Kanji One Sunny Spring Day

Natural.  Home made. Brew with a (nonalcoholic) kick.  Lip smacking. Kanji.

Every winter I look at the black-purple carrots that appear in the vegetable markets of Delhi and the rest of Northern India, and make a mental note to track down a recipe for kanji. As far as I know, they are used only in the making of this fiery colourful end-of-winter drink. And every year passes just the same as the previous one.

Now, this blog has given me a lot of readers. Some of the readers have gone on to become good friends. Friends who share their views and opinions – and I am glad you are opinionated – share their likes and dislikes (of people, of colours and pictures on this blog and in general, punctuation and pronunciation, and of course, food related stuff). Some have been willing to risk sharing their blog… only to end up fuming later at some very persistent confusion regarding ‘the real owner of IFR’ as the movement spread! I wasn’t complaining about the unintentional link-love it brought. Especially, since I haven’t exactly been in the thick of it all this past year.

Last year when I spied the purple carrots I thought of one such foodie blog-friend who is Punjabi (and wishes to stay anonymous).  We chat now and then and I asked her if she had a recipe for kanji.  She promised…but forgot, as did I.  And the season passed.  This winter the appearance of the purple carrots jogged the childhood memory of the special drink once again… Foodie friend was poked right away. She immediately set a reminder on her cellphone to ask her mother…and I had a message in my inbox soon after – a short recipe for kanji!


One evening that week we, my neighbour T and I, walked down to the neighbouring subzi-market from where I source vegetables not found at my friendly Mother Dairy’s Fruit and Vegetable outlet.  We bought 3 kilos of potatoes (to make into chips for frying), a kilo or so of tomatoes for sun-drying, and three purple carrots!

Next morning, I prepared the carrots, measured the ingredients into a glass jar, and in a matter of minutes the kanji was on its way.  It sat there on my kitchen window full of promise.

Kanji is believed to activate the digestive system and get the juices flowing, thus making it a great picker-upper for sluggish appetites (how I would love it in the hot Delhi summer!).  Purple as well as red carrots are seasonal in Delhi, available only in the winter months which makes kanji an unusual drink for the season.  Despite the spices in the drink it is believed to have ‘cooling’ qualities which was likely the reason behind my friend’s advice to “drink only a little, no matter how much you may like the taste!”  She also warned it was best to drink it sitting in the sun unless I wished to risk a backache!  As you can see, I heeded her advice!

purple carrot

Mrs Chetna Sahni’s
Kali Gajar ki Kanji
(Black Carrot Kanji)

3 purple carrots (about 250gms)
1l+ water in a glass jar or earthenware pot
2 T ground rai (small mustard seeds)
2 t kuti lal mirch (coarse powdered cayenne pepper)
2 t kala namak (‘black’ salt, actually pink when powdered, not the same as regular white salt)
1 t regular salt

Peel the carrots and cut into 3-4 cm long batons. Fill the jar (or earthen pot) with water. Add the spices, the two salts, and the prepared carrots. Stir. Let sit on a sunny sill for 5-6 days. Stir and pour into small glasses. Serve pieces of the pickled carrots on the side.

You may refrigerate the contents after the sixth day or leave it in a cool dark place. It can last a long time (even up to a month…but won’t!) Kanji used to be traditionally prepared in a matka, a round earthenware pot, but it is now commonly prepared in glass jars or regular stoneware martabans. Some times mini vadas made with ground urad dal are also used to make kanji. These can either be added to the gajar ki kanji a day before it is intended to be served or fermented on their own to make kanji ke vade!

It truly is the perfect bright drink for Holi, the festival of colours!  The weather starts to warm up just then… The pickled carrots makes a great side to any Indian meal. I even served some with burgers later last week!

Before I leave, Navreh mubarak as well as a very happy Gudi Padva and Ugadi to all the readers!

bottoms up

76 thoughts on “Kanji One Sunny Spring Day

  1. Extraordinary! Wow! We don’t get the black/purple carrots here, but it looks amazing.

    The dark carrots do impart this amazing deep pink-purple colour to the drink!

  2. I remember we used to get very dark reddish colored carrots similar to these in Hyderabad. They used to be exceptionally sweet in taste, and were especially bought for the preparation of Gajar ka Halwa during occasions.
    The drink looks so refreshing!

