Pickles, Condiments & DIY Spice Powders

Nimbu Ka Achaar – No Oil Indian Lime Pickle

I still have some left in the jar from my last trip to India.Every time I scoop out a spoon ful to serve on to my platter, unconsciously, I drop a few wedges back. Then I smile at the silly thought which crosses my mind. I just don’t want that jar to be empty ever! Is that even possible?Maybe not.Its not just mom’s nimbu ka achaar, its her love,which I want to relish in all my meals.

Store-bought pickles fail to satisfy me. Too much oil, overload of spices, a preservative cloned after taste – if I may complain. At times, I am desperate to make my own.Not much luck with that;I have not been able to find the lemons, raw mangoes or chillies which come close to the ones we get back home.

After almost three years of living here, my happiness knew no bounds when I spotted these baby limes at a south asian store.Can you imagine my stroll as I rushed towards them? Top that with an unbeatable price of a dollar for two pounds. Can you? They were perfect – thin-skinned, spongy to press, acidic, and greenish-yellow.I knew I will be spending few hours with mom on phone to get her recipe & tips.Pickle will be made!

Indian summers present a perfect oppurtunity to sun-aided pickling.Pickles or achaar are an integral part of indian cuisine. A small amount is always served to square home style meals. Some like it for the tang they add & some like them for digestion. Seasonal fruits & vegetables are commonly used along with spices (fenugreek, mustard, nigella, chillies etc) & buckets of oil to make pickle batches which last through the whole year.

Nimbu Ka Achar, Indian Lime Pickle, Sinfully Spicy

Sun cooked pickles are the ones are where the gold lies, I m too fond of them.Unless you put in hours of labour & showcase patience while the pickle cooks in the warmth of the sun, the business is far from over. I have seen everyone in the family slog over them.Not to forget the high levels of hygiene required all through – clean spoons & hands, sterile jars and what not.

This irrestible “no oil” lime pickle is able to perfectly live up to the expectations – tart, succulent flesh & chewy lime skin – what a tease on the tastebuds. The lime wedges pickle in their own juice and a handful of spices. The spices are few but quite typical to

Ingredients :-

  • 3 lbs baby limes/lemons (or any thin-skinned variety)
  • 2 tbsp kala namak (black salt, substitute with table salt)
  • 6 tbsp kali mirch (black peppercorns)
  • 6 tbsp ajwain (carrom seeds)
  • 3/4 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 2 tbsp red chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 3-4 tbsp sea salt or as needed (substitute with table salt) (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 10-12 limes)
  • 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar (I have not used it but can be added if you like to add a sweet note to your pickle)
Needed :-
  1. Kitchen Towels
  2. A large, rectangular glass dish (I use my pyrex casserole dish)
  3. Plastic Wrap sheet
  4. Clean, dry Wooden Spoons
  5. Wide-Mouthed, Sterile Canning Jars (preferably with plastic or glass lids).Click here to see how you can sterlize the jars.

Method :-

Preparing the limes

Put all the limes in a colander and wash thoroughly under running water. Let drain in the colander over the kitchen sink for at least 15-20 minutes. Spread the limes over clean kitchen towels and rub to completely dry them. You can put them in sun too for this purpose. Ensure that the limes are completely dry before you start cutting them.

Next, with clean hands, quarter or half the limes (depends on the size you like) and remove as much seeds you can.Once cut, transfer the wedges on to a large glass dish, spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle black salt over the limes and with clean, dry hands, rub the salt with the limes. Cover the glass dish with a plastic wrap, poke few holes in the it & let sit in the full sun for 3 days. You will see that the lime wedges will start to dry (slightly) & there is liquid at the bottom.

Making the Pickle 

On the fourth day, coarsely grind the kali mirch in your coffee grinder. Put the ajwain next & pulse a few times. Take out the mixture in bowl & mix hing powder, red chilli flakes and sea salt (along with sugar, if using) with it. Sprinkle this mix over the lime wedges along with lime juice. With clean hand, thoroughly mix everything together. Again, cover the glass dish with a fresh plastic wrap, poke few holes in it and let sit in full sun for 15 days. You will need to stir the mix once a day using a clean,dry wooden spoon. You will see that as the days progress the skin of the limes starts softening & turning brown along with liquid at the bottom getting thicker than on the very first day.

