Bilimbi Pickle (Bimbla nonche)

Bilimbi Pickle (Bimbla nonche)

Konkani households have a tradition of making homemade pickles throughout the year. Raw mango pickle, raw jackfrut pickle, bamboo shoot pickle, hog plum pickle, bilimbi pickle, lemons, bitter gourd, cauliflower, green chillies, gooseberries and many more variety of pickles are prepared using various veggies and ingredients at different times of the year.

These spicy homemade pickles are then enjoyed with idlis, dosas, steaming hot congee (pyej in Konkani), curd rice, dalithoy-rice and with pretty much anything. Pickles are an essential part of a South Indian meal. 

Bilimbi (bimbal in Konkani) trees grow in most house backyards in coastal Karnataka. The low hanging jewels of these trees are then turned into yummy pickles or are used as a souring agent in most curries in place of tamarind & are used in preparations liked pathrado.

As kids we loved eating bilimbi with salt. Sure, they're way too tart, but it's so much fun to eat them with salt. Add a wee bit of chilli powder and they taste even more great! :)

Bilimbi pickle stays good at room temperature for max one week. But when it is prepared with care and is stored right, under refrigerated conditions, they stay good for more than 3 months. Bilimbi in the right stage of development when are pickled the right way, they stay crunchy in the pickle for over 3 months.

Crunchy bilimbis in spicy, tangy pickles are such a pleasure to eat. Bilimbi pickle also happens to be one of the easiest variety of pickle you can make. So, give it a try.

On the plus, bilimbis grow throughout the year. So, you can make a batch of this pickle, any time of the year, whenever you wish to eat them. :)


  • 40-50 raw bilimbi depending on their size (roughly 5 cups)
  • 1/4 kg dried red chillies
  • 1/2 cup mustard seeds
  • A chickpea sized crystal asafoetida
  • 1.5 cups of rock salt

Preparation Time: 1-2 hours

Serves: 35-40 servings

Side Note: If you have excess of ground pickle in the end, make raw jackfruit pickle or raw mango pickle with it. :)

Using right bilimbis to pickle:

Use bilimbis that are tender and not the ones that are fully grown or have started to mature. Use bilimbis that are tender and firm. As bilimbis grow and mature, they become soft and slightly yellowish in color. Please do not use these bilimbis, they would have started to ripen. They'll go soft the moment they're pickled. 

For crunchy pickled bilimbis, that stay crunchy in pickles for long, use tender bilimbis that are still growing. 

For pickle preparation you’ll need:

  1. Lots of clean, dry vessels, plates, a cloth.
  2. Lots of clean, dry spoons.
  3. Dry mixer/grinder to grind.
  4. Few bowls to hold chopped bilimbi and the discarded stems, sepals.
  5. Large ceramic jars (bharani in Konkani) or glass jars to pickle them in.
  6. Clean, dry sharp knife 
  7. Clean dry cutting board

Preparation Method:

P.S: Most important part about making pickles is making sure everything you use is completely dry. Dry utensils, equipments, without even a drop of water in them. Taking care that no water gets into pickle for a long shelf life. With every drop of water in the pickle, it's shelf life reduces considerably and it'll only speeden it's spoilage. 

Prepping bilimbi:

1. Heat 3/4 cup of rock salt in a wok for 5-6 minutes. Saute so that they heat up uniformly. This step helps get rid of all the excess water present in rock salt and thus increases the shelf life of the pickle. During the process all the excess water present in rock salt evaporates out. Remove it off heat and keep it aside to cool down completely. Use this rock salt only after it cools off completely. Or else your pickle could get spoilt.

2. Meanwhile wash bilimbi, wipe them completely dry and clean. Remove off the sepals attached to bilimbi. Air dry them for an hour. We don't want any excess moisture content going into the pickle.

3. Then slit each bilimbi into 2, 4 or 6 pieces depending on their size. Add in cooled down rock salt, mix well and keep it aside for a minimum of 30 minutes so that it takes up salt.

4. In those 30 minutes, bilimbi takes up salt and give out it's water content. Just brine will be formed.

Making salt water to grind pickle with:

4. Add remaining 3/4th cup of rock salt to half a litre of water and bring it to boil. Then simmer the water for 5-6 minutes. We need concentrated salt water.  

5. Let this water cool down completely. Then use it to grind pickle. Use this salt water only after it cools off completely. Or else your pickle could get spoilt.

Grinding pickle:

6. Soak asafoetida for 30 minutes in salt water. It should completely melt in the water. 

7. Meanwhile separately powder mustard seeds and red chillies into fine powders in a dry mixer jar and keep them aside. Make sure the mixer bowl and cap are completely dry without any trace of water.

8. Grind the powders together along with melted asafoetida, using enough cooled down salt water to make a smooth paste.

9. Use a clean, dry 'wet grinder' for a very smooth textured pickle. Alternatively, you can also use the mixer you used before to grind, just the texture of pickle may not be as smooth as the one obtained through a wet grinder. 

10. Transfer ground pickle to a dry vessel and keep it aside for about 30 minutes. During this 30 minutes after grinding, pickle cools down a little. Just a precaution to prevent pickle from getting spoilt and to increase it's shelf life. 

11. Meanwhile check the consistency of the pickle. We need a semi thick pickle. Add more salt water to the pickle or use the brine formed in the bilimbi jars to get the desired consistency.

12. After about 30 minutes of grinding, add in pickled bilimbi from the jars into the ground pickle. Do not add more brine if it dilutes the pickle. Strain out pickled bilimbi pieces and add them to the pickle. 

Mix well.

13. Check for salt in the pickle. 

14. Store pickle in a dry place in an air tight container and take care no water content gets into pickle. Water content will speeden pickle spoilage. 

15. If you're emptying the pickle within 5-7 days then store it at room temperature, if not store it in the fridge. It'll then stay good for 2-3 months.

Side Note: You can keep small bilimbis whole if you wish to in the pickles, without chopping them. Alternatively, you can also chop them into thick roundels. 

Tags: bilimbi pickle, bimbla nonche, bimbul nonche, bimbal, homemade pickle, Konkani food, Konkani recipe, Konkani cuisine, GSB Konkani recipe, vegan, vegetarian recipe.