Buckle up, because we’re about to answer a question that’s as contradictory, tricky, and contentious as the age-old debate over whether the chicken or the egg came first: Chutney vs Salsa, what is the similarity and difference?
Let’s get started.
Now, let’s break it down. Learn what distinguishes chutney from salsa and what factors keep the two from being used interchangeably.
What exactly is it?
Chutney is a condiment and sauce that is used extensively in Indian cuisine. When you think of chutney, you think of crisp dosas and hot samosas—two dishes that chutney is served with in India.
Chutney is typically made by grinding or blending a combination of vegetables or fruits, with ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, mint leaves, coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, coconut, beetroot, carrots, raw mangoes, and red or green chilies, to name a few.
The chutney from India
Chutneys are also known as thuvayal, chemanthi, and pachadi or raita if they are blended with curd. Chutney is frequently served as a side and a dip, either over savory breakfast pancakes or steamed rice cakes or as a dip for almost any Indian snack. Chutney is almost always cooked, which is another interesting fact about it.
Chutney in English
We learned about the aromatic, spicy, and complex Indian chutney.
As opposed to fully-cooked dishes, English-style chutney now refers to a cold, vinegar-based pickle made from vegetables and fruits, spices, and sugar, and typically eaten with meat, bread, and cheese. This is the type of chutney/relish you’d find on a cheeseboard or spread on a sandwich, similar to relishes or jams. Fig chutney, pineapple chutney, mango chutney, and tamarind chutney are all popular English chutneys.
While the term was originally applied to this type of chutney, which, unlike its Indian counterpart, had a chunky texture with bits of nuts, fruits, or vegetables in it, it is now applied to anything that has been preserved in sugar or vinegar, regardless of what ingredients went into making it, its consistency, or texture.
So, sauerkraut by this standard? That is chutney. Apparently, so is ketchup.
The mind reels.
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Is chutney a popular condiment?
Chutney is a type of jam, but it lacks the additional pectin and is flavored with vinegar, as the English prefer, and is cooked with spices, as the Indians prefer. The Indian chutney is not a preserve, whereas the English chutney is.
Chutney is perhaps the most similar to relish, with both containing chopped vegetables, spices, and a fairly similar consistency, if you like your chutney chunky. However, whereas chutney can contain both fruits and vegetables, relishes typically contain only one type of vegetable and no fruit.
What a chutney is not is salsa, but before we get there, here’s a recipe for one of the most common types of chutney: tomato chutney.
The Tomato Chutney Recipe (Indian)
- Two large tomatoes, roughly cut
- 1 large onion, minced
- Four garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- Asafoetida powder
- One teaspoon of turmeric powder
- Two dried red Kashmiri chilies (and/or) red chili powder
- Coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Heat two teaspoons of oil in a wide-bottomed pan or Kadai.
Allow the mustard seeds to pop after that.
Sauté the garlic in the pan until golden brown.
Continue to sauté for a minute after adding the red chilies, broken in half.
Sauté the minced onions until they soften and turn golden brown.
Add salt at this point to soften the onions. Add the turmeric powder and red chili powder at the same time, depending on how spicy you want your chutney to be.
When the onions are fully cooked, add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and mix them in.
Allow the tomatoes to cook while covered in the pan.
Smush the tomatoes with the back of your ladle every few minutes as they soften. They should look pulpy near the end.
Wait for the oil to separate, which indicates that your tomatoes are done.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
Allow 10-15 minutes for your chutney to cool.
Once the mixture has cooled, transfer it to a vegetable blender and puree until you have a nice, thick, smooth paste.
As needed, add more water. Keep in mind that your chutney should be the right consistency—not too liquid to be a sauce and not too chunky to be a relish.
You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to two days.
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What exactly is it?
Salsa, like guacamole, is a condiment that is commonly found in Mexican or Mexican-American cuisine, either as a dip or scooped up and ladled over a plate of loaded nachos.
