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What Is the Difference between Relish and Chutney?

Caitlynn Lowe
Caitlynn Lowe

Relish and chutney are very similar condiments and the terms are often used interchangeably, but some general differences do exist. Chutneys are cooked longer than most relishes are. As a result, the texture and consistency of the two condiments tends to vary. Most chutneys are also sweeter than most relishes, but the taste of a chutney can be spicy or sour, as well. The biggest difference between relish and chutney, however, is where the two condiments originated.

In some senses, chutney is simply a type of relish with roots and flavors based in Indian cuisine. Both relish and chutney are condiments made from small pieces of fruits or vegetables mixed with spices and other flavors. Relish is a general term for all such condiments and appears throughout various western cuisines, but chutney, a derivative of the Hindi word chatni, dates back to 15th century Eastern India. Chutney only came to western cuisine in the 17th century when it was first shipped to Britain and France.

Mango chutney.
Mango chutney.

Relishes are cooked for a brief amount of time. Chutneys, on the other hand, can either be served fresh or slow-cooked. Traditional Indian chutneys are more likely to be served fresh, while western versions are generally cooked over low heat for an extended period of time. Most commercially-sold chutneys are also made using the slow-cook method, since traditional Indian chutneys are usually prepared without preservatives and are meant for immediate consumption.

Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.
Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.

Both relish and chutney contain small pieces of fruits or vegetables in an acidic, sour liquid, but the texture of these pieces often varies, as does the consistency of the liquid. Most homemade and commercial relishes have crisp, crunchy pieces. If a homemade chutney is fresh, it may also consist of crunchy pieces, but slow-cooked chutneys are softer. Relishes also have a more fluid, liquid consistency, while most chutneys are as chunky and spreadable as a jam or other preserve.

Peanut chutney with rice cakes.
Peanut chutney with rice cakes.

Taste is a relatively inconsistent way to tell the two condiments apart. Relish and chutney both have an undertone of sourness, primarily because most recipes for both condiments include some type of tangy liquid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Most chutneys include more sugar than relishes, and as a result, many automatically assume that any chutney will be sweeter than any relish. Some relishes are actually sweet, however, just as some chutneys can be spicy or savory.

Traditional chutneys were actually very tangy, but after Britain and other western cultures brought chutney into their own cuisines, the condiment took on a notably sweeter taste. Even westernized, modern day versions of chutney still include traces of Indian flavors, however. Individuals making chutney typically include spices native to India, including but not limited to ginger, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, chili pepper, tamarind, nutmeg, and allspice. The combination of these spices determines whether a chutney will taste savory, sour, sweet, or spicy. Relishes, by contrast, contain far fewer spices and are generally either tangy or mildly sweet.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- Yes, I think that we could say that a chutney is a type of relish. In terms of Western cuisine though, most relishes tend to be made from pickled foods like pickled cucumbers. And I haven't come across many fruit based relishes, but lots of fruit based chutneys. Same when it comes to sweetness and spice, they are more attributable to chutneys.

Some say that chutneys are smoother, while others say that relishes are, but I've had both types. A lot of this also depends on the recipe and which region the chutney or relish is made in.

I used to have an Indian roommate back in college. And her mother would send her the best mango chutneys, jars and jars of them we had in our fridge and we ate every last bit. Her chutneys were thick and chunky, sweet and savory at the same time. They were the best.


Not all chutneys are cooked for a long time, or cooked at all really. I've had chutney before which was basically just fresh mint and yogurt I believe. It was a lot of ground fresh mint and some plain yogurt to give it a creamy consistency. It was served with spicy snacks.


I think I would say that a relish is usually a more basic, less spicy condiment than chutney. I also think that there are more chutney varieties than there are relishes but I could be wrong.

When it comes to daily use of the terms though, most people use them interchangeably. And chutney itself is defined as a traditional Indian "relish." So there you go.

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    • Mango chutney.
      Mango chutney.
    • Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.
      By: manyakotic
      Plum chutney is a popular sweet and spicy condiment.
    • Peanut chutney with rice cakes.
      By: paul_brighton
      Peanut chutney with rice cakes.