Indian-Style Tomato Chutney/Sauce

I invented this chutney seven years ago, have been making it every single summer and it’s certainly the preserving recipe I’m most proud of. It’s slightly sweet, slightly sour, highly aromatic and of course there is a pleasant fiery kick, obligatory for a chilli lover. Sometimes I talk about it as a more complex, Indian-style alternative to ketchup, but frankly it doesn’t do it justice. Grilled meat and sausages, toasts, sandwiches, savoury pancakes, omelettes, deep fried chicken (karaage), okonomiyaki… it’s absolutely perfect with so many dishes from all around the world, I can no longer imagine my pantry – and table –  without it. Last weekend I went to my market and noticed the tomatoes were finally ripe enough for preserving, so I bought three kilos and made my first 2018 batch of this Indian-style chutney and thought I’d share this recipe with you once more after all these years.

TIPS: The following amounts are only an example of one of my preserving batches and though I never change ingredients, their amounts vary every time because every batch of tomatoes is different: more or less watery, sweeter or more acidic, etc.. In short, when the chutney reaches the consistency you like (I like it rather thick, a bit like ketchup), cool a small amount in the fridge and taste. Then, adjust the flavours, adding more or less salt, sugar or vinegar (or chilli powder!). Cook for about ten minutes, cool a small portion and taste once more. You might have to taste it twice or even three times to obtain the taste you like.

Obviously, adapt the chilli heat level and amounts to your own preferences. This chutney will be delicious also in a mild version, made with sweet chilli.

For me all the below spices play an important role in the final flavours (and there aren’t many of them), so if you want to make your own tweaked version, don’t skip any of them at least for the first time (though you may add some other spices, if you like). The most important here is nigella/onion seed, so make sure you have it. (All the Indian spices can be bought on internet, even on Amazon, they keep whole for quite a long time, so you can get them if you live far from Indian/Sri Lankan shops!). Nigella can sometimes be bought also in Middle Eastern grocery shops. I’ve been buying fennel seeds in an organic grocery shop and they’re fantastic and not expensive because they’re supposed to be drunk as a herbal tea.

Beware : the yield of this chutney is quite low. Even with the addition of vinegar and sugar, you’ll end up with maximum 1/2 of the initial volume of tomato “juice” sieved through the food mill.

If, like me, you choose to prepare long-term preserves, this chutney jars keep for at least a year not refrigerated.

Special equipment: a food mill (a sieve and a spoon may be used instead, but it takes much longer)

Preparation: 2 hours


1 kg/about 2.2 lbs ripe tomatoes

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (white or black)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons nigella (onion seeds)

3 dried, crushed medium hot chili peppers (or chilli powder)

1 teaspoon powdered hot chili

100 g/about 3.3 fl oz sugar (preferably cane sugar)

300 ml/about 10.15 fl oz apple vinegar (4,5 %)

1 tablespoon salt

Chop roughly the tomatoes.

Put them in a pan, add 100 ml of water, cover, cook over high heat 5-10 minutes, stirring until the chunks give off their juice.

Sieve the tomatoes or put them through a food mill.

Heat the oil in a pan, fry the spices a couple of minutes, add the vinegar and the sugar and let it simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the sieved tomato juice and the salt.

Cook over moderate heat until it the chutney has the required consistency (I like it similar to the ketchup consistency).

Check from time to time if it’s not burning and give it a stir.

Cool a small amount in the fridge (2 tablespoons), taste and add more chili/vinegar/salt or sugar. Let it simmer 10 more minutes. Taste once more and cook at low heat, stirring, for ten more minutes. Cool a small amount in the fridge and… it might prove perfect!

/At this point you can (after the chutney has cooled down) either freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or process it in the jars, as described below, and store it in your pantry for at least a year!/

Pour the chutney, still hot, into sterilised jars, leaving 1 cm empty from the top. Cover with lids. Leave the jars to cool.

Place the cool jars into a big pan, bottom lined with an old kitchen towel folded in two (this will prevent the jars from breaking), cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid. Bring to a boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.
Stick on self-adhesive labels, write the name of the chutney and don’t forget to mark the date. (I also mark the source and variety of my tomatoes, thus I can see the difference and decide where to buy them next year! You can also put down the adjustments you have made to a particular batch).

8 Replies to “Indian-Style Tomato Chutney/Sauce”

  1. Sounds delicious. It would take me ages to get through a batch though even if I were a canner. If I saw it on a shelf in the grocery store, I’d definitely pick up a jar though. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn! Well, given the small yield, I’m sure you would get through it quickly. I took 2 kilos and filled only seven small jars…

  2. I was never very lucky with chutneys. I have tried many recipes, but liked very few of them. This sounds promising, since you say that it is the preserving recipe you are most proud of. I should give it a try.

    1. Thank you so much, Adina! I had bad experience with British chutney recipes. Always too sweet or certain spices were wrong or in huge amounts… but this one is completely different. I think this chutney (or rather sauce…. it’s not really like a British chutney) is perfect with German sausages (tested many times!). Much better for me than mustard or ketchup.

  3. What a great creation! You’re right – this looks like it complements lots and lots of dishes. Love the way you cool, taste, adjust, cool, taste, adjust. That takes a lot of patience but it’s the only way to get it right. Just looking at the picture, it’s obviously you got it right. What a perfect sauce. If my tomatoes come back from the recent hail storm, maybe I’ll have enough to give this a try. If not, I’ll just buy some. I have a sandwich in mind that this would be perfect with.

    1. Dear MJ, thank you so much for all the compliments! I wish I could make you taste it! Actually it’s really easy and not such a big fuss if you make a dozen of jars in one batch. I hope the hailstorm didn’t destroy everything in your garden…

    1. Thank you so much, Karen. This one is of my own invention, so I’m not surprised the real Indian restaurant served something different 😉

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