Spiced Lemon Pickle

updated Aug 1, 2019
Spiced Lemon Pickle
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

As part of Kitchn’s celebration of all things California, we asked 19 cooks from various disciplines — chefs, photographers, writers — to see what dish they think best embodies California home cooking in 2019. See all the recipes here.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist and cookbook author Nik Sharma selected a spiced lemon pickle recipe to represent modern-day California home cooking for two reasons: the bounty of gorgeous citrus in the Golden State, and the recipe’s celebration of the state’s ever-growing immigrant cuisine.

In his best-selling book Season, Sharma says of the lemon pickle: “In India, pickles are often prepared by preserving vegetables or fruit in mustard oil. Because mustard oil is not sold in America, I’ve created a recipe made with olive oil. The leftover oil is very versatile; it’s wonderful for dipping bread or naan or drizzling over hot pizza, baked fish, or even roasted vegetables.” 

Spiced Lemon Pickle

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes 4 1/2 pounds

Nutritional Info


  • 2 pounds

    lemons, quartered and seeded

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh lemon juice

  • 2/3 cup

    fine sea salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/4 cup

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

  • 1 tablespoon

    cumin seeds

  • 4 1/2 cups

    extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Combine the lemons, lemon juice, and salt in a clean 3-quart canning jar with a tight-fitting lid. Seal and shake to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes.

  2. Combine the peppercorns, red pepper flakes, fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds in a mortar and crush lightly with a pestle to crack the spices. Transfer the spice mix to the jar, and add the olive oil. Seal and shake a few times.

  3. Put the jar in a cool, dark place and shake once a day for 1 week before serving. It should resemble the texture of lemon preserves made with salt. The white pith will no longer be white as the salt, oil, and acid will penetrate and make it translucent, but the skin will stay yellow. It will become tender enough that it will fall apart easily when a knife or spoon presses against it.

  4. Store in a cool, dark place at room temperature for up to 1 month. Or store the pickle in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Let the cold pickle sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to warm before using.

Recipe Notes

Using smaller jars: You can divide it into smaller jars if needed, just make sure to cover them with enough oil.

Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018.