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What is chutney | Five most popular chutneys in Indian cuisine

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

What exactly is Chutney ? This question pops up in the mind of many people when they see the word chutney on the Indian restaurant menu card or while browsing through the condiments aisle of a speciality grocery store. A very simple answer to this question is, Chutney is a Dip. In India , especially in the Southern part (where I come from) we make sour and spicy chutney.The chutneys get the spiciness from the chilies and sourness from tamarind (Tamarind is sweet and sour fruit which is covered with a soft shell.) I never knew that chutney can be sweet until I came to America. I was really surprised to hear the terms like apple chutney, peach chutney, plum chutney etc.

Chutneys are a major part of Southern Indian breakfast. We make Dosa(crepes made out of rice and lentil batter), Idli (steamed savory cakes made out of rice and lentil batter), Pongal (rice and lentil dish) , Uppma (cream of wheat breakfast), Poori (deep fried bread) etc. Each of these breakfast items are served with one or two types of chutneys freshly made from scratch. My mom makes a wide range of chutneys such as coconut chutney, mint chutney, cilantro chutney, peanut chutney, onion chutney, tomato chutney etc.

Coconut chutney

Since coconut trees grow abundantly in southern India we always use fresh coconuts for cooking. The coconut is broken open by smashing it against a hard surface. I love the fresh coconut water , so I will be ready with a glass when my mom breaks the coconut. When the coconut cracks the water starts to seep out so you have to be quick to catch it with a glass. Fresh coconut, fried gram dal, green chilies and salt are blended in a food processor. This chutney is seasoned with oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves.

Mint chutney

I love the refreshing taste of the mint chutney. Mint leaves , tamarind, ginger root, dry red chilies and Urad dal are roasted in oil. The roasted ingredients, salt and grated coconut are blended in a food processor into a smooth chutney. I eat the mint chutney just by itself. It tastes absolutely incredible.

Peanut chutney

Peanut chutney has a dreamy light pinkish brown color. This chutney is made with dry roasted peanut, tamarind, dry red chilies, grated coconut and salt. All the ingredients are blended into a smooth paste in a food processor. The peanut chutney is seasoned with black mustard seeds, dry red chili and curry leaves.

Onion chutney

This is the only chutney which has a hint of sweetness to it. Chopped onion, tomato, salt , urad dal and dry red chili are roasted in oil. The roasted ingredients are cooled down and blended in a food processor. The onion chutney is smooth and creamy with a little crunchiness from the urad dal. My kids love this chutney and they never grow tired of it.

Tomato Chutney

My mom makes two type of tomato chutney - one with onions and the other without onions. Both of them taste great!

I personally love the tomato chutney without the onion. The first type of chutney is made by cooking finely chopped onion, tomato, chili powder, salt and ginger & garlic paste in oil. The second type of chutney is made with tomatoes , chili powder , salt and seasoned in oil with mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafetida. Both chutneys are cooked into thick curry consistency.

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