This homemade sweet & sour tomato chutney is a tribute to the outgoing season of tomatoes. Autumn is around the corner and I am surely going to miss the sun-kissed vine-ripened tomatoes in my CSA share. So I decided to make this sweet & sour chutney–another recipe from my mom’s kitchen. Chutneys and sauces are an important part of Indian meals. Their spice-infused complex flavors can enliven an otherwise bland meal. And that’s exactly how my mom tricked us into eating meals that growing up did not seem very appealing; mainly, plain rice and daal (lentils) and khichdi. Indian chefs (at least) of my mom’s generation never bought pre-packaged chutneys or sauces (other than ketchup), a practice that ensured purity of ingredients even in condiments. Yes, in the food store aisles, condiments like sauces, dips, and dressings pack a lot of processed and unnecessary ingredients including chemicals and (excess of) salt, fat, and sugar. This homemade sweet & sour tomato chutney relies on taste-boosting spices to bring intense flavor.
Let’s start with tomatoes. I usually make this chutney during the CSA tomato season, when I can find truly fresh tomatoes.You can also use canned/jarred diced tomatoes (preferably organic in BPA-free cans). If using fresh tomatoes, it’s best to peel and deseed the tomatoes; otherwise peel/seeds show up in every bite.
This sweet and sour tomato chutney uses a combination of whole and ground spices. My mom uses whole cumin seeds, but my sister Monika suggested adding panch phoron (Indian five-spice blend that includes five whole spices: cumin, brown mustard seeds, kalonji (nigella seeds), fennel, and fenugreek seeds.) Well, I did not have nigella seeds at home, so I went ahead with the rest. If you don’t have whole spices, then just use cumin powder and garam masala, which is available in most grocery stores in the U.S. ( I have given this variation in the recipe notes below).
To add sweetness, I have used ground gud (jaggery–an unprocessed form of sugar) and readily available in Indian stores. You can also sub jaggery with brown sugar. I have also included a date syrup variation in the recipe below.
If you are using whole spices, it is important to talk about the tempering (tadka or chowk) process. I am going to dedicate one whole blog post soon to this topic, but in short when you use whole spices, they need to be cooked in a medium (usually oil or ghee) before you add any other ingredient. Without the tempering process, spices taste raw in the finished recipe. If avoiding fat, you can also pre-roast spices. Some of that process I have discussed in Homemade Roasted Ground Cumin.
- This tomato chutney is an excellent side dish to spice up a main meal like rice & daal (lentils). It tastes pretty good with daal/chapati (Indian bread) combination as well.
- This homemade sweet & sour tomato chutney is a perfect accompaniment to crackers or sourdough bread at snack time.
This gluten-free and vegan sweet & sour chutney recipe comes from my Indian roots. This chutney makes a great side with main meals, i.e. lentil/rice/chapati or a great dip for crackers or bread.
- 2 cups (360g) tomatoes (preferably peeled and deseeded, can sub with 1, 14.5 oz of diced canned tomatoes)
- 1 tsp avocado oil (or any other)
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (whole)
- 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper* (sub with red chili powder)
- 1 tsp green chili** (sub with jalapeno pepper, minced)
- 1 tsp ginger (fresh, grated)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp sea salt*** (or any other)
- 2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp jaggery (powdered, can sub with brown sugar)
Heat oil in a heavy-bottom pan for tempering whole spices. To check if the oil is hot enough, add a couple of cumin or mustard seeds. If the seeds start to sputter, the oil is at the right tempering temperature (please make sure not to smoke the oil). Add cumin, mustard seeds, and fennel sees and let them sputter for a few seconds****.
Once the whole-spice sputtering slows down (please make sure not to burn the spices), add grated ginger, coriander powder, green chilies, and turmeric. Stir for a few seconds.
Add the peeled, deseeded tomatoes and salt. Stir and let it cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add water and let the mixture cook for another 15 minutes or till tomatoes are cooked through. Add the powdered jaggery and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and turn off heat. Enjoy!
*increase or decrease the amount of cayenne pepper per your taste
**increase or omit per taste
***add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp salt more if needed
****be ready with a lid to avoid the scattering of seeds out of pan.
If you don't have whole spices like cumin, mustard, or fennel seeds then tempering process is not necessary. Heat the oil add 1/2 tsp ground cumin , 1/2 tsp coriander powder (optional). Add 1/2 tsp garam masala 2-3 minutes before turning off the heat.
Variation #2: using date syrup instead of jaggery
I also tried the recipe with 2 tbsp of date syrup instead of jaggery. The recipe still tasted good, but different and came out darker in color.
Make it Low-sodium
If avoiding salt, either reduce salt to 1/8 tsp or omit it all together. This chutney is quite flavorful even without adding any salt.