    These are darker than the red ones! Those are our regular carrots and they make the best gajar halwa!

  3. The colour is so brilliant, Anita! Never seen this before.

    Potato frying? 😀 Another birthday on its way eh?

    Tastes a bit like jaljeera… spicy, salty, sour!

  4. I told everyone I wanted to taste this… a colleague is bringing some tomorrow so I can have it. 🙂 I had half a mind to surprise you with a visit last Tuesday… was criss crossing Delhi and was on the main road in front of your house… again 🙂

    But I was in terrible shape… cold and all… eventually went back home… and took the next 3 days off.

    Happy new year!

    You should have!

  5. I love your ferns- what a great complement to your fermented black carrot brew!

    First I read your post and then went scurrying to see if I could find seeds for such things here in the U.S. Well…there’s lots of talk about carrots and antioxidants and how orange is a fairly new colour in carrot history. But black (“purple”) …after much searching I found these. I suppose the ones you have are purple all the way through…not fair I tell ya! Because you know I might have a fondness for that colour! Gorgeous!

    But orange will do for now. Yes, of course I must try this immediately!

    …and even our regular carrots are RED, really really red! We settle for the drier and less sweet orange ones only for the summer… It was interesting to note that these might be a variety of the older carrots brought to our shores by Romans! Taste similar to the red ones – sweet.
    Maybe you could sneak in some beets and no one will know!

  6. They look so beautiful. I am making a mental picture of you and T walking to the market. The small pleasures that we dearly miss. Backache, sitting down and cold drink enlighten me please.

    It is nice to be able to do that and I am trying to make it a weekly if not bi-weekly habit, just to get some exercise!

    Apparently, the drink is ‘cooling’ and and made in the season that is not hot…so precautionary directions for imbibing I guess!

  7. Hey wow, this is so refreshing! BTW I never knew about these dark-red, maroon carrots! That added to my general knowledge as well… cheers!!

    Thanks a lot, Anita. Your blog is so different from the other food blogs. I really enjoy visiting MTP.

    Ooooh.. You say the sweetest things! But I think AMTP has tamed down… the mad hatters here need to do something about that!

  8. Sigh! I doubt I will get Purple carrots in the US.. forget these, don’t even get the red, juicy ones like back in India:(
    Loved the 2nd. pic with the ferns in the backdrop.

    I am so pleased with the ferns – just one season and already my terrace garden is looking so grown!

  9. And I have a tall glass of kanji sitting on my desk right now.

    Tall? Tall! Watch it now! Go out in the sun at the very least…! 🙂 You are making the readers here even more jealous!

  10. A new one for me. Here I wait for those gorgeous red winter carrots to make an appearance at the market, and now I find there’s a purple one too.
    These carrots, are they as sweet, or sweeter, than the red ones? So this Kanji ferments a bit?
    For me “kanji” is a rice or wheat gruel/ porridge which I don’t like.:(

    These carrots taste just like our regular red ones. This is essentially a carrot pickle in brine – brine that can be drunk! Spicy, tangy brine.

  11. Aaaaaaah!! Kanji brings back memories, my ma used to make it. Why can’t US have purple or the red carrots…I am so jealous of you right now!

    Wonder what an orange carrot kanji would look like? Maybe Pel will tell us soon… 🙂

  12. Navreh Mubarak and Happy Gudi Padwa to you and yours too, Anita!

    i really want to have some kanji right now!! Thanks for the temptations ;).

    You are always welcome! 😉

  13. Those vadas with kanji are special though, aren’t they. We used to call them khatte vale laddoos :). Moong daal vadas soaked in kanji (with regular carrots usuallY), and grated moolis+green chillies and kala namak=yummy!

    See, this is what you do…..invoke nostalgia!!

    I haven’t tried with vadas…But I have had those moong dal ones with those toppings – lip smacking!

  14. Beet juice, I thought. What a pleasant surprise. Do they taste sour after sitting under the sun for 5 days?

    Yup – tart, like a vinegar pickle!

  15. I had my first taste of kanji this winter, my upstair’s neighbour’s Mother made a whole batch for her grandaughter’s picnic birthday – it was divine!

    What a fabulous idea for a picnic drink! Noted for future!