At the end of 15 days, check the salt of the pickle again & adjust (if required) , mix up the pickle well with clean, dry wooden spoons and transfer to canning jars. Dont full till the top of the jar but at the same time don’t leave a lot of room for bacteria in air to get moldy. Leaving 1/2 inch space from the top is okay. If you are using jars with metal lid, you will need to cover the mouth of jar with plastic wrap to avoid the contact between pickle & metal.Let the jars sit in sun till the limes are totally soft, brownish in color & the liquid is more like a syrup. You will need to shake the jars periodically. In Las Vegas sun, it took about 3 weeks to get that stage.

There is no need to refrigerate.Sun-cooked pickles normally last at room conditions. Always use a clean spoon to serve the pickles, they keep for months or years together.

Serve the pickle as a side to your meals, grind and add to marinade of meats.I like to spread the pickle on top of my crackers as well as on flatbread crisps.


  1. Any thin-skinned citrus fruits will work in this recipe – baby tangerines (narangi), kumquats etc.
  2. Do not under salt your pickles else they turn bad over a period of time.

52 thoughts on “Nimbu Ka Achaar – No Oil Indian Lime Pickle

  1. I am reading the recipe and salivating at the same time!! I totally love pickles :)) I will surely try this recipe PRONTO. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It is amazing how many myriad ways lemon can be pickled in India.. Pickled lemons for the first time ever with some gorgeous Meyer lemons some time back. What a gratifying experience it was to be able to make it on my own! Can relate to you totally!

  3. the pickle as well as all the pics are so good. i just made lemon pickle some few months back when the summers had just begun. making your own pickles is fun as well a very satisfying experience.

  4. It’s amazing how simply talking (in this case, reading) about a particular food can recreate the same feelings that one felt when one had that food before. More so when it relates to your childhood. When we were kids, my mom used to make different types of achaars at home. Neembu ka achaar was one of the frequently made achaars. She used whole limes and pickled them. My favorite part was the skin of the neembu achaar! The first tiny bite of the achaar is just one experience in itself – unforgettable! Just writing this is making me drool! Love the 2nd pic – very nicely styled.

  5. I’m sorry to be so cluelesss, since I have yet to know enough about South Asian cuisine: but how does one use pickled limes?

    1. Hi Jean,
      Pickles are served with indian meals as an essential side.As I already mentioned in my post,they are made with fruits and vegetables which maybe stuffed or mixed with oil and spices.Natural preservatives like salt,vinegar,sugar and coconut/mustard/sesame oils are used for preservation.
      Often, indian meals are incomplete without them.They add a tangy,spicy or sweet dimension to the meals.Indians enjoy pickle with flatbreads, mixed with lentils & rice or on their own.I should mention that the pickles can have a sharp taste on their own.
      In addition to flavor,some of the pickles like lime aid in digestion due to concentration of citrus juices as well as kind of spices used.
      Hope this helps 🙂

  6. Beautiful!!!!
    I love lime pickles specially the one with no oil….
    Perfect Tanvi!! now all I need is some paratha n raita… I am seriously drooling at the thought.

  7. So glad to have come across your blog. It is absolutely beautiful. Your photos are stunning and your recipes mouthwatering!! I just love this post. I know what it feels like living far from home and finding the tastes you remember from home and being so excited to make an old favorite. This lime pickles sound and look incredible. Lime season here in Israel is about the shortest season of all but I will definitely be trying this when I see baby limes or lemons again.

  8. I’ve never seen any pickled citrus fruits before. I was so interested to read your post and now I learned something new. I can imagine you running to grab the limes in store. How cute! And I can totally see myself not wanting to empty the jar… Your writing is amazing. I can really visualize all the delicious flavors and everything! Thanks for introducing lime pickle to us!

  9. I also love fresh achaars, but have never made them and no one in my family has so I don’t know where to start! I will definitely try your recipe – are these labelled as key limes here?

    Beautiful pics – love the one of just the limes after they’ve been sundried! 🙂

  10. I really love the look of this pickle, and I really love pickling myself. very curious how this would turn out because it includes many spices which Id on’t own so have never tasted before, including carrom seeds. Oh and re: black salt, what’s the difference between that and regular salt anyway?

