Indian Jalapeno Chili Pepper Pickle and My Addiction to Heat

Absolutely amazing. I can’t believe I almost didn’t make this recipe. I spent about an hour looking for the perfect pickled jalapeno recipe and I chose two — this one and a standard vinegar-brine chili pepper recipe. But this one…I have no words.Basically my first bite of this was up there with some of the best restaurant experiences of my life (butterfish with wakatake sake at Ame, tagliatelle at Enoteca Sociale, marrow at Aix Cuisine du Terroir. That’s all I can think of) and the best recipes I’ve ever made (2 day marinated almond poppy seed lamb with figs. That’s the only recipe. Oh, and perfectly in-season ataulfo mangoes. The eggplant dish is pretty amazing, but has nothing on this pickle).

Now I know not everyone is as obsessed with heat as I am, but this stuff is addictive. It took me FOREVER because I took out the seeds of the peppers (I’m really not into just heat, I’m into heat and flavour when combined with heat, and the seeds are just ungodly hot), but I am so happy now. Yes, chili peppers create endorphins, so maybe I ate so much of this that I pickled myself happy?

It looks gross, yes, but Indian food in general looks like a stewed mess and only Vikram Vij’s team at his Vancouver restaurant tried to make it beautiful. Everyone else who cooks it just eats it, closes their eyes, and dies of happiness. The reason I love this so much may have something to do with the fact that I halved the recipe but forgot to cut the salt in half too…

Or it could have something to do with the 1/2 cup of oil, but I doubt it because the oil doesn’t actually add any flavour. Since it was a canning recipe, though, I didn’t skimp.

Indian Pickled Jalapeno Peppers
1 lb fresh green chilies (you can use green or red and any type or size you want, but the heat and flavour of the pickle will vary greatly
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tbsp garlic, chopped roughly (it gets blended)
250 ml mustard oil (about 1 cup. I used sunflower oil, but mustard oil will be better and bitter)
1/2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp nigella seeds (black cumin seeds)
1 tbsp black mustard seeds (a little extra if you don’t use mustard oil. It doesn’t really make up for it at all, but it can’t hurt)
1 tsp crushed asafoetida (I’ve only ever seen it in chunks at Indian or specialty spice stores, and then you need to grate it. It smells like onion and garlic together, so don’t make this and then plan to hold hands with someone you like all night. If you don’t like ‘em, grate away)
1 tbsp salt (1! Not 2! Geez…)

Directions: This is a 2-3 day process. I’m sorry, but just do it once, and then yell at me if you still want to.

Wash and dry the chilies.

Cut off stalks and slice chillies across into 1 cm (1/2 inch) slices. Give yourself a good hour to to do this. Invite a friend over to help, one who doesn’t plan to put in his or her contacts later that night. Done that a few too many times. Wasted a lot of contacts that way…hurt a lot of eyes that way…well, two.

Sprinkle with salt and turmeric, toss to mix evenly, cover and leave for 2 days in the sun or place in a very low oven for 2 hours each day. (2 days! Ridiculous! But I did it. Even turned the oven on as directed.)

1 day in advance, soak the mustard seeds in vinegar overnight, then grind in an electric blender with the garlic when you’re ready to start cooking.

Sterilize about four 250mL jars and lids (it’s better to do 7 or 8 125mL jars if you have them, because this pickle is precious). So wash the jars, lids and rims in hot soapy water. Then stick the jars and rims in the oven for 20 minutes at 220 Fahrenheit. Then just leave them in the oven until you’re ready for them (remember to turn the oven off).

Get all the other ingredients ready in advance. No time to prep while you fry.

Heat oil in a large pan and add the fenugreek and nigella seeds.

Heat while stirring, until the fenugreek is golden brown (not long at all, just about 10-20 seconds or so), then add the asafoetida, stir, and add the blended mustard seeds and the chilies together with any liquid that is there. The salt will have sucked the water out of the chilies but for some reason you want to pour it all in. I think it makes the chilies a little more crunchy so they don’t wilt in the cooking and get soggy in the pickle.

Cook, stirring now and then, until the oil rises to the top and the chillies are cooked but soft.The oil seemed to rise right away, but I think I cooked about 8 minutes??

Bring a small pot of water to a simmer, reduce the temperature, and add the lids for 5 minutes to soften the wax.

Put the hot pickle into the sterilized jars, put the lids on top, and tighten the rings (no hands, please). Tongs are wonderful things. So are pickles. Oh God, so are pickles.

I waited about a week before eating this and the first things that hit me was the salt, then the other savoury spices, then the heat, and it was the heat that lulled me into submission. I would have done whatever it wanted. Fortunately it can’t talk, so I assumed all it wanted was for me to keep eating it…which I did.

Pickled Indian Chili Peppers Dripping in Luscious, Spicy Oil
Oh, I suppose I should tell you what you can eat this with. I’ve had it so far with squash, bread, eggplant, fennel, and roti, but it goes perfectly with anything that needs a kick and doesn’t already have too much (or uncomplementary) seasoning of its own. So daals are good, or lentil soups, or noodles, or rice, or potato dishes (even buttery ones). Maybe even chilies or stews, but you won’t know until you try. This is basically my all-purpose seasoning for the next while. Instead of salt, I will add salty, pickled jalapenos. Note: it does NOT go with hummus. DOES NOT!


  1. […] That’s what you’re supposed to do, except since I was reducing the almond milk anyway, I figured I’d throw the vanilla bean in with it near the end of its reduction to infuse the milk from the start. I also used a whole vanilla bean. See, I didn’t trust the bean. It had been sitting in a sealed plastic bag in my Montreal apartment for a few months and then it jumped on a plane and then it sat in my Newfoundland house for almost a month before being infused. the smell had died down considerably, so I figured the taste would too. Unfortunately, I was correct, and the infusing the milk earlier in the recipe didn’t help much. the trick? Buy fresh vanilla beans and keep them in glass jars, tightly sealed. I don’t think you can find vanilla beans in Newfoundland, though, so I didn’t have much of a choice at the time.You could, in theory, enhance this with vanilla extract but that feels like adding food colouring, or like a bad cook’s trick of using too much salt to flavour a bland dish. I am often a bad cook, but I never use food colouring or excess salt…well, unless it comes in the form of an Indian pickle. […]

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