Puli Inji| Instant Ginger & Tamarind Pickle

Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Puli Inji, the way we make it in our family. It’s an eternal favourite at home, and there’s no wondering why – one bite into the spicy, tangy, slightly sweet Puli Inji, and you can’t resist falling in love with this medley of flavours!

Puli Inji

A bit about Puli Inji

For the uninitiated, PuliInji is a full-of-robust-flavours instant pickle from South India, made using ginger, green chillies and tamarind. The heat of the ginger and green chillies, the sourness of tamarind and the sweetness of jaggery meld together beautifully in this pickle.

Puli Inji is equally popular in Tamilnadu and Kerala. It is an  integral part of Tam-Brahm weddings, where it is served as a component of an extensive banana-leaf spread. In Kerala, this pickle (called Inji Puli) is an inevitable part of the meals  (sadya) served on Vishu and Onam.

While Puli Inji can jazz up any old meal, I think it is best had with curd rice. A bowl of curd rice and this pickle – best combo ever!

Is Puli Inji vegan and gluten-free?

The following recipe for Puli Inji is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those on a plant-based diet.

It can easily be made gluten-free by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain some amount of wheat flour, and should therefore be avoided when one is on a gluten-free diet.

How to make Puli Inji

Making Puli Inji is a very simple affair. This delectable condiment can easily be put together in under 30 minutes, and is ready to use as soon as you finish preparing it. It doesn’t require any soaking, unlike many traditional South Indian pickles. It keeps well too, staying for over 20 days when refrigerated.

Here’s my family recipe for Puli Inji.

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup):

1. 4 big pieces of ginger
2. A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
3. 4-5 green chillies
4. 1 tablespoon oil
5. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
6. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
7. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
8. Salt to taste
9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
10. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
11. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom ;left and right: Steps 3 and 4

1. Wash the ginger well under running water, removing all the dirt from them. Then, peel the ginger and chop finely. I had about 1/2 heaped cup of finely chopped ginger. Slit the green chillies length-wise, too. Keep aside.
2. Soak the tamarind in some boiling water for at least 15 minutes, for it to soften. When it is cool enough to handle, extract all the juice from it. Add a little water in intervals, to help with the extraction process. I had about 1 cup of tamarind extract. Keep aside.
3. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter.
4. Now, add in the asafoetida, curry leaves, the chopped ginger, and the slit green chillies. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes, or till the ginger gets a little tender.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

5. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well.
6. Still keeping the flame on medium, add salt to taste, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cook for 3-4 minutes, for the raw smell of the tamarind to go away.
7. Add in the jaggery powder too. Mix well. Continue to cook on medium flame. The mixture will start thickening within a couple of minutes.
8. In 6-7 minutes, the mixture would have attained a glossy sheen and has thickened, but still has a runny consistency. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Puli Inji is ready. Allow it to cool down completely before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.

 Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, use fresh ginger with unwrinkled skin and the flesh without too much of fibre.
2. Chop the ginger really fine, for a great-tasting Puli Inji.
3. Sesame oil goes best in the making of this Puli Inji.
4. Make sure the tamarind extract is moderately thick and not too watery.
5. You may add in more green chillies if you so prefer. We keep the chillies long, so they can easily be spotted – and don’t cause you to gasp while eating the Puli Inji. 🙂 However, you can also chop the green chillies fine if you so prefer.
6. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences. You can also use only green chillies in the PuliInji, and skip the red chilli powder entirely.
7. Switch off the gas when the Puli Inji has thickened but is still quite runny. It thickens further upon cooling down.
8. The colour of the Puli Inji will depend upon the type of tamarind you use. I typically use the dark tamarind from Double Horse brand – it is free of impurities, very good quality, and a little goes a long way.
9. If the tamarind you are using has impurities, do strain the extract before using it in making the Puli Inji. I don’t.
10. Allow the Puli Inji to cool down fully before bottling it.
11. When stored refrigerated and used hygienically, Puli Inji stays well for over 20 days.
12. Traditionally, this pickle is made with lots of sesame oil, which acts as a natural preservative and keeps it from going bad soon. However, I make it with limited oil and store it refrigerated.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!


12 thoughts on “Puli Inji| Instant Ginger & Tamarind Pickle

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