An Onion Chutney with spicy, sweet, tangy notes, perfect to eat with a South Indian dosa or idli, to add to a wrap, or to spread on toast. A vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free recipe.
This Onion Chutney, a very traditional South Indian recipe, is one of Desi's favorite sides for dosa or idli. But I smear it on just about anything, from a breakfast wrap to toast. Because it is just so delicious and so versatile.
I have to thank a reader, Ellen, for prompting me to post this recipe. It is likely that many of you, like Ellen, have eaten this chutney at a restaurant and wondered what's in there because it tastes so rich and complex and flavorful.
The answer, and the recipe, are actually rather simple: there are onions in here, of course, along with tamarind, red pepper, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. That's it. But technique is important: it is the caramelizing of the onions that gives the chutney its intense flavor and complexity, so don't get stingy with your effort here.
I actually use shallots to make this recipe, because they have a more intense flavor that works very well here. You could use red onions at a pinch.
This is a spicy chutney, the way it's supposed to be to complement a bland dosa or idli, but if you are not comfortable with spice, cut down on the amount of red pepper. Don't cut it out altogether, though, because you do need the pungent heat of pepper to complement the sweetness of the onions and the tang of the tamarind.
I served this chutney for a Saturday brunch with my Instant Masala Dosa and Potato Curry. It was delicious.
I remembered to take some step-by-step shots of the cooking process to clarify the technique.
More South Indian inspired recipes
- Chickpea Curry
- Instant Masala Dosa
- Vegan Ramen in a South Indian Coconut Stew
- Chettinad Mushroom Masala
- 6 shallots (finely sliced)
- 1 ½ teaspoon coconut oil
- 2 dry red chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp (if you get yours from an Indian store, the tamarind pulp is thicker and you need less of it. If you buy the tamarind pulp sold for use in southeast Asian recipes, which tends to be less concentrated, you might need two tablespoons)
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 sprig (about 12) fresh curry leaves (cut into thin ribbons)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (black gram dal)
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a skillet. Add the shallots and the red chili peppers and a pinch of salt. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized.
- Add the tamarind and continue to saute for another couple of minutes.
- Remove the onions to a blender and add ¼ cup of water and season with salt as needed. Blend into a smooth paste. If you need to add more water to blend, add no more than a teaspoon at a time. Remove the chutney to a bowl.
- In the same skillet used to caramelize the onions, add the remaining ½ teaspoon of oil. Add the mustard seeds and, when they sputter, add the ural dal and curry leaves. Stir-fry for a few more seconds until the dal turns lightly golden.
- Pour the mustard-urad dal mixture over the chutney and mix.
It was really yum! I had with sweet potato and dosa too.
So happy to hear!
Excellent! Different than what I've had in restaurants (sauteed/caramelized then blended, whereas theirs is just raw and diced). Thanks so much.
Ellen, so happy you tried it! The raw chutney has pretty much the same ingredients minus the caramelizing.
Thankyou for the recipe. I don't get the deep red color in the chutney. Are they Kashmiri red chilies?
Yes, I used Kashmiri chilies.
I was so excited to see this! Thanks so much. I tried to find similar recipes---found a few, but yours is the one I wanted----don't know/trust the others. Never would have guessed the ingredients in this, but my taste buds are dancing already. Can't wait to make it---may be Sunday---going to make a chickpea scramble for breakfast and this just might go.
What does the dal do? Just act as a binder for the spices? I've always wondered.
I don't buy shallots too often because I haven't see a big difference in taste and they are more expensive, but I will see if I can get some since this is a recipe I have been longing for.
Will report back. My husband is going to be so happy!
Hi Ellen! The dal is mainly for adding more texture and some smooth crunch to the spicy chutney. You could leave it out or, if you don't have the dal, try using cashew pieces. Cashew would be a little less crunchy, but it would temper the heat on your tastebuds somewhat. Hope you try the chutney!
I second this completely. Onion chutney goes with anything... plain hot rice mixed in with a spoonful of onion chutney and ghee on top... it is heavenly!
I've never thought of mixing it with rice, but I love eating rice mixed with pickle, so I am sure I'd love it with the chutney. That's such an awesome idea.