Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar

Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar

Spicy Kumquat pickle achar is a hot, sweet and sour condiment that can be eaten with everything from scrambled eggs to main courses.

My late father, may Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him the highest paradise, loved kumquats. Whenever he visited Citrusdal, a citrus farming community about 2 hours outside of Cape Town during winter, he brought back oranges, lemons, naartjies (mandarins) and kumquats.

Kumquats are the olive sized citrus fruits of a hardy evergreen shrub that have tart flesh and a sweet and slightly bitter edible peel when ripe. These fruits are excellent in pickle achars, marmalade or preserved in sugar syrup.

One day my dad brought back more kumquats than we knew what to do with, and my mum decided to make kumquat pickle achar before they went bad. Using the same recipe that her friend Soeriya used for dried fruit pickle achar, she made enough to stock a small store. We were happy because we had enough of the spicy, sweet and sour kumquat pickle achar to last until Summer, plus enough to give away to relatives as gifts.

Since that day nearly thirty years ago, whenever I see kumquats I immediately think of my parents and kumquat pickle achar. I was quite surprised to see kumquats in my local supermarket and was compelled to buy a few punnets to try and recreate my mum’s kumquat pickle achar, especially since I finally have Aunty Soerie’s recipe. PS: the recipe is from a book whose name I am unable to determine from the picture I received.

Tips to make the best Kumquat Pickle Achar

  • The original recipe used mangos but over the years my mum and her friend Soeriya used it successfully for other fruits or vegetables they wanted to make pickle achar with.
  • The same recipe may be used for mango pickles or dried fruit achar.
  • I made a few adjustments to the original recipe and added turmeric and asfoetida.
  • You may remove the pips when cutting the kumquats but this may destroy the fruit so I didn’t bother.
  • Ensure that the pot used for the vinegar mixture is large enough to add the tempered mixture to later without bubbling over and making a mess.
  • I used 1 cup white grape vinegar and 1 cup apple cider vinegar, although you may use only white vinegar. Do not use brown grape vinegar or all apple cider vinegar as it may make the end result a dark brown color.
  • I substituted fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asfoetida for methi masala.

Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar

Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar

Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar

Course: Condiments
Cuisine: South African Indian
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Soaking: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 40
Calories: 188 kcal
Author: Razena Schroeder
Spicy Kumquat pickle achar is a hot, sweet and sour condiment that can be eaten with any meal and can be easily made at home using pantry staple spices.


Soaking ingredients

  • 1.5 litre water lukewarm
  • 15 ml bicarbonate of soda also called baking soda

Pickle achar mix

  • 1.25 kg kumquats
  • 25 ml salt, approximately 5 teaspoons
  • 5 ml turmeric powder, approximately 1 teaspoon
  • 60 ml chili powder, approximately 4 tablespoons
  • 30 ml cumin seeds, approximately 2 tablespoons
  • 15 ml coriander seeds, approximately 1 tablespoons, lightly crushed
  • 45 ml fenugreek seeds, approximately 3 tablespoons, coarsely ground
  • 500 ml sugar, approximately 2 cups
  • 500 ml vinegar, approximately 2 cups
  • 125 ml corn flour, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 125 ml water

Tempering mix

  • 375 ml sunflower oil, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 30 ml mustard seeds, approximately 2 tablespoons
  • 8 green chili’s slit
  • 10 cloves garlic half sliced, half grated
  • 5 ml asfoetida powder, approximately 1 tsp
  • 2 bunches curry leaves



  1. Place the kumquats in a medium size non-reactive or plastic bowl and remove any fruits with mouldy spots or small lesions as this will cause the entire batch to decay.
  2. Cover with 1.25 litres lukewarm water and add the bicarbonate soda and mix through until dissolved.

  3. Leave the fruit to soak for 20 minutes then place in a strainer, rinse under running water and drain. This should remove any dirt, mould spores and other residues.
  4. Allow the fruits to air dry or dry them lightly with kitchen paper before use.  

How to prepare the kumquats

  1. Remove the green stem and slice each kumquat lengthways from the middle to the bottom end, without cutting them in half.
    Slicing kumquats
  2. Place all the cut kumquats in a large non-reactive stainless steel or glass bowl, then sprinkle over the salt, turmeric, chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds.
  3. Toss the fruits in the bowl to ensure the spices are distributed evenly and allow to sit while you prepare the other items.
  4. Mix the corn flour and half cup water together in a cup ensuring there are no lumps.

