Homemade tomato thokku – A south-Indian spicy chutney with versatile uses


When a garden offers some  juicy red tomatoes, it is not surprising that a “thokku” pickle/chutney idea occurs to a girl, esp. with a south-Indian upbringing like me! This is a traditional recipe from Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India. In the days when the refrigerator was not known, this dish was made with a lot of oil and would stay unspoiled for a few days. Now, I have used the minimum amount oil so as not to compromise on the taste and still store it for a week in the fridge.

With my mom visiting me for a few weeks, I got the opportunity of learning to make this the BEST and the most fool-proof way. It has a tangy, sweet, spicy taste that just teases your taste buds; it is my kind of comfort food. It is so delicious and versatile, we can use it:

-to make quick tomato rice,

-as a sandwich spread,

-as a pickle to go with practically anything from roti to curd rice.

I’m submitting this to the Virtual Vegan Potluck 9 in hosted by Annie of  The Unrefined Vegan.

Tomato Thokku

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


big ripe tomatoes- 6-7 (or use about 9 medium)

turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp.

tamarind paste- 1 tsp.

asafoetida powder- 1/2 tsp.

powdered (roasted) fenugreek seeds- 1 tsp.

red chilly powder- 1-2 tsp. (adjust according to taste and sweetness of tomatoes)

salt- to taste

mustard seeds- 1 tsp. (for tempering)

refined sesame oil- 4-5 tbsp.


* Wash tomatoes, cook whole in a pot till it softens and the juice comes out.


* Blanch the cooked tomatoes. The quickest way is to stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes. This is to remove the skin easily.

* Separate the skin and save it. I do not like to discard the skin, especially from organic tomatoes.

* Chop the tender fruit into small pieces. Heat 2 tbsp. of sesame oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, wait till they pop and add the chopped tomatoes with any leftover juice.

* Cook with salt in the open pot. Add tamarind paste at this point. Cook on low-medium heat. This needs occasional stirring, every 3-4 minutes.

* Use a spice grinder to make a grind up the peel and add it to the pan. This not only adds fiber, but adds volume to the resulting thokku. Another option is to chop into very small pieces and add it.

* Continue to cook on low heat for about 40 minutes, or till most of the water evaporates.  Now add all the other spices: turmeric powder, asafoetida, chilly powder, roasted fenugreek- (powdered), and additional oil if necessary.


* When the thokku leaves the sides of the pan, cool it completely and store in a glass/ceramic container in the fridge for a week.


To make powdered fenugreek , dry roast fenugreek seeds till they change color, cool and powder in a spice grinder. You could store this powder at room temperature and use in other southern Indian dishes.

31 responses to “Homemade tomato thokku – A south-Indian spicy chutney with versatile uses

  1. This is a welcome recipe here. I have so many tomatoes and am tired of just preserving them to be used later. I will make this for our weekend guests. I’m sure they’ll love it.


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