Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen


The Indian Kitchen: Chutney

by Kate Heyhoe


A reader writes:

Having a hard time finding out how and what is chutney. All I know that it is from the origins of India and that you eat it along with spicy foods. If you can find out any information for me, I will be forever grateful.

Thank you.



I'll do anything to earn someone's "gratitude forever" so here's the background on chutney...

Chutney, or chatni as the word originated in East India, is a classification of condiments which are used to enhance the flavors of a dish. They may be sweet, salty, spicy, sour, pungent, hot or all of these. Typical ingredients are fruits and vegetables like papayas, dates, raisins, mangoes, coconuts, tomatoes, garlic, tamarind and onions.

They may be further flavored with vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, coriander, mint and chiles. They range in texture from smooth pastes to chunky and salsa-like. Families hand down their treasured chutney recipes through each generation from mother to daughter, and while some chutneys are made fresh, many are made and stored refrigerated for several days before using. In areas of India where refrigeration is scarce, alternatives to chutneys developed in the form of pickled condiments, which could be stored indefinitely at room temperature.

Chutneys are commonly served with curry and other dishes to either tame the heat, sweeten the taste or contrast the flavors. You can buy bottled chutneys in Indian, Asian and gourmet markets, but the flavors of a freshly made chutney are hard to beat. Mango chutney is well known in the West, popular with the British colonialists, but its key ingredient green mango can be hard to find. Below is one of my favorite recipes using readily available ingredients.


Red Onion Chutney

1 bunch fresh cilantro
4 green chiles, like fresh jalapeños or serranos, stemmed
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

Cut off the thick stems ends from the cilantro and discard. If you prefer a tamer chutney, remove the seeds and veins from the chiles and discard. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until almost smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Use fresh or store refrigerated.

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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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