Indian

Amchur (aka Dried Mango Powder): an Unsung Indian Spice

Today: Michelle Peters-Jones of The Tiffin Box tells us why we need dried mango powder in our spice cabinets—now. 

One of the more unusual ingredients in the Indian spice cabinet is the sharp, tangy amchur (also spelled as amchoor), or dried mango powder. "Aam" is the Hindi word for mango. Amchur is usually made at the beginning (or occasionally the end of) summer, which is mango season in India. My grandmother harvested unripe, green, sharply sour mangoes, which she then thinly sliced on her sharp, slightly scary sickle seat (a wooden stool with a sharp curved machete attached to it). She placed the slices on straw mats in the sun until they were crisp. Some of these dried slices were then ground to powder, which she sieved several times to remove any fibrous bits, and then stored in her dark spice cupboard. She also stored some of the dried mango slices whole.

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So how do you use it?

Amchur is usually used in North Indian cuisine; it's also a primary ingredient in chaat masala, the fragrant, tangy mix of spices that is used as a finishing spice and is a primary ingredient in a lot of Indian street food. Most of the amchur that we made in our home was used to flavor fruits and vegetables and added to thin, spicy soups and stews. My family also used the spice to add an extra layer of tanginess to spicy fruit and vegetable pickles. Whole, dried mango slices can also be used in curries to add a sharply sour, yet fruity flavor and fragrance.

More: Spicy pickles that make use of green mango's greatness.

I use amchur in a simple marinade for fish or chicken—and also with rock salt as a finishing spice, lightly sprinkled over ripe fruit. Amchur needs to be used with a little caution, as it can be very sharp, thus overwhelming delicate flavors, but the right amount adds a beautiful complexity to curries like chana masala and other kinds of Indian street food. It is also delicious stirred into a fruit smoothie with ground cardamom, a type of savory lassi. You can even mix it with salted butter and black pepper and melt it over fresh sweet corn for a side dish.

Where to buy it (or make your own!):

You can buy amchur in most South Asian grocery stores and online. If you want to make your own, look for small, unripe green mangoes in Asian groceries. You can use a food dehydrator to dry these slices, and then blend them to a fine powder in a spice blender. 

How to store it:

Once ground, you can store the amchur for up to a year in an airtight container—ideally in a cool, dark place.

Photos by Alpha Smoot 

12 Comments

Robert H. July 5, 2016
Are the slices dried with the skin on or off? If on is the skin discarded at anytime, or is it also ground up?
 
Kara March 18, 2016
Can you make this without a food dehydrator? Is it possible to make it using an oven?
 
Panfusine March 18, 2016
I would slice the mango really thin (using a mandoline) and then place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry it out at about 175 - 200 F for a couple of hours until it curls up and dries out.<br />
 
Kara March 21, 2016
Thank you! We will try that! :)
 
Candi March 9, 2016
This sounds so good. It's going on my list for my next visit to my local Indian food store. Thanks for all the comments and the article.
 
MrTiro August 24, 2015
I've had good luck using amchur as a dry alternative to lemon juice, especially in things like hummus' and black bean dips. It comes in handy when I have everything I need except lemon juice and I don't want to make a trip to the store.
 
Alex T. August 22, 2015
I use dried mango powder with vegetable samosa , and it does cleanse the palate, I like it.
 
Sarah S. August 19, 2015
Oh, thank you for this article! I bought aamchur at our local Indian market because it sounded great without really knowing what it was for. I didn't realize how large of an amount it really was, so I am stoked for new ideas of how to use it. I've used it wherever I might use lemon in cooking- to brighten up any number of dishes. I haven't tried it on seafood yet- that sounds brilliant, and on corn!
 
george August 19, 2015
I use the aamchur powder in my pickling solutions...works great on carrots
 
Alex T. August 24, 2015
so how do you use it ? like you add a teaspoon to the pickling jar?
 
Panfusine August 19, 2015
The mangoes selected for aamchur were usually the variety of fruits (given that there are too many varieties to keep an accurate track of in India) that did not make good candidates for fruits - too stringy, or not enough flesh on the ripe ones.
 
Robert H. July 5, 2016
Stringy makes it sound like Turpentine mangoes, not too much for eating outright because they are stringy.