Prawn balchao

Prawn pickle in bottle

Prawn balchao is a fiery red Goan prawn pickle, finger licking good. While making this pickle, I finished off at least a third of it in the name of tasting 😀 . It was irresistible still, I managed to save a bit, tucked away out of sight, to see how long it lasted outside at room temperature.

I can guarantee one month, as I did not keep it after that. Maybe still longer with the amount of vinegar added. But if you are making large quantities, refrigerating would be a safer option after a month. Though the general advice is to move it to the refrigerator after 15 days, after letting it mature outside.

I and hubby were so hooked onto prawn pickle during the initial days of our marriage that we used to buy bottle after bottle of it. But the store bought one was subpar to this one, and I am so glad that I tried making it.

This is my version of prawn balchao after looking up umpteen recipes online and verifying with my Goan neighbour, Abigail. She was the taste tester for me this time and her inputs have been added at the end, for people who would want to make any changes to my recipe :-).

Prawn balchao in a container

One distinct change I have made is adding mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in the balchao masala. This is a definite must for most pickles down South, though Goans do not add it. But it does enhance the flavour. Still, you are free to omit it if you are looking for authentic Goan.


The vinegar that they add is usually coconut vinegar which is considered very healthy. As I did not have it, I opted for the healthiest one I had, the apple cider vinegar (ACV). But later came to know by far the best substitute for coconut vinegar is ACV. Vinegar is the only liquid to be used while grinding and no water is added.

Apart from the vinegar, I have added a small amount of tamarind too. I came across a few recipes that added tamarind, a few that added tomatoes, and a few which did not add tomatoes or tamarind.


Goans add a whole lot of chillies, either Kashmiri or both Kashmiri and the regular chilly. I have added only 8 whole Kashmiri chillies and that itself was spicy for us. So if you are a spicy person you can go ahead and add more chillies. Or follow my recipe and finally add chilly powder to taste while cooking the masala.

I have this habit of dry roasting onions before sauteeing them in oil, as I feel it brings out the best flavour of onions. Hence first I fry the onions, ginger etc and then fry the prawns, which is kind of an extra job.

So if you are not convinced about dry frying the onions, you can first fry the prawns, transfer them to a container and then fry the onions. Then you will be saved of the job of adding back the onions 🙂 . I have minimised the usage of oil. At any point, if the masala seems to burn at the bottom, you can add more oil.

See that there is enough oil in the masala to float on top. This will prevent moulding. They normally keep the pickle aside for 10-15 days to mature. But it was tasty just out of the stove. So if you can resist temptation, you can wait 😀 .

prawn balchao in bottle



Abigail gave me 95% for this prawn balchao. She could sense the difference in the vinegar, which she felt was very pungent and advised me to add more sugar to balance it out. But I preferred jaggery and again heated up the pickle, increasing the jaggery, and it became more yum.

So increase the sugar or jaggery in the pickle to balance the tartness of the vinegar you are using. Also, add chilly powder if you feel the heat from the chillies in the masala is not enough.

She also took the trouble of making it herself and letting me taste it. It was yummy as well, but she had reduced the vinegar considerably as it was for immediate consumption. Also, she had sauteed the prawns with the onions rather than shallow frying which made them soft.

So if you are looking to make a prawn balchao gravy you can reduce vinegar, grind the masala using water & add tomatoes instead of tamarind.

Go ahead, try this and enjoy as much as we did.

Over to the recipe…

Prawn Balchao
This fiery red Goan prawn pickle is so finger licking good, that you cannot stop eating it
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Maturing time15 days
Total Time15 days 45 minutes
Course: Pickle
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Hema Magesh

For prawns

  • 250 g cleaned and deveined prawns
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • a pinch of turmeric powder

For balchao masala

  • 8 nos Kashmiri chillies(12 g)
  • 3 cloves garlic(8 g)
  • 1 piece ginger(4 g)
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seed/methi
  • 1 piece cinnamon
  • 4 nos cloves
  • a small pea sized ball of tamarind(6 g)
  • ½ cup Apple cider vinegar(ACV)

Rest of the ingredients

  • 2 big onions (130 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic (6 g)
  • 1 piece ginger (3 g)
  • a few curry leaves
  • 6 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp ACV
  • 1 tbsp jaggery/sugar(or as needed)
  • ¼ tsp hing/asafoetida
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • salt as needed
  • Clean the prawns, devein, wash & chop into small pieces. Marinate in the salt and turmeric powder for 15 - 30 minutes.
    Prawn balchao preparation steps 1&2
  • Dry roast the spices given in the balchao masala from pepper to cloves and grind with the chillies, ginger, garlic, tamarind and ACV.
  • Thinly slice the onions, ginger and garlic. In a wide mouthed pan dry fry the onions for a minute or two. Then add 2 tbsp of oil, the ginger garlic and curry leaves. Fry well and keep aside.
  • In the same pan add another 2 tbsp of oil and shallow fry the prawns, till the prawns slightly brown and all the water evaporates. Transfer to a plate.
    Prawn balchao preparation steps 7&8
  • Now add back the fried onion mixture to the pan, and fry for a few more minutes. Add the ground balchao masala and saute well.
  • Add 2 more tbsp of ACV to thin out the gravy, salt as needed, jaggery, turmeric powder and asafoetida.
  • Mix well and add the fried prawns. As the water dries out add two more tbsp of oil. Cook till it oozes out oil.
    Prawn balchao preparation steps 11&12
  • Cool down completely, before transferring to an airtight container, preferably glass.

Hema’s P.S

  • I had bought 500g of prawn which after cleaning became 250g. So buy accordingly.
  • The amount of red chilly and sugar or jaggery is a matter of preference. I normally add as much to balance all the flavours.
  • You may have to add more or less vinegar, depending on the amount of masala you are grinding. For instance, if you increase chillies, you may have to provide more liquid for grinding in the form of vinegar.
  • If you can get hold of coconut vinegar well and good. Please note that coconut vinegar is by itself mildly sweet, so adjust the sugar or jaggery accordingly. I have used Apple cider vinegar, but you can use any vinegar of your choice. Just see that you balance the tartness.


Hema Magesh signature




You may also like my other pickle

Inji puli








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