What, exactly, is a salsa? Salsa is typically spicy and contains tomatoes—shopped, pulped, or semi-pureed if you prefer—onions, and peppers. Add some lemon and cumin to taste, and serve with warm tortilla chips. You can also get a green salsa, also known as salsa verde, which is simply salsa with tomatoes and cilantro.
Now comes the difficult part. Salsa is technically a type of sauce, but the majority of Americans consider it a raw vegetable mixture. A sauce is defined as anything liquid, so salsa is not a sauce, at least in this context.
Can you cook salsa?
In contrast to chutneys, which are almost always cooked, salsa can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on where you eat it. Salsa will be raw in places like Florida because no one wants to be bent over a simmering pot of hot tomatoes in that heat.
Raw salsa, also known as salsa cruda, is a fresh, tangy, and zesty salsa with a kick of lime and cilantro garnish. It can be served cold.
A cooked salsa is a cross between a chunky tomato relish and spaghetti sauce, and it’s usually served with beans, corn, and peppers, almost like chili. Cooked salsa has a richer flavor, with smokier notes from the garlic and herbs used, and can be used as a sauce.
To spice things up, swap out the tomatoes for unripe mangoes, pineapples, peaches, or tomatillos. Season with salt, lime juice, or vinegar to taste, and hope that the vinegar doesn’t turn it into English chutney.
The recipe for salsa
Salsa is one of the simplest dishes to prepare.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need:
Tomatoes on the vine, seeded, cut into three or four pieces.
⅓ cup finely chopped sweet onion
¼ cup finely chopped red peppers
¼ cup finely chopped green peppers
¼ cup finely chopped English cucumber (optional)
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded (unless you like a spicy kick), finely chopped
½ bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, squeezed
Black pepper, freshly ground
A dash of cumin
In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, salt, cilantro, lime juice, pepper, and cumin. Toss the coin.
Refrigerate the bowl for about 30 minutes or overnight.
Here’s a pro tip: remove the seeds from the tomatoes, or your salsa will be soggy and wet.
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Chutney vs Salsa: parallels and distinctions
Tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapenos are common ingredients in both chutneys and salsas.
They are both made up of food ingredients and are never made up of a single ingredient.
Both have robust, smoky, and complex flavors.
Both can be smooth or chunky.
Salsa is thick. However, chutney is typically smooth, it may contain small chunks.
Salsa is Mexican or Mexican-American cuisine. Whereas Chutney is originally from India, there are variations in places such as England.
Salsas can be eaten either raw or cooked. In contrast, the majority of chutneys are cooked.
Salsa can be served either cold or warm. It can be served hot if cooked. While chutney is served either warm or at room temperature.
- Is chutney comparable to salsa?
Chutney is a condiment or side dish that is similar to salsa or sweet relish. Chutneys are typically made with fruits, herbs, vegetables, or a combination of these ingredients. Most chutneys require a delicate balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors.
- What is chutney used?
Everything from basmati rice to pieces of bread like naan or dosa to curry dishes is served with it. In other parts of the world, you might see onion chutney with roasted meats or a fruity apple chutney with creamy cheese, and butteries like brie or goat cheese.
- Is chutney similar to jam?
Chutney is a type of jam that is commonly found in Indian cuisines. It is made without any additional pectin and is flavored with vinegar and various spices. Preserves have the most physical fruit of the bunch, either chopped into larger pieces or preserved whole, as in cherry or strawberry preserves.
- Is chutney nutritious?
Chutney has numerous health benefits, making it an excellent addition to any diet. It benefits many aspects of one’s health, including digestion, blood flow, immunity, and many others.
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This post addressed the question, “What is the difference and similarity between Chutney vs Salsa?”
In a nutshell, salsa is a dish that is typically made up of raw vegetables or fruits. They may also include chili peppers, herbs, onions, or garlic. Chutney is a type of blended or ground sauce that is thicker in consistency and is popular in India. It can be sweet, sour, or spicy.