Sweet Tomato Chutney with Pistachios and Raisins

That tomato is a fruit becomes obvious once you pair it with sugar or sweet ingredients. One of the main aromatic components of tomato, furaneol, is also called strawberry furanone by fragrance and flavor chemists, because it’s such an important note in the complex berry aroma. Incidentally, it’s one of the reasons behind difficulties with tomato accords in perfumery–they smell of red berries if there is even a modicum of sweetness in the formula. It’s therefore natural to treat tomato in much the same way as you would a fruit–cooking it into jams, combining it with sweet pastry or melting it down with vanilla and caramel for an ice cream sauce. Or you can make it into a sweet chutney to be served with grilled meat or rice dishes.

tomato chutney

Chutney is an Indian sauce that may be raw or cooked, and the ingredients run the gamut from fruits and vegetables to beans and nuts. I’m a chutney fiend. I firmly believe that a dollop of chutney makes anything better–a sandwich, a bowl of rice, a piece of grilled chicken. So do many Indians, because not only do they excel in coming up with the most unusual chutney combinations, they don’t hesitate in pairing them together. For instance, spicy green coriander chutney is often partnered with a sweet date one. As you dip crisp eggplant fritters first in one, then the other and experience the explosion of flavor, you understand how silly is the whole idea of “less is more.”

Chutney is an obvious choice for a dish that highlights the sweet, fruity notes of late summer tomatoes. My recipe makes a thick jam-like sauce, but it’s bright and sharp like a pickle. This sweet and sour combination is addictive, but the best part is that the spicing of this recipe coaxes much flavor out of tomatoes, even if you’re starting with lackluster produce.

tomato chutney 1atomato chutney1b

Cinnamon adds sweetness, while cardamom and ginger provide a zesty top note. Fennel is a perfect spice to pair with tomatoes; it makes even the greenhouse variety more perfumed. Finally, turmeric deepens the color and adds a velvety, earthy accent. I often sprinkle it into classical Italian tomato sauces for an additional–and intriguing–layer of flavor.

I gild the lily by adding raisins, cashews and pistachios. Raisins give more sweetness and allow me to cut down on sugar in the recipe, while the nuts are for texture and color. Few things are as attractive as the combination of red and pistachio green. I see no reason to be a minimalist here. That’s not the point of chutney.

tomato chutney 2atomato chutney2b

The proportions are flexible, and you can vary them to taste. The only part of the recipe to be careful about is when you fry the spices. You want to unlock their aromas in hot oil without singeing them. Turmeric especially is prone to burning and turning bitter, so when you add it to the pan, stir the contents well and keep the heat at medium. Overall, the recipe is simple.

tomato chutney 3

In India chutney appears on your plate next to pickles and flatbreads. I extrapolate on this idea by smearing it on bread and topping the sweet-and-tangy layer with Cheddar or goat cheese. Roast turkey is much improved by chutney, and fish like salmon or mackerel stand up well to its bold flavors.

Sweet Tomato Chutney with Pistachios and Raisins

1 lb (500g) tomatoes
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 2″ stick of cinnamon
3 cardamom pods, cracked
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, minced
1 hot red chili pepper, minced (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons (25g) apple cider or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tablespoons pistachios, whole
2 Tablespoons cashews, roughly chopped

Peel tomatoes by cutting a small cross on the top of each tomato. Place tomatoes into a sieve and pour boiling water over them. The skin should come off easily. If the seeds are bitter, then remove them but save the juice. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy, nonreactive pot over medium heat. Add spices and toss them in oil until the cardamom pods swell, about 1 minute. Add turmeric powder, minced ginger, minced chili pepper and mix everything well, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes and toss them in the spicy oil. Cook till tomatoes start to reduce, about 10 minutes. Add salt, sugar and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add vinegar, raisins and nuts. Reduce the heat and simmer without a cover, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Cook until the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 10 minutes.

tomato chutney-ready

Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

Cool. Ladle into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Chutney will keep for about a month.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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63 Comments

