What is Chutney?

Chutney, pronounced “chuht-nee”, refers to a family of condiments from South Asian cuisine, and just like salsa in this country, there is no right or wrong recipe – just a preferred flavor or two. While Chutneys are most often associated with India they’re also popular in Africa and the Caribbean islands. Chutneys are served with almost every meal in India, especially with curries, but also as sauces for hot dishes (typically meats). They can be fresh or cooked, and are made from a wide variety of ingredients usually from some concoction of fruits and/ or vegetables and spices. They range in flavor from sweet or sour, spicy or mild, or any combination of these, while their texture can be thin or chunky.

Some compare chutneys to a relish and others to a jam. Chutney is most often used to balance a dish and may be on the sweet and tart side or provide a spicy and hot flavor.

To add to the confusion, many times chutney is also mistakenly called a relish (and vice versa) but there are subtle differences between the two. Relishes tend to be a bit sweeter, while Chutneys are more on the savory side. Chutneys are cooked slowly, are more likely to be chunkier and have a consistency that is much like preserves while relishes are barely cooked, rarely use any sugar and are crunchier. The best rule of thumb is to think of chutneys as pickled fruit and relishes as pickled vegetables.