  11. I totally love pickle .Thanks for wonderful recipe.
    All your recipes look amazing ! thanks for the lovely blog 😉
    I don’t know if you’ve visited my new vegetarian food blog (cooking and baking) but if you haven’t – I’d like to invite you (you can enjoy it even if you’re not vegetarian).
    Feel free to stop by, say hello and follow the blog so that you’ll be getting daily updates (-:

  12. Is it normal for there to be condensation on the inner side of the plastic wrap? (During the initial stage of putting the cut limes with black salt in the sun) A lot of moisture has accumulated on the inside of the plastic wrap, though I have poked holes in it. Do I need to do anything about that? In just a few hours of sunlight, the lime pieces are starting to turn brown on the edges.

    1. Hi Jane,
      Yup..a bit of condensation is normal due to lime wedges drying out.But if its a lot, you can change the wrap after a couple of days. You have pointed a really nice fact, I will update the recipe for this.
      Thanks so much.

  13. Thanks for the response! The pickle looks so awesome in the pictures that I had to try it. It is now on day 2 of the initial 3 day period. It is summer in upstate NY and I want to use that good hot sun while I can. I love lime pickle so of course the next step is trying to make it myself. Dal, rice and lime pickle is all you need for a tasty dinner.

  14. Another question – it is drying out more than I expected – I am at day 10 and still putting it in the sun every day (with the spices mixed). The mixture very thick – almost like tar. Can I add some more lime juice to make it easier to stir at this point? Thanks! Oh, and is it okay to taste it along the way or is that not safe to do? It smells really good.

    1. Jane,
      If the syrup has thickened, then I m sure that the lime skins would have softened too & the limes would have shrivelled ? The time of sun cooking depends on the strength of sun as well as the quality of limes used as I already mentioned in the recipe.
      You can taste it with a clean spoon & if it tastes & looks done ( I mean tangy-bitter bite) then I think your pickle is ready to savor. Hope this helps.

  15. My husband sneaked a bit last night (he’s fasting so eats at night), and told me in the morning – ‘you better start another tray right now – this won’t last long!’ meaning he loved it. I tried it today with dal and rice, and it is awesome!

    1. Awesome! So glad that you guys liked it..its one of my fav pickles too with anything indian. If I may suggest, try eating it with pooris or mathris ( indian snacks) ..it pairs best with something fried.

  16. It’s delicious! I was always scared to try making acchar because I didn’t think that I could do it but this recipes is very easy to follow and turned out perfect! My husband was very impressed too.

  17. I’m in the US. Are these key limes or a type of key lime. How to get these? I never see thin skinned lime or key limes with thin skin.

    1. Hi Radha,
      These are not key limes. I got these at a Asian store and they called these ‘baby limes’. Maybe you can try there?

  18. It looks very tasty, I’ll try to make, but timing to complete very long.
    Can you short it?

  19. Hi Tanvi, Thanks for the recipe.This was the method perhaps my mother used to make lemon pickle.I was searching the net for the recipe. Can we buy this Nimbu Ka Achaar – No Oil Indian Lime Pickle anywhere in India or abroad ?

      1. Thanks a lot Tanvi. Is there a specific brand name which you can recommend? And which city in India can I buy it from? Here in Singapore and in the U.S. all lime pickles I have seen in stores are with oil. I am planning to buy in India during my next visit. Please, please let me know if you have specific details where I can get. Appreciate your kind gesture.

  20. Hey! Your recipe looks fantastic! How much longer would you recommend leaving the limes in sun if you’re in the UK and in winter? I’m desperate to do this for a Christmas present, but I’m not sure it will be ready in time 🙁 It might be a silly question, but would ambient room temperature (with the heating on) and leaving in the sun be okay?

    1. Totally!! The sun here in Las Vegas is strong but the temperatures are quite less outside. I usually stituate the pickle jar by the side of the window were it gets sunlight daily (plus the warmth of inside).You still have a about a month for limes to ferment. If you ferment them in small mason jars (you can gift those itself), instead of trying to ferment a big jar by itself, it should be ready.
      All the best!

  21. Hi! Your recipe looks amazing! I’m really keen to make this for a Christmas present, but I’m concerned I might be limited by the amount of sun I’ll be getting between now and then being in the UK! Would you say that keeping the limes in a warm ambient temperature with the heating on and in the sunlight would be sufficient? Does it need to be kept for longer perhaps?

  22. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this recipe. My mom is no longer around and I have a vague recollection of her making this nimbu ka achaar but did not know how to make it. Thanks a ton! I will try this for sure. ☺

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