Tomato With Pickeling Spices (Tamatar ka Achar)

Ripe and organic tomatoes from my garden

Please don’t kill me today because I have yet another preserve recipe here for you. But I can’t help it. First it was cherries, then apricots and greengages and now tomatoes – summer has been a little hard on me! Not that I am complaining to be on the receiving end of such abundant organic produce at my arm’s reach but how much can a girl take? I have made tamatar aloo, tomato tadka dal and tomato green chutney enough times to be able to scare my family away from the dinner table by just the sound of it. So preserving pounds after pounds of tomatoes was the only option I had! Now that’s what summer is all about right- abundant fresh produce and a lot of preserving? I am sad that its time to hug the season bye but I wanted it to end on this note because that’s what I have happy memories of and assume its a tradition.

Tomato with pickeling spices

Summers would come and my grandma would be after my Papa’s life to go to the haat (local farmer’s market) to get raw mangoes and whole spices so that she can start prepping them up for the whole year. She was in her eighties and could still sit for hours drying whole chilies in the sun to later grind them with her own hands with a mortar and pestle to make garam masala. Jars for aam ka achar (pickled raw mangoes) would come out of the shelves, cleaned, dried and filled with the mango wedges coated with loads of oil and just the right amount of spices. Of course everyone had to still follow the customary rules of not touching or opening the jars for some time or with bare hands – something as trivial as that might spoil the whole batch. Just like any teenage girl, I would try to watch my figure and maa would throw in dollops of ghee (clarified butter) in my daal with a big wedge of pickled mango or lemon canned from last summer. I would frown and she would say, “eat it, this will make you strong!” Well, I had to and no wonder I do the same to my daughter now. Somehow a bowl full of steaming hot dal chawal (steamed rice with yellow lentil soup) with achar (pickle) is all you need to be transported back to that time!  

Collage 2
Tomato Achar is not necessarily a common variety of pickle used in India but mummy has been making it for as long as I can remember and was one of my favorites after her world famous pickled red chili peppers. I have spoken about panch foran here and that is what we are using to pickle the tomatoes here. Also its very simple to make but the amount of salt and oil is very crucial for this recipe. The amount of water in tomato is a good “ingredient” for disaster and if there isn’t enough oil in the pickle then it can go bad pretty fast. So its important that the oil is enough to cover the whole of pickle in the jar. It might seem a lot but trust me, its not.

Collage 1
4 pounds sliced tomato (I used Early Girl tomatoes but you can use any variety)
1/2 cup or 2 bulbs garlic
1/3 cup thai/cayenne green chili
3 tablespoon Panch Foran spices
1/4 teaspoon asafetida
1/3 curry leaves (coarsely chopped)
1 cup olive/mustard oil
1/2 cup salt

Using a mortar and pestle, crush garlic and green chili together. If you do not have a mortar pestle handy, you can always use a food processor to coarsely grind it. I like it coarsely ground because I like it when I get little chunks of garlic or chili in my pickle. If you are not a fan then blend it into a paste.
Heat oil in a large thick bottom pan. Add asafetida and panch foran spices. As soon as they sputter, add curry leaves. They will splatter wildly for a few seconds so make sure you are at a safe distance from the pan.
Once the splattering is calmed down add garlic and chili paste. Fry for about a minute until they turn lightly golden in color.
Add tomatoes and salt. Mix everything together and bring it to a boil. As the tomatoes start to boil, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer until all the liquid is cooked off, for about 1- 1.5 hours.
Towards the end when all the liquid is evaporated, tomato with reduce to a thicker chutney like consistency and oil will separate. Cook for another 7-10 minutes making sure there’s no water left.
Once cooked through, let the pickle cool down before transferring into a can. Store it in a cool dry place in air tight containers. In a refrigerator this pickle can last for at least a couple months.
Serve as a spread with your choice of bread, as a dip with veggies or the traditional way with a bowl full of steaming hot dal chawal!


  1. just while I was feeling homesick and looking for tomato achar recipe Voila !found yours.Back home my mom makes fabulous tomato achar and she is very famous for that among all the relatives ,but this time wanted to make my own for my kids.Will try yours although my mum uses mustard oil and rai powder along with the above mentioned ingredients.when its cool she adds a little vinegar to make it last a little bit longer. Nice blog loved the pictures.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Hi Prerna,
    Thank you for sharing the recipe,a very distinctive achaar and we look forward to experimenting with it. Your story about your Naani took me back to my childhood. Lovely photos and keep up the good work Prerna.

  3. I like your canning recipes, I am currently learning to can and you are providing me with fun new recipes to test! By the way, I love the way you control the light on those hot red tomatoes without over exposing them!

  4. I grew up watching my mother and grandmother making preserves and chutneys on the farm – lovely memories. But I never have the time to make them now and it feels like something has been lost. Good on you for keeping up the family traditions.

  5. I am so glad you didn’t make us wait for another post 🙂 Love your stories .. it always makes me go back to my childhood. And those tiny cast iron pans are so so cute .. great pick.

  6. Oh Prerna- I so LOVE this post! I have been making jams like crazy here but absolutely love this twist on food in jars. I wish I were closer as it would be such fun to learn to cook with you~
    (that first shot of the tomatoes is gorgeous!)

    • YOu have no idea how many times I say the same when I see photos of your gorgeous ranch and specially your silver van? 🙂 Really wish we lived closer or at least we get to meet sometime!

  7. I can never find tomato achar in stores, but my friends mom always makes it. It’s so delicious and tomato’s taste magically transforms into something heavenly. Your Achar looks very much the same. Thanks for the recipe I’ll try to make it!

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