Chutney-What does it mean?

The term chutney comes from the East Indian “chatni “, meaning “strongly spiced”.

It is described as a condiment which usually consists of a mix of chopped fruits or vegetables, tamarind, spices and sugar added occasionally to be cooked into a chunky spread.

Herbs like mint, coriander, curry leaves are also added to the chutneys to make them flavorful.


What makes a condiment a chutney?

Chutney is a gluten-free, spicy or savory condiment originating in India.It is thinner and are almost always savory, even when they involve a fruit(eg., even if mangoes are used they will have chillies and salt in it).

Indian chutneys involve herbs and chillies and sometimes even nuts/lentils. The texture difference comes from the fact that it is usually blended/pureed and usually water based

In European cuisine, they tend to be jammier and involve fruit of some kind.

Most are on the spicy-hot side, but it’s easy to adjust the heat factor according to one’s own preference. It can be either wet or dry, they can have a coarse to a fine texture.

It is intended to be paired with other foods. This means they’re fairly flavorful, so a smaller quantity can complement something.

What does Chutney taste like ?

They range in flavor from sweet or sour, spicy or mild, or any combination of these. Their texture can be thin or chunky. Some compare them to a relish and others to a jam. 

It is most often used to balance a dish and may be on the sweet and tart side or provide a spicy and hot flavor.

What are the different ways to eat Chutney ?

  • Spread it on a sandwich
  • Serve it along side Idli , Dosa, Venn Pongal, Uthappam & Paniyaram
  • Add it to chicken salad
  • Serve it alongside a cheese, and-or preserved, cured meat platter
  • Serve it with roasted chicken or turkey
  • Mix it with Greek yogurt to make a dip
  • Serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Serve it on a burger, especially a cheese or veggie burger
  • Use as a dipping sauce for samosa or any fried food!
  • Serve it on the side of a meat pie or and empanada
  • Serve it with grilled sausages
  • Serve it with pate
  • Warm goat cheese or brie, pour over it and serve
  • Puree it and glaze meat, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash
  • Add it to salad dressing

How is Chutney different from a Relish ?

According to Oxford English Dictionary :


A piquant or spicy condiment eaten with food to add flavor; a sauce made of chopped pickled vegetables. Relish has more bite to its taste.


A strong hot relish or condiment compounded of ripe fruits, acids, or sour herbs, and flavored with chillies, spices, etc.It is milder in taste compared to Relish.

Relishes, are usually made from pickled vegetables.

Internationally the term is used when non traditional ingredients are involved like Mango , ginger, mint ) whereas a relish is used when it is made from slightly more familiar ingredients like dill, cucumber etc (This is with regard to non Indian cuisine).

A delicious twist to our Traditional Indian chutneys

Have you ever wondered why the chutneys we get from our grocery store aisles have vinegar added to them as a preservative? How they differ from our “ready to go” homemade ones in India, which had no preservatives whatsoever and was used up the same day we made them? How we never heard of chutneys being preserved for more than a day, until we stepped out of the country and saw them on every market aisle? ( at least that is the way I was introduced to preservatives in chutney!)

There’s one obvious culprit : The British

“The British presence in India began in the early 17th century, with the establishment of the British East India Company. The British have a fondness for fruit preserves that dates back at least as far as the Tudors, according to food historian Ann Wilson, so it seems plausible that Britons returning from India would also bring back local flavors the best way they knew how: by preserving them. Because chutney is not meant to be overwhelmingly sweet, it would have made sense to preserve chutneys with both sugar and vinegar.

A lot of British chutneys use winter fruits like apples and plums, while American chutneys might use cranberries or peaches, and Caribbean chutneys could use papayas and bananas.

What these chutneys have in common has nothing to do with India and everything to do with production—they’re all made by boiling fruit and spices in sugar and vinegar. That combination of sugar-sweetness and vinegar-acidity has become the hallmark of preserved chutneys.” says author of the book ‘Eat Britain’, Andrew Wheeler.

Indian chutneys and their diversity

  • In mint chutney, the fresh mint flavor makes it an ideal accompaniment for fried foods like samosas.
  • Coconut chutney, which a common condiment that goes with steamed rice cakes called idli‘s for breakfast , is made by grinding grated coconut with lentils, tamarind, and spices.
  • Peanut chutney is a paste of ground roasted peanuts and chilis, and provides a fiery kick to simple white rice.

These chutneys are diverse because Indian food varies so much from region to region, depending on local ingredients. Coconuts and peanuts both grow well in southern India, whereas mint grows in abundance in the north.

Tomato chutney is common everywhere, but Bengali tomato chutney is sweet, thanks to the addition of dates or mangoes, and used to cleanse the palate between spicy and sweet courses, while Hyderabadi tomato chutney packs more heat thanks to dried chillies, and is served as a side dish with rice or flatbread.

What equipment to you need to make chutney?

The unifying feature of traditional Indian chutneys is that they were originally made by grinding fresh ingredients together. At one time, this might have been done with a mortar and pestle or a traditional grinding stone but most cooks today would use……

The links below are some of my previously published chutney recipes, for your interest :

The Bottom Line

Here’s hoping you get to try some of the chutney recipes listed here, now that you know more about them and what dishes to pair it with.

Do not forget to leave a comment below when you try. Make sure to click a quick picture of your recipe and share it with #stirringmyspicysoul, on your social media feed ,when you do.

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