  16. It just occurred to me: we have a similar drink in these parts: saurkraut “juice”(the brine) over ice!

    That’s exactly what it is – brine!
    But drink fermented cabbage brine?! Err… maybe I should taste it before I say anything – I am known to savour much ‘oogre’ stuff!

  17. Just chanced upon your blog. And I must thank you! You helped clarify my doubts about the ‘ghostly’ cream cheese!!!! I have been wondering how to get hold of some (without having to pay the exhorbitant prizes for the imported varieties available here)… thanks for showing me the way! 🙂

    Lovely recipes… intend to try your delicious paneer tikka soon..


    Right, when you can’t get/buy it, make it yourself!

  18. Oh how I miss the Kanji… A classmate;s mom used to make it in school and she would bring it for us… and we would fight over it. Can we substitute some beets for the color to the regular carrots we get in the US?(dry orange ones). I havent tasted the deep red delhi carrots in such a long time. Waiting for the response on the orange carrot kanji… thanks for posting the recipe! love your site.

    I think beets will work just fine to give it the right colour. Go ahead and make it with the orange ones!

  19. So what is the connection between a backache and the carrots and sitting in the sun?

    Can this be made with beets?

    Isn’t there self-generated alcohol somewhere in all of this?

    And, do you think anyone got this year’s April Fool’s joke? (I am half expecting you to ask me what it was…)

    And, Happy Husbands’ Day to you!

    That connection some learned Punju will have to throw some light on… Musical, anything you can tell us? [If you must know…I had more than everyone thinks I did 😉 and yet, lived to tell the tale!]

    Good one, the joke this time… 😕
    Oh, did I forget to wish you on Happy Husband’s day… I think I forgot to ask for that present! Now you tell me!

  20. Yes, you do tend to like the oogre stuff…and, besides, it’s not “living” anymore by then so the odour from the gas-bubbles is gone. Quite mellow. And what’s this that Musy said about grated mooli?

    Manisha: I’ll ask: what/where April Fool’s joke? And no…the salinity tends to favour lactic-acid-producing bacteria and not yeast. But a little vodka when all is said and done…? But then what would this new drink be called?

    Grated mooli to top the pakodies… ummm especially the freshly-out-of-karahi ones – interesting combination of textures and flavours!

  21. Can I do this with beets ?

    You may want to read the comments here for ideas about what all can be used…

  22. For those of you’ll who cannot get kali gajjar for kanji, get farmer’s market gajjar (not the supermarket variety plastic wrapped ones) and add one black beet into the mix.

    I have mixed kaanji with vodka, a concoction I call “bloody kaali”

    I suggested that as well! And now we have someone who’s tried that already!
    First, Kaali – mooli and now bloody…Holy Mother!

  23. Oooooo…sour! Hhhhhhhhhhha…hot! Me like. Yah…even in orange it has admirable qualities!

    6 days for it to ‘do its thing’ was just right; but about this name bloody kaali for a vodka-paired drink…I vote ‘no’. Instead, I nominate: kanjitini, as it would resemble an extra-dry, dirty martini very much (and look quite dashing in a SMALL martini-glass)- totally the wrong hue of red (or orange) to be “bloody” like the tomato concoctions. Sorry Anil. Don’t hate me!

    So you already made it! What did it look like – the colour?
    All friends here… it a party after all. Raise a toast?

  24. In the West, do not go asking for kaali gajjar; Look for “purple carrots”
    They are available in quite a few farmer’s markets in US, Mexico and Canada.

  25. THANK YOU!! I am going to make it this weekend and add some beets. Will let you know how it goes.

    Do you have recipe for punjabi kale nimbu ka achaar? My dadi used to make that too and I have not had an achhar that good since she passed away. I miss her.

    Thanks for refreshing some memories.

    I do have one… but let us pray that my friend (Pel) here gets to it before I do! He’s been promising a pickle post for ages now… Maybe he wants to post a picture of how the pickle ages you think?

  26. Somia…Nope, I’m pretty sure that Anita doesn’t have a recipe for the Punjabi black lime pickles…but I do! And funny you said that because I just ate some…nothing is better for heartburn!

    Anil: I’ll be sure to look for them at the farmers’ markets this summer; fun places to go, eh? Thanks!

