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Neela's Tomato Chutney

Juana Martinez-Neal / Tomatoes for Neela


  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger (2-inch piece)
  • 2 dozen fresh curry leaves, torn into rough bits (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chef notes

    This simple chutney gives a zing to any meal. Use it like ketchup or a mild hot sauce. It's great with eggs and toast, on a hot dog or spread onto a grilled cheese sandwich before heating (or to dip in after). Use with tortilla chips in place of salsa, or to make nachos. Use it in a quesadilla. Serve with rice pilaf. Stir it into hot plain rice with ghee or a pat of butter. Spoon it over grilled chicken, fish or steak. The possibilities are endless.

    Technique tip: This chutney is also a great base for a gravied curry with mixed vegetables, pulses, lentils or any meat. Just add some good curry powder like garam masala or Madras sambar powder and do cut the simmering time so it's looser and more sauce-like to do so.



    Heat the oil in a deep skillet on medium heat. When hot, lower the heat slightly and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Sauté. Be careful, as the mustard seeds will pop out of the pan when they get hot!


    When the mustard seeds start popping, quickly add the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir often and sauté until the onions are glassy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Now add the curry leaves (if you choose), turmeric and cayenne. Cook together for another 2 to 3 minutes, mixing well.


    Add the tomatoes in carefully and stir well. Once the tomatoes start to break down (6 to 8 minutes), add 1/2 cup water and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon) and stir. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Let it cook, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in a bit more water if it sticks, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. You want a loose, jammy consistency at the end. Taste it. Does it need anything?


    Now it should be tangy. Adjust salt or add sugar only if needed, one pinch at a time. Add black pepper and additional cayenne to taste. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in a tight glass container or jar in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.