Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Apr 5, 2007 11:00 AM

Achar - Indian Pickles

These were definitely not what I expected. When I think of pickles I think of cucumbers. Achar is VERY spicy pickled limes!! It was so spicy I couldn't eat the whole serving. Anyone a fan of these?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I love Indian pickles! They're nice and tangy and spicy. The mango pickles are really good.

    These pickles really aren't meant to be eaten, per se, but rather you swipe your bread on the pickle so that the delicious sauce is on your bread and then you scoop some rice/dal/whatever with the same piece of bread so that the flavors mingle. If you eat the pickle itself, it's a bit hard and unpleasant.

    You can find them at any South Asian type of food store.

    2 Replies
    1. re: empecot

      I just got them as a side from Bombay Masala for lunch. What you say to do with it sounds good though.

      I found while I was trying to eat the the pickles though that if I removed the black seeds that it wasn't as spicy.

      Does anyone know what these black seeds are?

      1. re: lrebetsky0423

        Are you talking about the flat ones that are shaped like sesame seeds, but slightly larger? Those are called 'kalonji' in Hindi and I believe are the same as Nigella. If you're talking about the spherical ones, that's black or dark brown mustard.

    2. Indian pickles can be "ultimate sour" - I like a tiny bite now and then through the meal, to contrast with sweet chutneys and other flavors.

      However, I should add that (unlike some) I am fondest of big, bold flavors - I like my "food symphony" played fortissimo.

      2 Replies
      1. re: wayne keyser

        There was a succession of flavors from the achar. At first it was spicy and then it was a burst of sour and then it was really salty.

        I like my food symphony played a little more mezzo piano than that.

        1. re: lrebetsky0423

          From Cook's Thesaurus: Indian Spices:

          nigella = black onion seeds = kalonji = calonji = habasoda = ketza = black caraway Pronunciation: ni-JELL-uh Notes: This has a subtle flavor that's often used to enhance vegetable dishes. To bring out the flavor, it helps to toast the seeds briefly before using them. Substitutes: cumin seeds OR sesame seeds OR oregano

          Pictured here:

          They looked like this but doesn't sound like how they tasted from the description.

      2. Indian pickles aren't meant to be eaten by the biteful. You break off or bite off small pieces (or wipe some sauce off a piece) and eat it with your food. Kind of how you would eat a whole pickled jalepeno -- you wouldn't take a huge bite out of a jalepeno, but you wwould nibble on it with your food.

        They are called pickles because of the curing process - it's the same way you make cucumber pickles, but with different spices.

        2 Replies
        1. re: boogiebaby

          Well put.They can also be made with a wide range of foods, which might help you find a flavor you like more. There are tomato, lemon, mango, garlic (my favorite), shrimp & even fish (to name a few). I was even adventurous enough to make a kumquat pickle one year...

          I'd say give it another shot, but this is really one of those condiments where less is key.

          1. re: lilinjun

            This is only my second time having Indian food so I'm not an expert yet. I'd like to try the pickled garlic. I LOOOOOVVVVVEEE garlic.

        2. Another little tidbit is that you can often find Achari this or that (say Achari Baingan or Achari Murgh) in an Indian restaurant. The qualifier Achari indicates that Indian pickling spices flavor the dish, whether baingan (eggplant) or murgh (chicken). That would be a great way for you to see if you like the taste of those spices without being overwhelmed by the tang, saltiness and pungency of the regular achar. These achari dishes would naturally not be pungent, because they are perishable items meant to be consumed right away. Achar, on the other hand, needs to be drowned in those natural preservatives (oil, salt, mustard, turmeric, spices) so it can last a year or more in a tropical climate.
          I have noticed, that Indian restaurants in the US serve achar by the ladleful! It should be just a little piece or two with some of the sauce that you can dip into once in a while for an bite of flavor.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sweetTooth

            I make achaari Chicken all the time at home. It's super easy, and gives a unique taste. Whenever I make it for a get together, everyone always says "hmm, it reminds me of achaar" (we're indian, so always serve indian food for parties). I always tell them "well, that's why it's called achaari chicken!" I've made achaari fish too before but the masala (the spices) were too strong for the fish IMO.

            I make carrot and cauliflower achaar every summer. I make enough to last for a few months. I use my mom in law's recipe, but tweaked a bit for more flavor. It's great with curd rice (room temp rice with spiced yogurt) and even just with plain jasmine rice for a lazy lunch.