Chutney is foreign to my culture and the food i grew up with. Thus, the lack of sophistication and familiarity with chutney. So please forgive my misunderstanding. I often hear the buzzword on food cooking shows.

I'm curious as to what are the technical requirements of a chutney. What is and what isn't chutney? Also (correct me if i'm wrong), what is chutney and why is it often paired with other foods?

  • Related : (US official distinction) cooking.stackexchange.com/a/3027/67 ; although as Jefromi points out, chutney can be more sauce-like than jam-like as well.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 13:45

6 Answers 6


Basically, a chutney is a kind of savoury jam. This is a very simplistic definition though. The main differences between jam and chutney are as follows:

  • The preservation in jam is only by sugar. In chutney, vinegar and sugar are used together, so chutneys are not necessarily sweet.
  • Jam is almost always made with fruit as the main ingredient. In chutney,fruit can be used, but so can vegetables. Also, chutneys tend to be a mix of more than one thing. For example, an apple chutney will have plenty of apples, but also swede and onion in it.
  • Jams usually do not add other flavours to the fruit and sugar (pectin is for texture). Chutneys are usually flavoured with several spices, as well as chili peppers, onions and garlic.

In the Indian subcontinent, chutneys are served along with the meal in small amounts, as a condiment to add to the meal. They are usually eaten with the blander side/starter dishes like pakoras or samosas, rather than with the spicy and flavourful main dishes.

In the rest of the former British Empire, and particularly in England, it is eaten on bread, with butter or cheese, in a similar way to jam or pickle. Note that what the English call pickle is also a sort of savoury jam, not pickled cucumbers like in America.

  • 6
    I've definitely had chutneys that were nothing like a jam, savory or not. Green (hari) chutney for instance is a thin liquid, more like an Argentine chimichurri or Italian salsa verde. It isn't cooked at all. There's also yogurt chutney, which is just spiced yogurt. Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 15:05
  • 3
    @AdamJaskiewicz: I tend to agree: a definition in terms of differences from jam is incomplete, and not the most helpful. (It tends to bias you toward the Westernized ones.)
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 18:30

Chutney is a fairly generic term, so your confusion isn't too surprising - the definition may also vary from region to region, and it's a loanword. It's generally defined as a condiment consisting of some combination of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and/or spices. (So by definition, it's intended to be paired with other foods.) This means they're usually fairly flavorful, so that a smaller quantity can complement something.They could be chunky, finely chopped, or smooth; they often have enough liquids to be wet (no air in them), but are sometimes dry; in English at least they can be either fresh or pickled.

Since the word and food come from South Asian cuisine (particularly in what's now India), the term is most commonly applied to condiments referred to as chutneys there, or ones which are somehow similar to those. Since the word has been adopted into English, I'm sure there's starting to be some drift in the meaning; if you hear it used on a contemporary American cooking show, you probably can't count on much more than it being some sort of flavorful condiment, possibly Indian-inspired but possibly not.


Chutney is a blend of ...things, with quite a sharp taste. It can be sweet(tamarind) or savory(chilly), cooked(mango) or uncooked(chilly). Generally its a mash of spices and herbs (common ingredients being green mint, green/dry coriander, red/green chillies, garlic). Sometimes thin yogurt may be added.

Some chutneys can be cooked, like chutney made of tomatoes(savory), or raw mangoes(sweet).


chutney is an indian cuisine where it consists of spices and other condiments such as vegetables or fruits. Chutneys may be either wet or dry, and they can have a coarse to a fine texture. It is similar to be eaten instead of pickle.

chutneys were ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone . Nowadays, electric blenders or food processors can be used as labor saving alternatives to the traditional stone utensils. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; the wet paste thus made is sauteed in vegetable oil, usually gingely or peanut (groundnut) oil.


In my experience, it's pretty broad. They're condiments served with Indian or other South Asian cuisine. Usually served on the side to be added to taste, rather than sauces that are served over food. Most that I have had are sweet, spicy, and/or tart, and can range from thick pastes to fairly thin sauces. There's many many different kinds of chutney from various areas of the Indian subcontinent, as well as Anglicized chutneys such as Major Grey's which tend to be quite sweet.


I grew up in India. There can be some variations invented outside India. But in Indian context,Chutneys are far different than jam.

They are used as a side dish complimenting the main course. And usually had in small amount , served on the (left) side of the dish.

They are almost always spicy. Chilli or chilli powder is one of the main ingredient in chutneys. Adding sugar is optional and amount is very little if added. We usually do not use vinegar too.

Chutneys can come in different flavours, made using cilantro/mint/lentils/tomatoes/sometimes some fruits etc. Chutneys can be wet or dry.Wet chutneys can be seen as close to Salsa/dip.

There is another dish that can be on sour/sweet side made using fruits but we do not call it chutney.

@AdamJaskiewicz is right. (I could not add it as a comment due to lack of reputation.)

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