Implications of Pickles in ancient Indian Cuisine

Implications of Pickles in ancient Indian Cuisine

Indian serving plates have never been completed without a spoonful of ‘ACHAAR’ let it be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Pickles were always a part of the indian cuisine which acted like a complementary dish in one’s plate. There might be times when side dishes are not available, yet no problem to worry. Hot rice mixed with pickle serves the purpose of satiety and satisfaction to the tongue.

History of pickles takes us back thousands of years. Did you know the word ‘pickle’ is derived from dutch word named ‘pekel’. Pickles are made from the ancient times which use a technique of preservation. Preservation is the process of retaining or enhancing the nutritional properties of a particular food with the help of preserving agents like salt and sugar, sometimes vinegar too. The tradition of achaar preparation has an ancient and rich legacy which is found in the Kannada text Lingapurana of Gurulinga Desika in 1594 CE. Pickles have a unique taste, texture, colour and feel and could convert a boring dry dish to an interesting platter. 

Why does the shelf life of the pickles ramin for several years?

Indians very rarely used vinegar, and their pickles were made by layering vegetables or fruits in jars with oil or water. The mixture was flavoured with salt and spices and the jars were set in the hot sun where they were left to ferment. A  strong wave of nostalgia hits us when we recollect the making of pickle by our grandma and stored in the ambered colored mason jars. The method of pickling hasn’t changed much from the past. India’s temperature is perfect to dessicate the required vegetables or fruits. The food items are thoroughly dried to minimize the moisture content and increase its shelf life. Indian pickles mainly rely on oiling , salting and spices. Excess quantities of oil, salt and spices are added into the mason jar along with the main food and left for fermentation for a few days. Fermenting the food in oil and salt stops the growth of microorganisms. 

According to ayurveda the strong flavour and aroma of pickles activates the salivary glands and helps in digesting the meal. Ayurvedic texts talked about pickles as ‘agni pradeepak’, meaning that it improves the ‘fire(metabolism)’.

Types of pickles
Name of the pickle Main ingredients
Amla pickle Indian gooseberries
Gongura pickle Hibiscus leaves
Carrot pickle Carrot
Garlic pickle Garlic
Green chilli pickle Fresh red chillies
Meat pickle Chicken, mutton, fish
Raw mango pickle Raw mango
Sweet mango pickle Raw mango
Sweet lemon pickle Lemon
Tomato pickle Tomatoes

Different regions of pickles are consumed with different reasons:


Pickles make a very interesting appearance in the indian rituals as well: in Bhujel community of sikkim it is compulsory for the proposal from the boy’s  side to present some traditional dishes like selroti, raksi and ACHAAR to the girl’s diesfor the acceptance. Interesting!! Isn’t it? A similar scene is noticed in some places of Nepal.

Medicinal purpose in the himalayan regions: A very commonly used pickle in the himalayan region is ‘Lasore’ ka pickle which is a form of strong, astringent, sour berries which are only consumed in a pickle form soaked in mustard oil or lemon juice and are left to ferment till consumed. It’s considered to be a good detoxifying agent as well as a good appetizer. Even fruits like wild citrus fruits,bamboo shoots, dry and salty caterpillars are used in the northeast region for pickling for a therapeutic purpose. There variety of pickles used in the himalyan and east india is extensively vast and unimaginable.


The most likable pickles in south are ‘avakaya’ and ‘gongura’ pickle. Avakaya pickle is made from raw mangoes. Raw mangoes are washed and cut into pisces and are dried under the hot sun for days to remove the moisture content. This is then mixed with  

Benefits of pickles :

  • Mustard oil used in pickles rich in vitamin E. its packed with antioxidants which helps in fighting against the free radicals responsible for cancers.
  • Growth of probiotic bacteria (good bacteria) occurs with the consumption of pickle. 
  • According to the studies of Ruth and Shannon pickles help to improve the cognitive functions of the brain.
  • Some studies show spices in pickles help to release the happy hormones ‘dopamine’. This is the reason why we tend to be satisfied to consume spicy food.
  • It’s very useful for children as it’s rich in essential fats, nutrients packed in fruits and vegetables.
  •  Pickles have the required fiber which is retained even after the fermentation.
  • Vinegar is also called acetic acid which helps to boost the hemoglobin levels. The pickles with low salt content only.
  • Pickles improve immunity in children and prevent them from common cold and flu.

Daily Intake :

All these home-made traditional pickles have amazing benefits that aid digestion only when used in small quantities like 1-2  tsp per day. Just like any other food, overconsumption of pickles may have its own set of adverse effects.

Relish a tsp of your favorite home made pickle with your lunch and dinner but beware not to replace your curry with pickles! 

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