  • Karen: Oh boy, does this sound delicious! Perfect timing as tomatoes are falling off the vines waiting for a new recipe! Thanks Victoria, another treasure! September 4, 2015 at 7:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Our market still has tomatoes, so I can’t resist to buy more even though I already have a whole basket at home. Tomato is easily one of my favorite foods, and I often have a simple tomato toast inspired by Catalan Pa amb tomaquet for breakfast–grilled bread rubbed with tomato, salt, olive oil. September 4, 2015 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Sandra: My mother in law makes mango and apple chutney- it’s my favorite September 4, 2015 at 7:26am Reply

    • Lisa: I’ve yet tried cooked mango-but it must be yummy. September 4, 2015 at 11:26am Reply

      • Victoria: It tastes less piney than raw mango and it has an apricot flavor too. The texture of cooked mango is wonderful too, because it becomes velvety. September 4, 2015 at 3:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: The combination sounds so good. September 4, 2015 at 3:02pm Reply

  • rosarita: That looks absolutely delicious! I am up to my ears in tomatoes right now and we have a new Indian food section in my favorite natural foods shop, so I will be making this over the weekend. Thanks, V! I have much enjoyed your recipes over the years 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 7:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you! I was speaking with my grandmother, and she also mentioned that this year the tomato harvest has overwhelmed her. When I called she was making tomato juice and adzhika, hot tomato and pepper paste.

      Of course, if you can’t find some spices, you can always substitute or just do without. Even just tomatoes and ginger would be delicious. September 4, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Qwendy: I have been wondering what to do with the end of the tomato bounty we have had at the markets this summer, what a perfect idea, thanks so much! My personal motto has always been More is More! Happy to be in this club with you 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 10:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you like it, Wendy!
      As much as I enjoy a nice ripe tomato eaten out of hand or in a simple salad, there is something to be said about embellishments. Plus, one can have it both ways, right? 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 3:11pm Reply

  • Barbara: I love your recipes, Victoria. 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 10:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Barbara! September 4, 2015 at 3:11pm Reply

  • Eric: I often add fennel to tomato sauce, because my partner and I noticed that it makes them taste sweeter. September 4, 2015 at 11:14am Reply

    • Victoria: It really does. Do you use seeds or fronds? September 4, 2015 at 3:11pm Reply

      • Eric: Fronds, whatever I cut off the bulb. My partner is Italian and he doesn’t understand why American stores don’t see fennel with more greens. Greens pack a punch. September 4, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: They really do! Italian and Greek cuisine do so many wonderful things with fennel fronds, and it’s a shame that ours don’t include them. Here, fennel bulbs barely contain any fronds at all. They already come pre-cleaned, which is a shame. September 4, 2015 at 3:34pm Reply

          • Eric: Even better is wild fennel. My partner’s mother made a sort of pesto with it. Almonds, garlic and parmigiano went in too. September 4, 2015 at 4:01pm Reply

            • Eric: And olive oil, naturalmente. September 4, 2015 at 4:02pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’m now hungry, even though I had dinner not long ago. 🙂

              I remember that in one of her cookbooks Paula Wolfert mentions approximating wild fennel with a mixture of fennel fronds (cultivated variety), dill and fennel seeds. September 4, 2015 at 4:11pm Reply

            • Aussiegirl: This sounds heavenly. I’m also going to make it. Do you eat it on pasta? September 5, 2015 at 2:17am Reply

            • Mer: I’m Mediterranean also and so miss fennel growing on path edges. I was always chewing a branch. September 6, 2015 at 4:08am Reply

              • Victoria: When you visit Sicily or anywhere in the Mediterranean where fennel grows, you realize how Prometheus might have brought fire in a fennel stalk. The wild plants are huge! September 6, 2015 at 5:07pm Reply

  • Lisa: Indian cooking intimidates me, but I enjoy your posts about it. I already made your cc powder and used it in salads and on fried eggs. Simple and tasty. September 4, 2015 at 11:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Indian cooking has a fair share of easy, “30 minute meals” recipes, but of course, unfamiliar ingredients might be an issue. On the other hand, once you get spices, you can cooking most dishes and experiment tweaking your familiar recipes.

