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I was out last night at a friend's house, they served what I would call chutney. I said, "This chutney is amazing". To which they replied, "Do you mean the relish?"

Awkward!

What is the difference between a chutney and a relish?

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Chutney is wonderful, lively, smooth, soothing. Relish is pretenseful, soggy, dead and intrusive. –  Blessed Geek Oct 11 '12 at 4:40
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Pretenseful - what a pretentious word ;) –  ElendilTheTall Oct 11 '12 at 8:18
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6 Answers

First, let me sympathise with your excruciating social predicament. However, it really was avoidable, since you are both correct. While there is no official ruling on the matter, it is reasonable to say that a chutney is a type of relish.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a relish (in the sense of a foodstuff) thuswise:

orig. U.S. A piquant or spicy condiment eaten with food to add flavour; spec. a sauce made of chopped pickled vegetables.

and a chutney:

A strong hot relish or condiment compounded of ripe fruits, acids, or sour herbs, and flavoured with chillies, spices, etc.

So a chutney is a specific type of relish. If I might be permitted to add a personal slant to proceedings, in my experience they are usually a thicker, sweeter, jammier affair involving fruit of some kind, whereas a relish is more savoury.

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What I ate was more savoury so I thought "Chutney". When I've had relish it's been less chunky and sweeter, but you say relish is sweeter? Does the tomato content of relish constitute "fruit"? What do you mean by "jammier". –  Coomie Oct 11 '12 at 8:55
    
In my experience chutney is sweeter, thicker and thus more like a jam. When I think 'chutney' my first thought is 'mango chutney', which is really a spiced mango jam. A relish is usually more savoury, often including onion, but is often sweet as well. –  ElendilTheTall Oct 11 '12 at 11:44
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I read this answer with relish. –  Sobachatina Oct 11 '12 at 12:38
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@Sobachatina I suggest you get your jacket and leave. Now. –  ElendilTheTall Oct 11 '12 at 13:18
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@Elendil- Can't you take a condiment? You don't have to chut me down like that! It's seems like your sense of humor has gone sour- pickled even. –  Sobachatina Oct 11 '12 at 14:57
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It depends on what cuisine it is, though all chutneys and relishes are used as condiments/sides. In European cuisine, chutneys tend to be jammier and involve fruit of some kind. Relishes, like Elendil mentions, are usually made from pickled vegetables. As far as I have experienced, the chutney moniker is used when non traditional ingredients are involved Mango chutney, ginger mint chutney) whereas a relish is used when it is made from slightly more familiar ingredients like dill, cucumber etc (This is with regard to non Indian cuisine).

In Indian cuisine (which is where the chutney moniker originated from), chutneys are thinner and are almost always savory, even when they involve a fruit(eg., mango chutney will have chillies and salt in it). Indian chutneys involve herbs and chillies and sometimes even nuts/lentils. The texture difference comes from the fact that it is usually blended/pureed and usually water based. But then again, you would not have landed in this situation if the meal was Indian, as there is no concept of a relish there.

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Chutneys are lumpier (example: Branston pickle) than relishes, which are much smoother and more finely chopped, in my experience.

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Chutney is fruit based and has a spicy complexity. Relish is vegetable based and has a pickled profile.

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But what about spicy relishes? And non-pickled relishes (frequently corn relish)? –  sourd'oh Dec 23 '13 at 15:17
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Years ago I worked in a Pickle factory and we made Chow Chow and Picalilli (both NZ relish/Chutneys). When a "cook up" was done the cooking vat was wheeled into us in the bottling plant. We were given a pile of Chow Chow Labels and a pile of Picalilli labels. When we ran out of one we used the other labels. SO no difference. Can I suggest you just call it what you want and enjoy it all

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Very interesting information. I still don't find it completely unambigous - it could be that there really is no difference, or that you had the misfortune to work at a place so bad that it did not know or care... For example, I have been served starch pudding with a few shavings of chocolate on top when I ordered creme brulee at what Tripadvisor claimed to be the best restaurant in a 200 000 city, and own a cookbook with a "waffle" recipe which is in fact a cookie recipe, so such situations seem to crop within the industry now and then. –  rumtscho Jan 20 at 19:30
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Chutney is more spicy and sweeter than relish, which tends to be less "exciting" or "overpowering" in flavour. Both have their place in variety of nice meals. :)

At all times it is safe to call chutney a relish - relish is a more universal term. Stick to it if unsure.

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