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What is Chutney?

Paulla Estes
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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 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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Paulla Estes
By Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Paulla appreciates the flexibility and consistency that comes with contributing to DelightedCooking. She relishes the opportunity to continuously learn new things while crafting informative and engaging articles for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon992828 — On Oct 06, 2015

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

By anon233584 — On Dec 08, 2011

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

By anon231089 — On Nov 22, 2011

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.)

By anon212744 — On Sep 08, 2011

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

By anon170531 — On Apr 26, 2011

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.

By anon152468 — On Feb 14, 2011

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.

By anon146173 — On Jan 25, 2011

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

By anon128251 — On Nov 18, 2010

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.

By anon122332 — On Oct 27, 2010

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.

By anon86059 — On May 23, 2010

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

By anon69452 — On Mar 08, 2010

Why does chutney contain so much sodium?

By anon60344 — On Jan 13, 2010

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?

By anon39694 — On Aug 03, 2009

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.

By anon21768 — On Nov 21, 2008

What is the typical "Shelf Life" of Chutney?

By olittlewood — On Jan 25, 2008

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

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George...
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