      Fried eggs with the cc powder would be perfect. Thank you for an idea. September 4, 2015 at 3:14pm Reply

  • Rachel: Wishing everyone a great Labor Day weekend! We’re already at my MIL’s and ready to bbq and party tonight. 😀 This chutney would have gone perfectly with pork ribs DH doctored up. Well I’ll have to try it when we’re back home. September 4, 2015 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Rachel: PS I look forward to catching up with your blog, Victoria. We were doing home renovations, hectic and messy but for the best. I was smelling like wet plaster all summer long. September 4, 2015 at 12:09pm Reply

      • Victoria: Sounds like a major project! I can just imagine how something like that would take up all of your time. I’m happy to see you back, but I, of course, understand how life gets in the way. 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Have a wonderful break, Rachel! I’m envious of your barbecue and pork ribs. It’s already raining here, so it means that our grill is back in storage. Enjoy your delicious treats. 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: This looks absolutely delicious! My mother-in-law amazed me this summer by buying an Indian cookbook and asking me to make something for the family from it. I had never cooked an Indian meal in my life, and this northern German family is terminally spice-averse. I picked out something that I thought would be familiar enough to them: Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken). Everyone loved it! Indian cooking was much less difficult than I imagined it to be. September 4, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Which Indian cookbook did you get?

      Murgh Makhani is a classic, and I agree that it’s a great choice. Northern Indian cooking tends to be less spicy, and you can easily adapt the level of heat and spiciness to taste. I still remember cooking Indian food for my in-laws for the first time. I don’t recall which dishes I made, but I do remember making them a little extra spicy than what we normally would eat, figuring that my in-laws might find my food bland otherwise. Well, it was ok for us and slightly too hot for them (although my father-in-law loved it). 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 3:22pm Reply

      • Elizabeth: The book is called “Verführerische Indische Küche” (Translates into something like
        Tempting Indian Cuisine). My mother-in-law picked it up from her local bookstore. Based on the title, I was afraid it would be an Orientalist mess, but it was actually quite good, easy to follow, with lovely pictures and interesting recipes. They even had one for Lemon Pickle, which I love and need to make someday.

        This is the book: http://www.amazon.de/Verf%C3%BChrerische-Indische-K%C3%BCche-Parragon/dp/1474802915 September 4, 2015 at 4:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: I just looked at Amazon.de, and it does seem like a good book. The pictures of intermediate steps are helpful. This is something I love about German and Japanese cookbooks–clean design, thorough but non-fussy explanations and lots of step by step photos. September 4, 2015 at 4:14pm Reply

  • Elisa: I LOVE tomato chutney. I made a very simple one that is just tomatoes (fresh or canned both work), cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds (optional), jalapeño, ginger, a cinnamon stick and brown sugar. It’s hard to make enough! September 4, 2015 at 1:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can’t go wrong with this combination! Sounds wonderful too. I tend to think of spice flavors in terms of colors. Mustard and cumin are earthy colors for me, while for instance, cardamom is bright yellow. Your spiciness sounds lush and autumnal, a blend of ochre, sienna and carmine. September 4, 2015 at 3:24pm Reply

  • kayliz: Oh, gorgeous! Thank you for the recipe and also for the generalizable spice tips — I would never have thought of adding turmeric to a tomato sauce, but it sounds perfect. September 4, 2015 at 1:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: It really works well. I noticed my Indian family sneaking it into their tomato based dishes, so I started following suit. On its own turmeric tastes earthy, but it gives such a rich accent to tomato. Unfortunately, our tomatoes are rarely perfect, apart from these couple of weeks in the summer, so they need all the help they can get. September 4, 2015 at 3:31pm Reply

  • JJ: Thank you for the recipe and nice photos. I appreciate that your photos aren’t just pretty to look at but they show practical details. It’s helpful to know the size of mince or the doneness of sauce. I’ll make this chutney soon. September 4, 2015 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad to hear it! Of course, if you or anyone else need any clarifications on the recipe, do let me know in the comments. Writing recipes is much more difficult than I imagined. 🙂 September 4, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Lavanya: ooh- my mouth is watering! Bookmarking the recipe! My husband is a huge tomato chutney (pachchadi) fan and my mom in law has dozen different variations that she makes (a different one depending on whether it is going to be eaten with rice, dosa or idli)..I have to admit I can’t keep all the variations straight in my head. I must take the time to write them down.