  5. In a large pot, bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil then add the corn flour and water slurry, whisking continuously to ensure it doesn't clump.
  6. After 2-3 minutes when the vinegar mixture has thickened and the corn flour is cooked, add the kumquats and cook for a further 2 minutes on low heat to allow the spices and vinegar mix to infuse, then remove from the heat.
    Kumquats in vinegar, sugar and spice mix

Tempering the spices

  1. Heat a clean dry pot over medium-high heat with the oil and when it shimmers add the mustard seeds, chilis, garlic, asfoetida and curry leaves then reduce the heat to medium.
  2. The mustard seeds will pop and the chilis, garlic and curry leaves may sputter so take care when tempering the spices.
  3. This should take no more than 2-3 minutes and you must remove from the heat before the garlic turns brown or the spices burn.
  4. Add the hot oil mixture to the kumquat and vinegar / corn flour mixture and mix through with a big spoon until it forms a thick emulsified coating.

  5. Allow the kumquat pickle achar to cool before decanting into sterilized preserving jars.
  6. Store at room temperature and up to 2 months before use. Refrigerate after use. 

Recipe Notes

  • The same recipe may be used for mango pickles.
  • You may remove the pips when cutting the kumquats but this may destroy the fruit so I didn't bother.
  • Ensure that the pot used for the vinegar mixture is large enough to add the tempered mixture to later.
  • I used 1 cup white grape vinegar and 1 cup apple cider vinegar, although you may use only white vinegar. Do not use brown grape vinegar or all apple cider vinegar as it may make the end result a dark brown color.
  • I substituted fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asfoetida for methi masala.
Nutrition Facts
Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar
Amount Per Serving (20 g)
Calories 188 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 15%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Sodium 408mg 17%
Potassium 135mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 15g
Protein 1g 2%
Vitamin A 10.9%
Vitamin C 19.8%
Calcium 4.2%
Iron 9.3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Spicy Kumquat Pickle Achar pin

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  • Reply
    October 14, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    Hi can we use tamarind pulp instead of vinegar? I normally don’t use vinegar as we are not used to it.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      October 14, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      I have not tested this recipe using tamarind water instead of vinegar, but we do have recipes where my mother has substituted vinegar for tamarind water when tamarind became scarce. I suspect you should be able to substitute tamarind water for vinegar as well. Let me know how it turns out if you try the recipe with tamarind water.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    This looks so delicious, Razena! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to make it tomorrow, after I’ve had a chance to replenish my stock of curry leaves and pick up another punnet of kumquats to make it in bulk. Quick question however: is the corn flour really corn flour (like mealie meal/maize meal) or is it more like corn starch? Hoping to hear back from you soon! Saalams!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      July 7, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      Wa alaykum salaam Laurel. We also call it Maizena, but it is known as cornstarch or cornflour to non-South Africans :).

      Mealie meal would make a nice hot porridge, but is not suitable for this recipe.

  • Reply
    Jackie David
    March 27, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Oh this looks so yummy. But i am not on spicy foods. It always ruin my tongue.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 27, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      The heat level depends on the strength of the chili powder used so can be moderate or hot. I used extra hot but found that it still turned out very bearable and the heat actually added to the deliciousness.

  • Reply
    bye:myself - a blog by renata green
    March 23, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I love all sorts of relishes and pickles and chutneys – and this one with the kumquats looks particularly good – I’ll try that out right away. Thanks for sharing this really inspiring recipe!

  • Reply
    Michele Dennis
    March 22, 2018 at 4:00 am

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a kumquat before…? If I did, I didn’t know that’s what I was eating…lol! However these sound absolutely delicious, I’m going to have to go find me some kumquat’s and give this recipe a try!! Btw, kumquat is also a really fun word to say…lol!!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 22, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Haha Michele, growing up I much preferred saying the word to eating the fruits! They do have an amazing taste though and you may be able to find them at Asian markets during Winter.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 3:25 am

    I love anything-pickled. Back at home, we marinate petit watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage. Never heard of kumquat before though, happy to come across your post and read your recipe.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 22, 2018 at 8:22 am

      Imagining all those marinated and pickled vegetables is mouthwatering! Kumquats are an Asian citrus fruit that I suspect made it’s way into our citrus growing regions in the 80’s when the farmers started experimenting with new crops for overseas consumption, particularly the Asian markets of the Far East.

