lady's Kitchen. University of North Texas Press. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-1-57441-193-5.
  9. ^ "Pickling in the hot sun". Archived from the original on 2014-02-17. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
  10. ^ Mango pickle recipe
  11. ^ Our desi drive-ins
  12. ^ Spice of life: Surrender to Panipat pickle!, The Tribune, June 2016
  13. ^ The road to Kashmir through Haryana
  14. ^ Summer brings astringently delicious karonda, a fruit that's ripe for pickling, Economic Times, June 2012.
  15. ^ benefits, research, side effects, Easy Ayurveda.
  16. ^ "သရက်သီးသနပ် (Spicy Green Mango Pickle)". Food Magazine Myanmar (in Burmese). Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  17. ^ "သရက်သီးသနပ် (အခြောက်) (Spicy Dry Mango Pickle)". Food Magazine Myanmar (in Burmese). Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  18. ^ "အလှူ မင်္ဂလာဆောင်တို့ရဲ့ ဇာတ်လိုက်ကျော် ဒံပေါက်". MyFood Myanmar (in Burmese). 10 May 2016. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  19. ^ "ဝက်သားဟင်း ၄ မျိုး". We Media (in Burmese). Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  20. ^ Rai, Sikuma. "The mother of all pickles". Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  21. ^ "Nepali pickle makers come into their own". Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  22. ^ "Navaras: Pickles". ECS NEPAL. Retrieved 2022-02-24.
  23. ^ a b c "All you need to know about Shikarpur's pickle". Daily Times. 1 October 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  24. ^ Sri Lankan Achcharu Recipe, retrieved 2021-05-19
  25. ^ "Pickled Vegetables" (PDF). Practical Action - The Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-12-21. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  26. ^ "Pickled Vegetables" (PDF). Practical Action. 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading[edit]