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What Is Tkemali?

By Rachael Cullins
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tkemali is a type of plum-based sauce from the country of Georgia. It is prepared using various plums. The types of plums used affect the taste of the final sauce, which can range from sweet to very tart. Tkemali is used in Eastern countries much like ketchup is used in Western countries. It is also known as Georgian pickled plum sauce.

The sauce is a staple of Georgian cuisine and reflects the country’s tendency to use a variety of natural, healthy herbs and spices in cooking. Red plums are used in traditional tkemali sauce, although green plums can be used as well, depending on taste preference. The plums are boiled in water to release their skins, pitted, and then simmered again in boiling water until very soft. Most recipes combine lemon juice or wine, olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, salt, dill, and cilantro with the plums, though other spices such as coriander, paprika, mint, or fennel seed, can also be added. After simmering in a saucepan, the mixture is then combined in a food processor and can be refrigerated or bottled for later use.

In traditional Georgian recipes, plums from the local tkemali tree are used to make this sauce, but other varieties of plums may be easily substituted for wild Georgian plums. The sauce is used to top a variety of dishes, including meat, fish, and poultry. It is relatively easy to make at home but can also be purchased at grocery stores in Eastern countries and may be found at some international supermarkets or through online retailers. Recipes can be found on many websites. Most versions of the sauce are sour, but sweeter plums can be used to lessen the tart taste of tkemali.

The sauce is often served during traditional Georgian feasts, which feature numerous regional dishes. Each area of Georgia has its own specialty dishes, but tkemali is generally used throughout the country and in other countries near Russia. The popularity of the sauce likely spread throughout other Eastern countries following the Georgians’ immigration to other former Soviet nations, and Russian eating establishments often have Georgian items on their menus. Other popular sauces in Georgia include adjika, a spicy paste and satsivi, a walnut sauce. Georgian cuisine is made using fresh ingredients and often features a variety of vegetarian-friendly dishes.

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