This mango achar (also known as achaar) is a special South Asian condiment that is both spicy and sweet and uses the best of summer time mangoes. It’s a no bake recipe and a nice introduction to achaar.
What is achar ? It is a spicy and tangy pickled condiment that is common in South Asian cuisine. It’s a fruit or vegetable that is left to ferment in a brine made of oil and vinegar. Whole spices are added such as mustard seed, cumin seeds, fennel, peppercorns and chili peppers. The oil and spices prevent the growth of bacteria, resulting in a full bodied, fermented flavor. Every region has a different way of making achar and the combinations of ingredients are endless. It is the South Asian equivalent to Kimchi.
Achar is typically prepared in the summer months when the temperatures are warm and most appropriate for fermenting as opposed to making it in cold winter months when fermenting takes longer or is harder to achieve. Achar would be placed in direct heat or sun to speed up the process of fermentation.
Achar can be spooned atop any South Asian meal to add that extra kick of spice and umami flavor. I also love eating it with rice, fish, eggs, avocado toast and tacos. The act of making achar is considered an ancient art because our ancestors have been preserving food for decades.
My grandfather in Pakistan had a great love affair with pickling and making achar. I didn’t get to spend much time with him because we lived so far away from each other but I was lucky to spend a summer there when I was twelve. He spent many hours hunched over his kitchen counter, cutting and dicing vegetables and tending to his jars of pickles. He said that he found the whole process meditative.
My grandfather passed away many years ago. My mom developed the same fondness for making achar. I suppose she started pickling as a way to feel closer to him and keep his memory alive. My mom makes many different types of spicy pickles. Some common achar’s are made with lemon, lime, carrot, garlic, green mangoes or any combination of the above.
To be honest, I wasn’t fond of eating achar until recently. My siblings, cousins and I would roll our eyes and turn up our noses when our parents would spoon it onto their plates. The tangy smell alone would make me retreat to the opposite side of the room.
Fermenting food is great for gut health but fermented flavors are definitely a strong, acquired taste that most kids dislike for the same reason adults might gravitate towards eating them! However, as I’ve grown older, pickles of any sort are something that I can’t live without having in my fridge.
This is my mom’s mango achar recipe adapted slightly to fit our dietary requirements. I make it for the adults in our family because it’s too spicy to give to the kids. Maybe they will come full circle someday like I did and enjoy it as they grow older.
It’s a special treat and something we can enjoy while mangoes are in season. This recipe is also a no bake recipe which makes it super easy to throw together. The hardest part is waiting a few days for the achar to ferment. Enjoy 🧡
Mango Achar (Spicy Mango Pickle)
Serving size: One jar, about 19.6 oz
Top 8 Free. Free from Sesame. Vegan
Make sure to choose mangoes that are ripe but firm( not too squishy). Most achar is made with firm fruit or raw vegetable, however this consistency is similar to chutney.
Mango achar can also be served with tacos, fish, avocado toast, eggs and so much more!
- 1 pound 1 ounce ripe but firm mango, pitted and diced. About 2 1/2- 3 mangoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil( EVOO)
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon whole black or yellow mustard seed, ground. *See Note
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar. *See Note
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper or to taste. (or start with 1 teaspoon, taste & add more ). *See Note
To maximize flavors of spices, dry toast the mustard seeds first. Measure out mustard seeds and place in a dry pan (without oil). Roast for thirty seconds or up to one minute until fragrant. Toss pan gently to move seeds around. Grind in a dedicated spice or coffee grinder or crush by hand with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, fitted with lid. Pour about 1 teaspoon EVOO on top. Close lid tightly. Let sit out to ferment on counter for 2-3 days, away from heat or light. Shake gently each day.
Store in refrigerator and use within 1 month. Use a clean non-metal spoon with every use.
- A friend used honey as an alternative sweetener. Or use coconut sugar as an alternative to cane sugar. Be aware that the achar will be darker in color.
- If you are sensitive to heat, start with 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper at a time. Taste as you go. Crushed red peppers vary in levels of heat depending on freshness and quality. Flavors will become more pronounced as your jar ferments. Add extra spice before or after storing in refrigerator.
- Ferment for 2-3 days depending on the sharpness desired. I usually stop at 2 days but everyone has a different preference. Open and taste on the 2nd day.
- I’ve used black mustard seed in this recipe because it has a pungent strong flavor. If you cannot find black mustard seed, use yellow. The achar will have a milder flavor.
- Swap out mustard seed with whole fennel or cumin seeds.
- If you notice a bit of mold on the rim of the jar, don’t panic. It doesn’t often appear but if it does just wipe off with a slightly damp clean paper towel.