Indian-Style Tomato Chutney/Sauce

Spices can make miracles and a mixture of Indian spices can transform an ordinary vegetable into a highly palatable side-dish, a cheap meat cut into a fantastic curry and a big bag of cheap, watery tomatoes into a luscious chutney. I learnt the latter last year, when, having bought a bag of rather bland looking tomatoes, I tried to transform them into the ketchup according to my favourite, Jeffrey Steingarten’s recipe. The result was very disappointing and so far from the one obtained with high quality tomatoes, I decided to look for a different preserving idea.

After some research I managed to save the remaining couple of kilos with an Indian chutney recipe, which really acted as a magic wand. The result is complex, slightly sour, slightly sweet, with an intense tomato flavour and a hot kick from the chili peppers. I don’t remember how I had this idea (I certainly was inspired by Indian recipes!), but needless to say, this chutney is simply breathtaking if made with aromatic and ripe tomatoes. As usually the chili amount depends on everyone’s preference and on the chilli variety. I use it as a sauce with deep-fried chicken (Chicken Karaage is a good example), with toasted sandwiches, with sausages…

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 will be 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).

NOTE: For the readers who live in the USA, the USDA-approved canning method is different. You can find it described here

Tomato Chutney on Punk Domestics

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

  1. Wow! beautiful picture and a brilliant recipe. I use tomato chutney very often as I love it in my paninis, with chips in fact even makes a great dip for wheat crackers. I love your recipe. I have never used apple vinegar in mine before but I can kind of taste the magic of this ingredient….I’ll have to add this to mine next time.

    Also, thank you for your great tip on sterilising jars…Never thought before – of course! dishwasher safe should be good enough – they get washed a pretty high temp. So, am making some chutney and preserves this weekend too. Thanks for the fantastic tip and a great recipe.


    1. Thank you, Shilpa, for such a kind comment! I was afraid you would tell me off for calling this a chutney 😉 I have made several British-style chutneys, there are many preserving recipes in my books and on internet, but finding an Indian chutney in a preserving version was not easy! I use the vinegar because of the preserving process. Otherwise, I would probably use just a bit of sugar and nothing else. I am happy you like my jars washing idea. I have been doing it for years, but it is very important that you spoon very hot (almost boiling) jams, sauces etc into the jars, you close them and that you put them, after they have cooled, into a hot water bath. Good luck with your preserves! And write to me if you have any questions!

  2. I love indian tomato chutney though I rarely make it. The version I usually eat has onions (not nigella lawson onion seeds, what are they?) but without sugar and apple cider vinegar. I think in some parts of India they like to put sugar whereas in others they don’t. You should also try with onions, it adds sweetness and texture. I will look for nigella lawson in the Asian shop

  3. Yummy, I love chutney. You seem to make it a lot more “smooth” than I do. Mine’s quite chunky. Raisins make a great addition too, if you’re into lumpy. I’ve never heard of “Nigella”… seems like the sort of thing I’d have a hard time finding but I am currently on the look-out for an Indian supermarket to find such delights as “curry leaves”!

    I can’t wait to have a garden one day. I’m going to grow a ton of tomatoes and do all sorts of wonders with them – my mother makes green tomato chutney sometimes – it’s a fantastic use for unripe tomatoes (if they end up being unripe for whatever reason :D)

    1. Hi Charles, I use my chutney a bit like ketchup, so I like it more liquid, but I have already made British-style chutneys (with mango for example) and I also add raisins and love them chunky, like you. Nigella is another name of onion seeds. I hope you find an Indian grocer, but if I remember I found some Indian products in Freres Tang (XIIIeme). Maybe they also sell curry leaves? They sell many fresh exotic herbs and vegetables.
      I would also love to have a garden, but am torn between my love of the city centre and the need to grow my own vegetables, fruits, herbs… Unfortunately the small balcony is not enough 🙁
      I also make a green tomato chutney (and some other green tomato preserves, I must post them!)! I have tried with Indian spices and it is not very good, but the British-style one is delicious. I would love to see your mum’s recipe one day! (If it’s not a family secret 😉

      1. Ah, screw the city centre. Give me the countryside any day. In the past I used to be a big city lover, but now I just want peace, quiet, and clean air. A place I can go and sit by a forest and listen to bird-song and a garden to call my own!

        I’ll get the recipe for green tomato chutney sometime from my mother – it’s certainly not a secret – only problem is actually finding some green tomatoes in the first place.

        Actually, you reminded me – she has a couple of other recipes I really want to get from her at the same time which I’ll post when I come back from my trip to England 😉

        1. Thank you, Charles, I would love to compare our recipes (I also make a green tomato chutney). Actually, I am very lucky because some stalls on my market sell green and almost green tomatoes as the cheapest ones. They are available at least half of the year! I have noticed there is little difference between a green low quality tomato and a green high quality tomato once they are transformed, so even when they come from green houses, they taste quite well.
          I am looking forward to see your mother’s recipes on your blog!
          I think I am still not ready for birds and peace… A garden on the roof of my building would be a perfect solution 🙂

  4. That’s a gorgeous looking tomato chutney! It’s so smooth. I usually see chunkier ones. Haven’t tried making my own.

  5. Sissi this looks so pretty and red! I make tomato chutney a lot and usually like to enjoy it with some meat on side… to be precise chicken 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kankana for this kind comment! I also have this chutney with chicken very often! I wonder what recipe you make… I will check on your blog!

  6. Hello!!
    My name is Michelle and I love food.
    I am new to the switzerland area, do you think you could recommend food blogs, restauratns, markets and all things YUMMm for me?
    I’m so lost….

    Thank you – specifically, nyon, geneva, lausanne… and anything else worth travelling to!!


  7. I did make this chutney with the apple vinegar…really yummy! A thousand times nicer than ketchup! thanks for sharing the recipe…I am really pleased with it…We made some Semolina Idlis (steamed semolina cakes)…Oh! they went down really well with the whole family…

    Looking forward to your next yummy chutney/ preserve….


    1. My chutney recipe made by Shilpa??? I am so flattered! It’s a huge pleasure to learn you have enjoyed it! I have never tried semolina cakes, but I imagine them soft and delicious. Thanks to your message my day started with a big smile 🙂

  8. Hi Sissi! Thank you for sharing your Tomato Chutney recipe. That is so beautiful and your shot of that jar. My goodness, I almost want to dip my finger in it to taste it! But of course that will be rude; I’ll use a spoon instead. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for the compliments, Ray. I would love to be able to share with everyone not only the images, but the taste of what I make…

    1. 500 ml, 600 ml, 700 ml…. It’s very difficult to say since it depends on several factors: the quality of the tomatoes, the variety (more or less watery) and the consistency you want to obtain (more like a sauce or like a thick chutney). It also depends on how much sugar you have to add (if the tomatoes are sweet or very acid), how long you cook the chutney (vinegar evaporates). I obtained this time about 500 ml only.

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