    I love experimenting with chutneys too (recently have been loving red bell pepper chutney/sauce in everything) – like you I LOVE chutneys in sandwiches. One of my childhood memories is of my mom sneaking into the kitchen to make herself a sandwich with spicy tomato chutney and malai (cream). I wasn’t allowed to eat it as I was then too young to handle the heat. But my mouth waters now when I think of it (even though I am not really a fan of malai). September 4, 2015 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: In India, there seems to be a special chutney for every dish. 🙂 I love it, and I also can’t get enough of them. Green chutney is probably the one I make most often, since I always have herbs in the fridge. Plus, it goes well with so many foods.

      I have a recipe in one of my cookbooks for a Southern Indian style tomato pachchadi, and it’s so delicious. It includes yogurt (you saute tomatoes with spices and curry leaves and then tip the whole thing into yogurt), so I sometimes make it instead of raita. Is yours like this or like a cooked jam?

      Finally, a sandwich with spicy tomato chutney and cream made my mouth water when I read your comment last night. It sounds delicious. My grandmother makes tartines with sour cream, and I imagine some tomato chutney would be perfect with that. September 5, 2015 at 7:55am Reply

      • Lavanya: Hi V- The version my mil makes are all the chutney/cooked jam kind. This is called pacchadi in Telugu (Andhra Pradesh where my husband is from). When pickles/pacchadi are dunked in yogurt, the dish is called midisu (I sometimes mix mango pickles in yogurt to use as an accompaniment with Dosa)

        I’m (which basically means my family is :-)) from Tamil Nadu/Kerala. What *we* call pacchadi is the raita kind of dish. So what you describe is probably the Tamil pacchadi also called thayyir (yogurt) pacchadi. These are yummy and are among my childhood favorites. The okra version especially is one of my favorites. Tamil/Kerala Pacchadis are not jams/chutneys but more like seasoned and cooked vegetables usually in a yogurt or a thin tamarind based sauce (like the one you describe). Hope that made sense!

        I love sour cream so I am now craving your grandmother’s tartines!! September 5, 2015 at 3:45pm Reply

        • Victoria: This is the reason why I never stop being fascinated by Indian cooking. The regional variations are striking, and even within the same state, different cities and different communities cook different foods.

          My husband’s family is Marathi, although some parts of the family have lived in other states for centuries. They still preserve their Marathi identity, while picking up foods from the region where they live, and this makes for an interesting repertoire. My mother-in-law lived in Gujarat, so she cooks a lot of Gujarati dishes, and there are so many unusual combinations in Gujarati cuisine. Marathi food, by contrast, is earthier, simpler, but with very satisfying, robust flavors. Along with chutneys, they also have spicy powders that are eaten in the same way as chutney, as condiments. One of my favorites is a simple garlic and chili blend, and it can uplift even the most basic dish.

          You have the best of all worlds! I love southern Indian cuisines. September 6, 2015 at 5:03pm Reply

          • Lavanya: Yeah – I know exactly what you mean! It is quite fascinating – tracing the history of a country and the world through food. Parts of my family is originally from Tamil Nadu but lived for centuries in Kerala so a lot of the dishes my mom makes are influenced by Kerala cuisine. My father’s mother on the other hand is from Tanjore/Madras so those dishes are a bit different. It is often difficult to explain this to people (even when I lived in India). And I spent half of my childhood in Delhi and a lot of it in Bangalore (and my sister lives in Mumbai). So when somebody asks me where I am from, I never know how to answer- lol. September 6, 2015 at 9:40pm Reply

            • Victoria: I can just imagine! It wouldn’t be a simple one line answer. 🙂 I see only benefits in such diversity and mixing, not least of which is food and a wide choice of delicious things to eat.