    The older the lime pickle, the blacker it gets, and the better its medicinal effect – so we believe….

  27. Such a lovely colour…never seen carrots this colour ever…sounds like a wonderful drink…am new to blogging, my first time here, lovely blog…

    Hi Arch, welcome to the world of blogging! It is a fantastic drink! Make it if you have access to bright carrots! You can also cheat and add beets!

  28. The older ones seem to work faster I’ve noticed (I’m still hacking away at that last jar of the 7-8 year-old batch of the “Jaffrey edit”); the August batch- using the complete (traditional) recipe I managed to piece together- has a much thicker khaar, plus I mangled the limes in thinking that the direction of “shake every day” wouldn’t be enough… So, they are no longer the pretty 4-petalled “flowers” they once were…but they have darkened somewhat in those few months; I look forward to the day their colour matches the khaar!

    My apologies to you in thinking that you didn’t own this one- I didn’t think that you would manage to pry it from you-know-who so soon! 😉 [claps]

    Sonia: yes, she is right: I have a long, drawn-out series of “pickle-posts” that are loooooong overdue. Maybe if I stop “researching” (AKA making new ones and sampling) I’d have more time for that? 🙂


    I think one post while in-the-thick-of-research will be nice… so that we may join in and the results can be corroborated in different labs under different conditions to support the hypothesis… 😀

  29. Wow…that is a very striking colour…and I didn’t know purple carrots existed..How ignorant…

    Purple carrots are not as common so it is quite natural that you haven’t known about them! You can make this with any brightly coloured carrot. You could also cheat and add beets!

  30. never heard abt these purple carrots!.. how exotic!
    BTW i finally bought a bottle of mustard oil.. what to try first? maybe haak with some spinach?

    Great! Yes, go with spinach haak-esque! Bihari mash is pretty good too…or aloo raita or 😉

  31. Oh my goodness! I had no idea about these fermented drinks from India. I have been reading about all the fermented drinks, foods, fermenting cultures around the world. I knew about Indian fermented pickles, but this drink is just amazing. Thanks very much for posting about this. There’s also a Russian fermented drink called kvass made from beetroots.

  32. Just made some spinach haak-esque.. There was no rice, so had it as a soup… loved it..
    next on line is aloo bihari or maybe taher 😉

    1. The gentle braise brings out all the goodness of spinach – can you believe it is my son’s fave way with spinach! You are on a mustard oil trip, I can see!

  33. This looks amazing Anita. I love kala namak so thats one reason I am definitely going to try out the recipe… sure it is one great HB booster.

  34. I live in Delhi now. But having come from blr I’d not heard/seen purple carrots before. Every winter i’d buy lots of them n eat it just raw(as i really like to try all kinds of new veggies/fruits whether i like them or not.. anyways, being a veggie i’ve very few choices i guess). Always wanted to try this drink after tasting once @ my neighbor aunt’s house, but just cudn’t get the recipe from her as she was way too sweet to prepare it herself whenever i wanted to drink :).. that says it all…. now i guess i need to wait till next winter to try this refreshing recipe..

  35. I made it and it was wonderful. I made it with orange carrots because I did not want to experiment with beets for my first attempt. It was great! Thank you so much.

    Now Pel and Anita, can you please stop quarreling over who has the recipe for kale nimbu ka achaar and post your versions!

    Pel, what kind of lemons do you use for the achaar? Indian lemons have very thin skin so the pulp to rind ratio is greater. I wish they grew lemons of Indian variety here, they are way more aromatic and flavorful in my opinion.

    Thanks again!

    You can make the Indian-lemon pickle where you are! Those are technically not lemons but limes! Use key limes or persian limes to make the pickle to get the home-like taste!

    One of us will eventually get to writing about the lime pickle.. 😀

  36. Hi,
    Stumbled upon your blog from a friend’s blog. I’ve just landed in Delhi from the US and I have never seen these carrots before. Surely something I want to try out. Your blog is very nice.
    I would like to add you into my blog-roll

  37. OK, I just made this kanji. I used orange carrots(no beets). I used fresh ground mustard(dont have any rai). The Sun is not so strong, we are not getting too much/strong sunlight here. I have my fingers crossed 😀

    Now moving on to make chiffon cake for the first time, god bless! I am a little afraid of baking, but its dear hubby’s birthday 😉

    1. Hi, Nonie! Rai, mustard – all varieties of the same thing… what’s in a name…
      How did the cake turn out? Happy birthday to your guy!

