Tamarind chutney is a sweet, tangy, and delicately spiced sauce that can be served with a variety of Indian snacks, from samosas to pakora. Once you see how easy this recipe is to make, you’ll never have an empty jar again!
What is chutney?
Chutney is the overarching name for an infamous Indian condiment. There are many versions, from sweet tamarind chutney to herbaceous cilantro or mint chutney.
Common base ingredients are fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs, and mix-ins include vinegar, sugar, and various spices.
Chutney can be thin or thick, smooth or chunky, and cooked or raw. This type of sauce perfectly highlights flavors or balances them out.
What is tamarind chutney?
Tamarind chutney, also known as imli chutney, is quite popular in North Indian cuisine. Made primarily from tamarind pods, jaggery, dates, and spices, it’s sweet, sour, spicy, and perfect for dipping.
In fact, one of its main uses is for serving with chaats, a subsection of Indian cuisine that includes snack foods and small plates like samosa chaat, papri chaat, and aloo tikki.
Is imli chutney vegan?
Fortunately, imli chutney is completely plant-based, making it suitable for all dietary preferences. Just be sure to double-check what you’re dipping into it!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Tamarind: With a similar texture to dates or prunes, tamarind is the featured ingredient of this imli chutney. It comes in pod, paste, or concentrate forms, but whole tamarind pods work best here. Outside of India, the best place to find them is in an Asian or Indian market, or online.
- Dates: Since tamarind is quite tart, dates help naturally sweeten the chutney. While my preference is Medjool dates, you can use any variety. Just make sure to remove the pits.
- Jaggery: Also known as panela or piloncillo, jaggery is made from unrefined cane sugar. If you can’t get your hands on any, use brown sugar or coconut sugar for the best replacement.
- Chili powder: For a touch of spice and color. The most ideal choice is Kashmiri Mirch, but use whichever chili powder you have available to you.
- Cumin: To add earthiness that balances out the sweet and spicy ingredients. Ensure your cumin is fresh!
- Ginger: Along with the Kashmiri Mirch, dried ginger imparts a sweet spice.
- Salt: Just a pinch to enhance the flavor of this chutney.
- Black salt: Also known as kala namak, black salt adds a savory, sulfurous element. Feel free to omit it, and use more regular salt.
- Beetroot powder: Optional for a more vibrant red color.
How to make tamarind chutney
- Step 1: First, you need to peel the tamarind pods. The shells are quite hard, so crunch them in your hands until the flesh is revealed underneath. Then, peel the stringy roots off and roughly break up the pods.
- Step 2: Pour boiling water over the peeled tamarind pods and dates. Cover and set them aside for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight. Don’t use too much water — just enough to submerge the dried fruits.
- Step 3: Place a steel mesh strainer over a sauce pan, and pass the tamarind-date mixture through it. You will need to mash them with a wooden or silicone spoon to push the smooth paste through. Only the pulp and tamarind seeds should be left in the sieve.
- Step 4: Place the saucepan on the stovetop, and heat it over low. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until the jaggery is completely dissolved.
- Step 4: Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let it cool for 15 minutes. Transfer the tamarind chutney to an airtight mason jar, and refrigerate.
What to serve imli chutney with
Imli chutney makes the perfect dip or accompaniment to Indian snacks, appetizers, and other sides. Test it out as a dip for samosa chaat, masala puri, pakora, kachori, or aloo tikki.
Serve it with roti, vegan naan, basmati rice, or curries. Add it to papri chaat, dahi vada, bhel puri, vada pav, sev puri, pani puri, and more! You can even serve it as a dip with crispy potato wedges.
If you have leftover tamarind chutney, follow these simple storage instructions:
- Fridge: Tamarind chutney will last in the fridge for up to 3 months as long as it’s in an airtight container.
- Freezer: Once completely cooled, transfer your chutney to a freezer-safe container and store it for up to 6 months.
- Thaw: Thaw it in the fridge overnight, then give it a good stir. If it’s a bit too thick, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time, stirring until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Spices: Some recipes call for fennel or garam masala. Try them out for a unique flavor.
- Dried fruit: Instead of or in combination with dates, add golden raisins or bananas.
- Different sugar: For a lighter taste, use cane sugar instead of jaggery to sweeten your chutney.
- Adjust the consistency: Chutney consistency comes down to personal preference. Add more or less water, depending on how thick or thin you like it.
- Fresh ingredients: It’s important to use fresh ingredients and spices. This will greatly affect the overall flavor.
- Make more: Since this recipe stores so easily, try making a double or triple batch.
Yes, you can use tamarind paste instead of pods to make tamarind chutney. If there is sugar added to the paste, you will need to reduce the overall amount added to this recipe.
Yes, this tamarind chutney recipe is gluten-free.
If you enjoyed this tamarind chutney recipe, be sure to check out some more of my favorite condiments like these:
- Green Chutney: a raw, vibrant, and bright green sauce made with fresh herbs, vegetables, and spices.
- Avocado chutney: A creamy, spicy and citrusy fresh sauce made mainly with avocados, cilantro, green chilis, lemon juice, and a touch of cumin.
- Garlic chutney: A spicy Indian condiment made from only 7 ingredients.
- Lemongrass paste: A sweet, sour, salty, and spicy recipe that makes the perfect base for soups, ramen, and more.
- Balsamic glaze: 2-ingredient dressing that will liven up salads, vegetables, and pizzas.
- Maple Dijon vinaigrette: A simple dressing made with pantry staples.
Easy Tamarind Chutney (Imli Chutney)
- 1 cup dried tamarind pods removed from shell
- 1 cup pitted dates
- ½ cup jaggery or brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon beet powder optional
- 1 tbs cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder preferably kashmiri mirch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon kala namak aka: black salt
- Pour boiling hot water over tamarind pods and dates. Cover and set aside for at least 8 hours or overnight.Note: Do not use too much water. Only enough to submerge the dried fruits.
- Place a steel mesh strainer over a sauce pan and pour in the tamarind and dates over the sieve (including the liquid). Start mashing them using a wooden or silicon spoon till the paste all passes from the filter. Note: You should be left with only the pulp and tamarind seeds in the sieve.
- Place sauce pan over stove top and heat at low. Add all the other ingredients and stir till jaggery is all dissolved.
- Remove from heat and let it cool for 15 minutes. Then transfer to an air-tight mason jar and refrigerate and use as needed.
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