              I’ve managed to get to Kerala but nowhere else in the South, so that’s still a region to be explored. I’d love to visit the temple complex at Mamallaparuam. I saw photos online, and the carvings of gods and animals are intricate and beautiful. September 7, 2015 at 8:20am Reply

      • Lavanya: And I love green chutneys too, especially mint-cilantro chutney! And on sandwiches (with the edges trimmed off) 🙂 September 5, 2015 at 3:49pm Reply

        • Lavanya: I meant ‘in’ sandwiches September 5, 2015 at 3:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: Oh yes! I also love them on feta, or even with feta and watermelon. September 6, 2015 at 5:05pm Reply

          • Lavanya: ooh – that sounds fab – feta+watermelon+green chutney. yum!! September 6, 2015 at 9:30pm Reply

            • Victoria: An accidental discovery, but it has confirmed my belief that chutney makes everything taste better. 🙂 September 7, 2015 at 8:14am Reply

  • lisawordbird: I’m from the UK and here we bottle chutney in the same way as jam, so we can enjoy it all through the winter.
    You’ve reminded me that I should get on and make some for this year! Thank you. x September 4, 2015 at 7:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a good idea! I didn’t do much preserving this year, but I might just make one more batch of this chutney whole we have tomatoes. September 5, 2015 at 7:58am Reply

  • Aussiegirl: I like Major Grey Chutney a lot, but I think it’s more like a British invention. It’s delish in wraps and chicken salads. September 5, 2015 at 2:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t yet met a chutney I didn’t like. 🙂 I tried only the sweet mango kind from Major Grey’s so far, but it was very satisfying. September 5, 2015 at 8:00am Reply

  • Tiamaria: What wonderful timing, thank you for this Victoria. Yesterday morning I was looking at a surplus of tomatoes on my work top and decided when my days work was done I’d go online and find a recipe for tomato chutney. A few hours later your recipe arrived in my email inbox! I love it when that happens! Will be making it later today. September 5, 2015 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I also love when such coincidences happen. Hope that you like the recipe. September 6, 2015 at 4:52pm Reply

  • Mer: Chutney is not something I’ve ever cooked, what better time to get started than your recipe and tomatoes ripening in the vines faster than we can eat them 🙂 yesterday I made a giant gazpacho and today I’m making this.

    Apart from the flavour, another great property of tomatoes ripened on the plant is that you can just easily peel then with your fingers.

    Now to think what to do with the insane amount of courgettes we are getting this year. With so much rain, they grow to half a meter seemingly overnight. September 6, 2015 at 4:16am Reply

    • Victoria: True! My grandmother mentioned this too. Even if tomato is red, the skin won’t come up unless it has ripened on the vine. Then you have to blanch before peeling.

      I swear you can see courgettes grow. Whenever I have them in quantity, I also feel lost, but of course, they’re great on pasta (ricotta, thyme, fried corgette coins, olive oil), stewed in olive oil and tomato sauce, or stewed with eggplants, onions, tomatoes and herbs of your choice. Or fried and tossed in a vinaigrette with garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and basil. September 6, 2015 at 5:10pm Reply

      • Mer: I only made the chutney today because I was requested ratatouille on Sunday. We loved it! this recipe goes straight into my recipe binder 🙂 thank you.

        I didn’t have fresh ginger or chili, so I’m sure it will be even better. September 8, 2015 at 3:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear it! Even without ginger and chili it would be delicious with all of those spices, and it’s an easy recipe to adjust. September 9, 2015 at 9:18am Reply

          • Mer: Oh, I wasn’t clear, I added powdered ginger and sambal oelek as substitutes 🙂 but I’ll make sure to use the real thing next time.

            I rarely if ever really follow a recipe, but when I’m trying something new I like to do so, to familiarise myself with how it works, so that I can mess with it next time ;D September 9, 2015 at 9:50am Reply

            • Victoria: Great substitutes! Dry ginger would add more of a body note, rather than top note the way fresh ginger wood, while sambal oelek is another one of those things that only improve whatever they touch. 🙂 September 9, 2015 at 11:42am Reply

              • Mer: Yeah I am not a great fan of chili pepper in general but a little of sambal oelek I like best 🙂

                I love fresh ginger, this ingredient in particular I am sure will make a big difference. September 9, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

          • Mer: Oh, and I’ll have to at least double the recipe next time because it quickly disappeared! September 9, 2015 at 9:52am Reply

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