I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.

Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.

It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.

As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

59 thoughts on “Chutney

  1. This is absolutely fabulous, and so, so beautiful… I’m looking at it, thinking I’d like to taste it in some sort of tartlet…maybe with goat cheese.. I love chutney… I’m so glad you decided to repost this.. I had to chuckle when you said that at the time, you only had “4 likes” because of minimal readership…and that’s exactly where I am now! It’s a struggle to get readers, but I keep on keepin’ on… <3 Thanks so much for sharing…you've motivated me!

    • I’ve always prepared a large baked brie with cranberry chutney of some sort – it’s a fabulous combination! goat cheese is just as good! keep blogging! getting followers is a slow but steady process!

  2. I haven’t made my own chutney in a very long time. I do remember making one in the mid-nineties for my very first dinner party. It was a very ambitious menu (one that took so much longer than I had anticipated and kept my guests waiting and waiting). I’m already planning my Christmas menu and should add chutney to the list. I love how you set up your primer with so many options and all of the essentials! Enjoy your weekend!

  3. The photo of the bowl with the fresh ingredients really draws me in, Mimi. I love the idea of making my own holiday chutney. I’m eager to give this a try. You make it look easy enough. :-) Thank you for wonderful guidelines.

    • cranberry sauce is typically cranberries and some sugar. cranberry chutney would contain onions or shallots, garlic, seasoning like curry powder, and some vinegar. To me, those are the basic differences.

  4. I appreciate your approach as its mine also. I’ve often been known to take a jar of jam (home made) add salt pepper & whatever else spices then wonder “what kind of vinegar would suit best?” Also, take resulting chutney and 2-3 x its weight in oil = great vinaigrette

    • Absolutely! We definitely have the same approach! I think it’s about using what you have and like, and also no waste. I’m sure you never throw anything anyway either!

  5. How festive this all looks. Love chutneys, the tart and sweet is definitely a combo made in heaven. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2019.

    • Exactly! And I don’t love anything too sweet, so the savory component is really special to me. But still it would be good on yogurt or on toast! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    • Thank you Alida! Once you make your own chutney, you won’t be able to stop! there are just so many choices. Merry Christmas!

  6. I am loving how festive your blog is right now. Those snowflakes are lovely! :-) I have always loved chutneys, as there were one of my mom’s favorite things to cook. I really like that the cranberries are mostly whole in this — love the chunky pieces of fruit. Happy Holidays to you!

  7. Thank you for this really helpful article. I don’t know a lot about making chutney, but I do love eating it. It’s really nice to have these parameters laid out, leaving all sorts of room for creativity.

  8. I agree with you, chutney is awesome. I tend to lean towards the fruity chutneys but I am a fan of all of them. Merry Christmas Mimi to you and all your family :D

    • Thank you miss Emma. Have I told you that is one daughter’s name? She’s 32. In the US, it wasn’t a popular name until maybe 15 years ago. Anyway, I love chutneys as well. Merry Christmas!

  9. Have you ever made a saucy smooth chutney? I just returned from lunch at Badmaash (an Indian slash hipster slash modern restaurant) and they served the most unusual smooth chutney. I don’t have a lot of experience with chutney and wondered how typical the texture was. GREG

    • Interesting! In my experience, Indian chutneys are textural, but if this is a hipster place, who knows?!! What’s interesting is what blending the chutney to create a smooth texture, yet with more of a “single” flavor, would be like vs. leaving the texture and tasting the various flavor elements. Now I’ve just confused myself. Now I want to thaw one of my chutneys out and blend it!!! Merry Christmas!!!

  10. I hope your Christmas was full of family, fun, and food. I used your chutney recipe for our American Christmas dinner and it was completely devoured. We don’t get cranberries over here so I used a mix of pears and apples. Perfect flavor to accompany our stuffed turkey thighs.

    • Oh that sounds wonderful! Interesting that you can’t even get them frozen!!! Stuffed turkey thighs – wow – that sounds wonderful. Happy New Year Ron!

  11. My husband just now leant over my shoulder to see what I was reading and said “Mmmm chutney” I had to laugh. Like you I prefer to make my own condiments, but truth be told I haven’t made a lot of chutneys. Guess the reaction from my husband is reason enough to start ! Nice one Mimi…

    • I’m with you. In fact, I should stock up when i go to the store today. I have no problem using them year round! Happy New Year!

  12. What a gorgeous chutney! It just looks like Christmas! I will have to try it for the new year. It looks so festive.

    • I actually make chutneys year round. And, I use cranberries till I run out of them. I never seem to buy enough packages!

  13. I love a good chutney, but I must admit that I’ve never made a homemade version. I appreciate all of your notes about substitutions and creative ideas. Now I want to try my hand at a homemade chutney! I might have missed it for Christmas, but it still looks delicious for the cold weather months ahead.

    • The strawberry onion one I created at springtime was exceptional. They truly can be made all year around. And just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean I won’t be using cranberries!

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