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What Is Achaar?
Achaar is a catch-all term for pickle, a popular condiment in Indian cuisine. Pickles in the north of the country are typically made with mustard oil, while the South Indian style is made with sesame oil. Achaar adds a tangy, sweet, and salty heat, whether on its own as a side dish or paired with rice, stews, or layers of paratha. It’s the Indian answer to kimchi (you can find our recipe for kimchi here).
Common Achaar Ingredients
Like most things in the Indian culinary canon, preferences and executions differ slightly between regions. Pickles on the spicier end of the scale are usually found in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where unripe mango or tamarind meets garlic, ginger, and green or red chillies. Aam ka achaar (am ka achar), or spicy green mango, is a constant, but other popular ingredients across the subcontinent include:
In the North, you might encounter a blend that first became popular in Pakistan, called pachranga (meaning 'five colors') or satranga ('seven colors'). The following assorted vegetables are pickled in mustard oil with whole spices, usually fenugreek seeds and nigella:
- Raw mango
- Lotus stem
4 Tips for Making Homemade Indian Mango Pickle
- You don’t need sun, but use it if you’ve got it. Pickles are traditionally prepared in summertime, making the most of the broiling heat of the pre-monsoon season in India: spiced fruits or vegetables are left to mature in the sun for three to four days, in a muslin-covered jar to protect from dust, then covered in oil to preserve for an additional few days. The oil and spices prevent the growth of bacteria, and the end result is a pungent, full-bodied fermented flavor.
- Or ferment in the dark. In lieu of a relentless Indian sun, achaar can be kept like conventional pickles: stored in a cool, dry place for a little longer.
- Look for unripe green mangoes with thin skin. These are commonly found at Southeast Asian or Indian grocery stores. If you have to settle for the thick-skinned variety, be sure to remove it before pickling. The slender, green varieties are the ones you want: rock hard and extremely tart.
- Get quality mustard oil. This key ingredient is available in Indian grocery stores or online.
Gujarati-Style Methia Keri, or Mango Pickle RecipeEMAIL RECIPE
The variety of pickles found in Gujarati households can include anything from a basic salted mango pickle with fenugreek seeds to a spicy-sweet version made with sugar syrup, red chili powder, and cumin seeds. This easy recipe doesn’t require any time sitting in the sun.
- 6 medium unripe green mangoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (taking care to avoid the pit)
- ¾ cup whole fenugreek seeds
- ½ cup black mustard seeds
- ½ cup red chili powder
- 2 tbsp turmeric powder
- ½ tbsp asafoetida
- ½ cup rock salt
- 3 cups mustard oil
- Dry roast the whole fenugreek and mustard seeds to release their oils, then lightly grind together in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
- Combine ground spices in a large bowl with chopped mango, chili powder, turmeric, asafoetida, and salt. Mix well.
- Transfer to a large, clean wide-mouthed jar. Heat the mustard oil until it begins to lightly smoke; remove from heat and let cool, then pour over mango mixture. There should an inch or two of oil above the fruit.
- Seal the jar tightly, and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks. Stir mixture every few days, testing towards the end. When the mangoes are tender but still have a good bite, they’re ready!