What is Chutney?

Paulla Estes

Chutney is similar in consistency to jelly, salsa or relish, and is used as a sweet and sour condiment. Usually made fresh, it can contain a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices. The ingredients are mixed together and then simmered slowly. While chutney is primarily sweet and sour, there can also be many variations of spices, often giving it a hot and spicy flavor.

Mango chutney.
Mango chutney.

Originating in India, chutney was imported from India to Western Europe in the 17th century. European reproductions of this condiment were often called "mangoed" fruits and vegetables, as one of the most common fruits used in the making of sweet chutney is the mango.

Spoonful of chutney.
Spoonful of chutney.

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Like jams and jellies, chutney can be chunky or smooth. In India, spicy varieties are usually served with curry and often with cold meats and vegetables. Sweet chutney is a pleasant addition to bread or crackers and cheese, and can serve as a snack or small meal.

A dash of ground cloves can be added to chutneys.
A dash of ground cloves can be added to chutneys.

Some of the more popular ingredients for this condiment, in addition to mangoes, are limes, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, tomatoes, lemons and even coconuts. Additional spices may include cloves, garlic, cilantro, mustard, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, jalapenos, tamarind and mint. Chutney is so diverse that it can be made with only a few of these ingredients or several, to make a variety of flavors and styles.

Chutney originated in India.
Chutney originated in India.

Chutney is usually eaten fresh in its native India, but as it has been westernized, like many things, it is mass-produced and can be bought in nearly any supermarket in the western world. In the United States and Britain, offering chutney as a condiment is becoming nearly as popular as jam, relish and even ketchup. It can be served at a formal dinner as a condiment for a fancy meal, or at a casual picnic with tortilla chips or crackers. Whatever the occasion, it provides a tasty, sweet and sour treat that is sure to please.

Plums can be used to make chutney.
Plums can be used to make chutney.
Ginger might be used in chutney.
Ginger might be used in chutney.
Chutney spices may include mustard.
Chutney spices may include mustard.
Apricots are a popular ingredient in chutney.
Apricots are a popular ingredient in chutney.
Coconut chutney is a popular breakfast food in South India.
Coconut chutney is a popular breakfast food in South India.
Apples can be used to make chutney.
Apples can be used to make chutney.
Mango and other fruit chutneys are often used to add sweetness to fiery Indian curries.
Mango and other fruit chutneys are often used to add sweetness to fiery Indian curries.
Peaches can be used in chutney.
Peaches can be used in chutney.
Lemons are often included in chutney.
Lemons are often included in chutney.
Mint is often used to add flavor to chutney.
Mint is often used to add flavor to chutney.
Coconuts are sometimes used in making chutney.
Coconuts are sometimes used in making chutney.
Cilantro is often mixed into chutneys.
Cilantro is often mixed into chutneys.
Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.
Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.
Garlic may be used in chutney.
Garlic may be used in chutney.

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Discussion Comments

anon992828

How long might chutney be safe if left out in the open?

anon233584

No proper info given about chutney. I am an Indian and I know about chutney. Chutney does not have vinegar.

anon231089

Brilliant description! It mostly refers to Western style chutneys i.e., fruit based savory jams (jam with vinegar and savory elements like onions or mustard seed).

The only thing I would add is that these Western chutneys tend to be cooked, as opposed to the South Asian chutneys which tend to be freshly prepared.

So fruit salsas don't fit the definition of chutney because they aren't cooked and are not fruit based (though tomatoes are technically fruit, but whatever.)

anon212744

Do you mix chutney with the Indian dishes, or eat it separately? If you mix it, with which ones?

anon170531

fruit? sugar? I'm south indian and I've never had chutney that tastes sweet with fruit and sugar, unless it's tomatoes but tomatoes aren't sweet anyway. Chutney is usually made out of onions, tomatoes, garlic, coconuts, ginger, herbs, or peanuts with spices and oil.

anon152468

Western chutneys are cooked, and include sugar and vinegar. The shelf life (best buy) date for most cooked chutneys is two years but if unopened jarred chutney can last for literally decades like a fine wine! Chutney is sugar vinegar and fruit whereas Relish is sugar vinegar and vegetables. Salsa generally does not include sugar or too much vinegar.

anon146173

You got it all wrong. Chutney does not have vinegar.

anon128251

Authentic Chutneys in South India are made with fresh ingredients usually (coconut, peanuts, tomato, ginger etc) and are tempered with a little hot oil containing dahls, mustard seeds and curry leaves.

anon122332

Chutneys (the western versions) can include pickled and non-pickled versions, but in India, chutneys usually refer to a freshly ground mixture of herbs/fruits/fish/nuts that do not have a very long shelf life. In the West, it refers to what in India is "achar" (or pickled fruits/vegetables/herbs).

The pickling process requires salts, vinegar, or other sour agents as preservatives. However, they are only supposed to be used sparingly on the side for flavor, so the sodium content should not be a big worry.

anon86059

high sodium content is so that it wouldn't go bad!

anon69452

Why does chutney contain so much sodium?

anon60344

the ingredients in chutney are cranberries, sugar, apples, grapes, oranges and raisins. I made it back in december and it has been refrigerated since. Is it still good?

anon39694

The vinegar in chutney lets it be stored indefinitely if canned, and the cooking process releases pectin giving it a jelly-like texture which makes it different from fruit salsa.

anon21768

What is the typical "Shelf Life" of Chutney?

olittlewood

from this description, it sounds like some fruit salsas can be called chutney. what's the difference?

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