Condiments Zephyr's Corner

Vadu Manga/Maavadu/Tender mango pickle in spiced brine

Come summer and mangoes make an entrance into our kitchens and cuisine. Apart from adding zing to dals and sambar (yes, there is a type of sambar where raw mango is used instead of tamarind), instant pickles and sweet and sour pachadi (chutney), there are any number of pickles and preserves that are made with mangoes.

At the beginning of the season, these tiny tender mangoes are available aplenty and are made into a briny preserve called vadu manga. It literally means tender mango. It is also called maavadu (maa = mango, vadu = tender). This is available for a very short period, as the mangoes become bigger after some time and the taste and flavour change. So rush quickly to the market and find them before they disappear.

This pickle is made in all the southern states with slight variations. The one I am sharing here is the Tambrahm version, I learnt from my an elderly neighbour many decades ago.

The pickling is simple, but needs proper care while making it. The mangoes should be completely dry and it shouldn’t be touched by hand at all, once the ingredients are added. It is pickled in spiced brine and doesn’t need any oil save a couple of spoons to coat the mangoes. It lasts up to a year and more, but due to heavy pollution in our metros and cities, it is best to keep it refrigerated to prevent fungus formation.It  is easy to make too, since we only make small quantities these days, unlike in days past, when 5-10 kgs of these mangoes were pickled!

I have given the measurements in kg as well as measures because after trimming the stems, the weight might reduce and disturb the quantities of spices. That’s the reason I prefer to measure everything. Use any measure – a cup, glass or any other bowl to make it 8 measures. Fill it loosely to measure the mangoes. Use the same cup or glass for other ingredients too.

Let’s get down to making this pickle.

The most important thing to remember is that the mangoes should be plucked off the tree with their stems. They should also be firm to the touch and fresh. Mangoes which have fallen off the tree or which don’t have the stems should be avoided, as they would spoil very soon and won’t have the same bite as fresh ones.


  • Small, tender mangoes              1 kg (8 measures)
  • Crystal salt                                   175 gms (Slightly less than 1 measure)
  • Chilli powder                               3 tbsp (½ measure) Add more if you like it really spicy.
  • Black Mustard powder               1 ½ tbsp (¼ measure)
  • Edible castor oil or Til oil           2 tbsp
  • Hing                                                 ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder                          1 tbsp


  • Cut the stem of the mangoes with scissors, taking care to leave about 2 cm of the stem. Don’t cut it off completely.
Tender mangoes washed and dried
  • Wash thoroughly in water by rubbing off all dirt and acid stains.
  • Spread on a cloth to dry. After an hour or so, take each mango, wipe it well. There shouldn’t be even a hint of moisture. Leave in a basket for some time to ensure they are fully dry.
  • Put the mangoes in a glass or ceramic jar. Add the oil and toss the mangoes till oil coats it well.
  • Grind the crystal salt in the mixer to a coarse powder. Add to the mangoes. Add turmeric. Toss the mangoes well till the salt and turmeric coat all mangoes.
Add salt and turmeric powder
  • Cover and leave it.
  • Toss the mangoes morning and evening for two or three days, till a brine solution forms.
  • After three or even four days, you can add the rest of the spices.
Two days after adding the spices
  • Take a cupful of the brine solution into a bowl. Add the mustard powder, salt and hing in it. Mix it well without any lumps. Pour it back on the mangoes and mix well with a dry spoon. Leave it to marinate further.
  • Over the next few days, the brine solution will slowly increase in volume as the mangoes shrink, till it covers the mangoes completely. Remember to mix the mangoes well in the solution, twice a day.
  • After about 10-12 days, the solution would rise well above the mangoes and you can keep it in the refrigerator.
  • Best served with curd rice or khichdi.

Try this unique serving suggestion: 

In many Tamilian homes, we steep leftover rice in water, the previous night. We mash the rice in the water, add some buttermilk and salt and drink it. It is the breakfast of choice in the hot months for the rural folk in Tamil Nadu. At home, we drank this with a table spoon of thevadu mangai tanni (vadu mangai water)Try it sometime. It tastes awesome besides being very cooling during the summer.

You can even make this drink with fresh rice. Mash rice well, add buttermilk to it and a tbsp of the spicy masala solution to it. Drink it for a refreshing pick-me-up or when you are rushed for time and can’t sit down for a meal.

Vadu mangai ready to eat!


  • Use only plain crystal salt. Table salt or any other salt is unsuitable and will make the pickle spoil fast.
  • The mangoes should be mixed well in the brine solution twice a day. If you are not refrigerating it, please continue mixing it well twice a day. Always use only a dry spoon to mix or take out the mangoes.
  • You can increase the quantity of chilly powder if you like it spicier. The quantity I have given is perfect though.


    1. Yes, but it can be made with locally available mangoes too. Else, they can be bought with prior order from the local south Indian grocer, who brings these from the south during summers.

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