What Is Red Chutney?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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Traditionally, cooks use red chutney, which is an Indian condiment, to flavor bland foods like rice or legume dishes, such as dal. English cooks make a milder, sweeter version of the spicy Indian chutney. Customarily, red chutney contains red chilies, red bell peppers, or tomatoes. It is common for cooks in southern India to add coconut to the chutney. Tomato-based chutneys are popular throughout India and England.

Chutney, which may be spelled chatni, chutni, or chutnee, is a spicy condiment of vegetables and fruits ground into a paste. Conventional cooks use a mortar-and-pestle style stone to grind the chutney, but modern cooks use electrical appliances, such as food processors or blenders. Whether a person grinds it to a fine paste or leaves it chunkier is a personal preference, though traditionally it was ground to a fine paste. Many people compare it to salsa.

Often the red chutney is a cooked chutney, unlike the green chutney that is made with fresh vegetables and served raw. Whereas the English cook many of their chutneys, the Indian cooks usually do not. The red chutney is an exception to the rule. It is common to sauté the tomatoes or red bell peppers with additives, such as garlic and onion, before grinding it with fresh vegetables. Usually, red chutney contains red chili peppers that give it a spicy flavor.


Indian cooks use fresh red chilies or dried red chilies. The dried chilies need to be soaked in water to rehydrate them. This may take up to four hours, so a cook should plan ahead when using them.

Other chutney ingredients include ginger, garlic, and tamarind paste. Normally, chutneys contain an acid, such as lemon juice, to preserve the flavor and color. Other additives include coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Many recipes include urud dal, or split black lentils, as a seasoning. Each family has a favorite combination of vegetables and seasonings that is passed down through the generations.

Most people eat red chutney with bland foods, such as rice, beans, and fried breads called roti. Often people serve it with mild-flavored meats, such as chicken and fish. There are many recipes available at recipe websites. Several food authors have written cookbooks with Indian and English chutneys, including books devoted to chutney recipes. Many of the recipes list food items that Indian grocery stores carry, although many larger grocery stores may carry them in their ethnic food sections.


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Post 3

@SteamLouis-- My family originates from the South of India and we call it "kaara chutney." I'm not sure what it's called in North India though. I think the South Indian version is fairly different from the North Indian.

My mom makes hers with a little bit of chana dal (baby chickpeas) and urad dal (black gram lentils) and of course, onion, chili and tomatoes. We also add coconut in ours like the article said, along with curry and mustard seeds. Because of the lentils, my mom's red chutney is not as red as some others I have seen, but very delicious.

We usually eat it with idli or dosa, but I also eat it sometimes with plain rice or roti. It's rich so it is a meal on its own for us. Most people think of chutney as a relish or condiment but South Indian red chutney is more like a dish or side dish.

Post 2

Does anyone know the Indian name for red chutney? In the UK, I've always heard it referred to as red chutney. But there must be an Indian name for it.

Post 1

I had dosa at a South Indian restaurant yesterday. Dosa is a thin pancake made from ground lentils and flour I believe. It's thin but large and it was served with spicy cooked potatoes. We were also served three chutneys with it, one of which was red chutney. I think it was made from tomatoes and a lot of red chili peppers because it was quite hot. At first, I thought that it was too hot for me but when I alternated with the other two chutneys which weren't spicy, it actually worked perfectly.

The second chutney was coconut chutney, the third was peanut chutney. The nutty flavor of the peanut chutney and the sweet coconut chutney countered the red chutney very well. I ended up finished all three chutneys. I think I will be back there for another dosa soon. Overall, it was a light but very flavorful meal.

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