  • Reply
    David Allen Elliott
    March 22, 2018 at 12:54 am

    This sounds delicious. Of course you probably had me at pickle. But I love anything that adds flavor to dishes and I imagine this would with the tart and spicy combination. I am so curious right now how this would taste with scrambled eggs. Mmmmm.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 22, 2018 at 8:13 am

      My one colleague said he was going to have his kumquat achar with a plain rice dish similar to Asian congee and ended up having a third of his jar with pasta after gym. I love it with scrambled eggs but had a small bowl with cold spring rolls the other night 🙂

  • Reply
    Jennifer Prince
    March 21, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    I’ve never heard of achar, but this sounds totally delicious. And pickling things is definitely an art. Yum!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 22, 2018 at 8:10 am

      Pickling is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables that are in season and we have quite a few types of pickles in our regional cuisine that are made specifically as condiments to accompany main meals.

  • Reply
    Lindsay Troncone
    March 21, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Yum! I’ll have to try this!! I’ve never made anything like this but it sounds right up my alley. Tasty!!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:26 pm

      I hope you do try it and let me know whether you liked it.

  • Reply
    Sayanti | Binge on Basics
    March 21, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    I have never had kumquat achar before! I’ve heard great things about them and the sweet and sour flavor too, but maybe I need to try one for myself! 🙂

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      If you can find kumquats when they are in season I would highly recommend them for achar because the flavor is like nothing else: sweet, tangy and spicy.

  • Reply
    Jennifer L
    March 21, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Oh I love anything pickled or fermented like kimchi so I know i’m going to love this. Thank you for sharing the dish. Always up for trying something good. I just hope I get it right on the first go.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      My niece always says that as long as she follows the directions in my recipes, her attempts to recreate them without me watching over her with my eagle eyes turn out very well 🙂 It is quite easy to make and the most difficult thing was probably cutting the fruits.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    Never tried this before but from the presentation alone, I am certain that I will love it! Great post!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:33 pm

      Thank you. It tasted exactly as I remembered even though I changed some of the ingredients. I distributed the extra jars at work and my Indian friends loved it too.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    The recipe looks so delicious! I would so try it! unfortunately it’s not easy to find all the ingredients here but I think I could spend some extra time and still find it. I want to try it so much!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Lyosha. If there are any Indian grocery shops or Asian food stores in your town they would stock the spices and curry leaves. Nowadays many supermarkets even stock the dry and powdered spices although you may have some difficulty finding fresh curry leaves. You can substitute other vegetables or fruits for kumquats because this recipe is very versatile.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I have a kumquat tree in my balcony. I love their taste and so does my baby daughter. Nice recipe I am going to try it.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      You are so lucky! I love eating the ripe kumquats when they are in season because that sweet peel and sour interior really tickle my tastebuds.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Since I love citrus fruits, I’d be so willing to eat the kumquat pickle achar, one I have never heard of before. And again, I would really have it since it’s hot!I love hot foods for sure! It’s nice to see that it even goes with main foods!Yummy!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 21, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      I like hot foods now and then but I actually find that the heat of the chili powder complements the citrus notes so well.

  • Reply
    Ali - We Made This Life
    March 20, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Ooh I don’t think I’ve ever tried a kumquat before. My husband loves things like this so I might have to try to make it for him

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      I was so accustomed to it growing up that it was only when I moved abroad that I realized that it was not widely available, except perhaps in specialty Asian grocers. Thankfully nowadays I can even find it in my local supermarket. You could use green mango or other vegetables for this like carrots, cabbage or even radishes.

  • Reply
    Alison Rost
    March 20, 2018 at 4:37 am

    I’ve never had that before and I’m really curious about the taste. It’s really a great way to save fruits that are about to go bad. I think it’s something that I’ll try!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Indeed it is a good way to use up excess fruits or vegetables. However, you must ensure that any decay is removed because it will cause the entire batch of achar to spoil.

  • Reply
    Ana De- Jesus
    March 20, 2018 at 2:22 am

    I have never tried kumquat before but I do like multi dimensional foods that are hot, sweet and sour so I can imagine this going very well with the curries that I like to have. It sounds like my kind of condiment so definitely pinning your recipe.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2018 at 11:40 am

      I brought a jar of the achar for an Indian colleague yesterday and he said that he ate nearly a third of it with his dinner last night 🙂

  • Reply
    Chi Mpundu
    March 19, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    This sounds so yummy. I’ve never had pickle achar before but will definitely be giving it a try!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 20, 2018 at 11:39 am

      I had some with spring rolls last night and it tasted so good!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Saved this recipe! Mango achar and carrot are my favorite but I bet kumquat is even better! Yummy!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 19, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      I love foods that have both sweet and sour flavor notes so this one is my favorite along with dried fruit achar.

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