  38. Sonia: as usual, Anita is right on again…indeed, “key” limes are the same species as nimbu and for that pickle I wouldn’t recommend using anything else! I can regularly find them here only at one local grocery…so I would try checking/calling the produce departments to find one that stocks them in your area. As for our “quarreling”… it’s all in good fun but she is awfully proud of her pickles and believes hers are the best… 😀 She might be right you know, but I’ve only tried one so far- oh wait: no, two– so I’m waiting for more samples before I’ll touch her pickle-feet. 😀

  39. I remember my maternal grandmom (naani)used to make this. Will check if I can get these carrots in Singapore.

  40. Tried your baingan bhoorani and err… we didn’t really wait for the rotis 😀 to be done.

    We ate roti with achaar that day. LOVED it, Anita!

      1. I do believe you are mistaken. The only grouse with the boorani was: swimming, swimming! (In oil) And I did say that I would love to see how you did it in 1/4 cup oil. And out came the secret: non-stick pan. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. I don’t like frying in nonstick pans so while the taste was fabulous, I might do what Mamatha suggested and broil the eggplant some so that it doesn’t have to swim so much.

        It’s the qabooli – overrated is what I thought.

  41. I returned to let you know that I made kanji with purple heirloom carrots from my neighbor. It looks beautiful!

    One of my neighbors’ mother pickled Meyer lemons for me a couple of months back. I enjoy snacking on them but flavor-wise it comes no where close to what Badimamma used to make. I would love to try your versions of the pickle recipe whenever you feel like sharing it.

    By the way, I now have a small gardening plot and would love suggestions on what to grow. I live in Atlanta where the summers are hot and the soil is like clay. I have access to ample compost since we live in a cohousing community where everyone composts for our CSA farm. I feel like growing stuff other than the usual tomato, peppers, squash and eggplant. Any ideas?


    1. I hope to get to it one of these days… maybe this coming winter which is the main lime pickle season for us.

      Since I have very little space to grow food in my house, I tend to grow the things that are hard to find, that I prefer to have fresh – so herbs are at the top! And then things like celery, spinach, taro (for the leaves). A local nursery or Univ extension should be able to help you find what grows best where you are.

      If you are nice to Pel, he might offer other suggestions though mustard greens sounds like a good idea – leaves, flowers, and even the seeds later are all ingredients!

  42. hi my fisrt time here and love your style of blogging…i mean the comprehensiveness et al.

    relatively new to the blogosphere but do have my own little place…so do swing by if possible 🙂

  43. Its always great to go through the comments here on this blog, such a lot of informartion! The posts are special too 🙂

    Havent seen a new post for a long time now, hope everythings alright.

  44. Wowieeeeee that looks beautiful..I love the color. When I saw the pic, I thought it was Beets….I never knew there are carrots like this… I dont get it here I guess 😦 But its looks soooo temptinggg

  45. Looks lovely. Stopping by here after ages – glad to hear you’re all ok after the accident. BTW, I make a special Allahabadi gajar ka halwa using these purple carrots. Recipe’s on my blog – it tastes awesome.

  46. hi Anita..
    have been here before n have commented too if i remember correct…
    today i got to read some more of your posts n loved it..
    kali gajar ki kanji is my favorite n i like it with vadas too.
    it can be made with any carrots mixed with some beetroots…

  47. hmm.. yr post is so nostalgic.. my Mom used to make kanji every summer and i loved it. I almost forgot about it but after reading yr post seems like i am missing it. She also used to put some boondi on top of it.

  48. HI Anita,

    I made my first Kanji of the season, I always use beet for the color my MIL’s tip, infact I learned it from her only as my MOM never make Kanji, but his does. I decided to google afte I made it to see if blogworld has posts on this tangy drink. O’course I found yours on the first page alongwith these, U might wanna look :



    Kanji receipe is not a big deal, more or less it’s kinda same everywhere but picture did caught my eye. Do check.

    Thanks, Spice, for bringing this to my notice. At one of the sites I have been able to leave a comment in the form of a “recipe submitted.” Doubt anything will come of it. 😦

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