One of the best things about coming home after school in southern India was the array of amazing snacks my mother made for me on different days: green chutney and tomato chutney tea sandwiches; crudités of seasonal vegetables with a tangy yogurt dip; a crunchy salad with fried goodies, potatoes and onions, dressed with a lovely cilantro chutney; chapati flatbreads rolled in cheese and a sweet and tangy relish.

After I grew up and moved several thousand miles away, my method of shunning loneliness and banishing a homesick feeling was to throw together a quick chutney or relish and use it as a dip with pita, tortilla chips or some store-bought baby-cut carrots and celery sticks. It would sometimes morph into a spread for a grilled cheese sandwich or become the topping for a mix of chopped veggies. Occasionally I would spread the chutney on a chapati or tortilla, throw in some vegetables and cheese and make a wrap out of it. It would make a fabulous accompaniment for those quiet times when I just wanted to look through photo books or read old letters and cards.

Gradually, those chutneys (a blended texture) and relishes (distinct textures) evolved. I started playing around with different combinations of the main ingredients alongside what was available locally and seasonally. My yogurt-based raita contained avocado, an uncommon ingredient in the Indian dishes of my youth, or a combination of red onion, carrot and jalapeño.

During graduate school days, I used whichever ingredient was the cheapest. As a young wife and a new employee, I paired my chutneys with interesting flavors, herbs and spices that were local to the area I lived in. As a mom, I introduced flavors such as mango and pineapple that I knew my children would love.

Over the years, the chutneys and relishes that have become go-to favorites have had common characteristics in spice and tang. I like the artisanal look of them, which is to say they rarely come off as manufactured, gooey or saucy. The little surprises – a seed here and a chunk there – charm and tingle the taste buds.

Many of them are better when made ahead of time. Some of them sit well in a refrigerator for up to three days. I even freeze some of the blended chutneys in small condiment jars for a couple of weeks and defrost them just before serving. Any which way, they add color and pizazz to the table.

The accompanying recipes are some of my family’s favorites. Their flavors are intense and bold. They are a fabulous accompaniment to grilled vegetables and proteins. Try tossing a potato salad or sweet potato salad with one of these chutneys. Use the relish as a topping for burgers and sandwiches.

Another simple way of serving them during the summer, besides those mentioned above, is to toast some herby flatbread and top it with fresh greens, grilled veggies and tofu, then garnish with your chutney or relish of choice. That’s a perfect wrap.

Tomato and Garlic Scape Chutney

Tomato and Garlic Scape Chutney Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post


Garlic scapes add a spicy crunch to this pinkish chutney, but if they’re out of season, regular garlic cloves will suffice and bring a slight bite.

This is wonderful as a dressing for a potato salad or as a spread for a grilled sandwich. Also use it as a topping for grilled vegetables and proteins. The tomato paste is optional but adds a lovely color, creaminess and more-intense tomato flavor to the chutney.

The chutney can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

12 servings (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

2 medium (11 ounces total) vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped

4 full stems garlic scapes (may substitute 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon agave nectar

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon tomato paste (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, garlic scapes, salt, cayenne pepper, agave nectar, lime juice and tomato paste, if using, in a food processor. Pulse to the desired consistency.

Use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


This fruity relish is wonderful on burgers and flatbreads. It is also great as a dip for pita and chips. Try different variations by replacing the pineapple with mangoes, grapes, plums or a seasonal tart fruit.

The relish needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container for at least 2 hours before serving. It is best served the same day it’s made.

12 servings (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1 medium jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (seeded, if desired, for less heat)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the pineapple; red onion, if using; cilantro; jalapeño; cumin; coriander; salt; honey and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, tossing until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.


This a healthful and wonderful creamy sauce with rich flavors. Try it in wraps and as a dip for a crudites platter. The raita also makes a great dressing for chopped salads, coleslaws and potato salads.

For those who love the flavor of avocados, feel free to double up for a more intense avocado flavor.

The raita can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; place plastic wrap directly on the surface.

8 servings (makes 2 cups)

Flesh of 1 large ripe avocado

1 cup plain low-fat Greek-style yogurt

1/4 teaspoon jarred, pureed ginger or fresh peeled minced ginger root

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon good-quality powdered harissa

Mash the avocado in a mixing bowl. Add the yogurt, ginger, lime juice, salt, pepper and sugar, mixing until well combined.

Stir in half of the mint and half of the harissa. Transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with the remaining mint and harissa.

Avocado-Ginger Raita

Avocado-Ginger Raita Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post


Chewy and bright-tasting, this unusual chutney makes a great dip or a spread for avocado toast.

Try stirring 1 tablespoon of the chutney into 1/2 cup of buttermilk to make a fresh salad dressing.

Coconut milk powder (not the same as coconut flour) is an optional ingredient here; it adds another layer of coconut flavor, and it is available at health food stores.

The chutney needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days, before serving. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.

14 servings (makes a generous 13/4 cups)

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 packed cup desiccated (dried) unsweetened grated coconut

1/4 teaspoon black mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1 to 2 medium serrano peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon coconut milk powder (optional; see headnote)

1/4 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro, for garnish

Toss together the apple, lemon juice and salt in a mixing bowl; let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Combine the desiccated coconut, black mustard and cumin seeds, serrano pepper (to taste), yogurt, oil, garlic and coconut milk powder, if using, in a food processor or blender; add the apple mixture and puree until fairly smooth and thick.

Transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with the cilantro.


This chutney is not for the faint of heart; its flavors are intense and bold. Spread a thin layer on a thick slice of bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich. Add a tablespoon of the chutney to a cup of cream cheese, whip well and use as a dip or as a spread for fresh sandwiches. Spread it on a flatbread, add toppings and make a spicy grilled pizza.

This recipe features jaggery, a naturally processed sugar made from the sap of sugar cane or palm trees. It is available at Indian markets.

The chutney needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days before serving.

4 to 6 servings (makes a scant 1/2 cup)

2 cups packed, chopped cilantro leaves (1 3/5 ounces)

1 large jalapeño pepper, coarsely chopped (seeded, if desired, for less heat)

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seed

1 heaping teaspoon tamarind paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon jaggery or dark brown sugar (see headnote)

Combine the cilantro, jalapeño, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin seed, the tamarind paste, salt and jaggery or brown sugar in a food processor or blender; puree until fairly smooth.

Transfer to a serving bowl; just before serving, sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of cumin.

Visi Tilak, a Massachusetts-based freelance writer, blogs at

Twitter: visitilak

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