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25 August, 2014

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

Comments : 31 Posted in : condiments, side dish on by : apsara Tags: , , , , ,


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

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • 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 thoughts on : Homemade tomato thokku – A south-Indian spicy chutney with versatile uses

  • August 25, 2014 at 10:48 am

    This is yummmmmmm… I’m making this tomorrow 🙂

    • August 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      let me know, Shalzz!

    • August 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      thanks, Sonal. 🙂

  • August 25, 2014 at 11:25 am

    My mom makes a mean tomato pickle, though her process is quite elaborate. She stores it like regular pickle for months. Your post has me craving some now 🙂

    • August 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Yes, I suppose for longer storage it has to be completely dehydrated. We have made this twice already this summer and nobody is tired of it!

  • August 25, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Must make this for our one day trip this weekend,Thx Apsara…

    • August 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      This would be a great idea for a trip, yes! you’re welcome, Swapna.

  • August 25, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    That looks delicious!

    • August 25, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      It surely is… 🙂

  • August 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Anytime tomato thokku is such a comfort food 🙂 So delicious Apsara!! I have to try your version soon 🙂

  • August 25, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Yes, Malar. I love it too. Let me know how you like this version. 🙂

  • August 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    My garden ripe tomatoes are begging to be preserved and I am going to try this. Hope it will store well if I reduce the water content totally and pour enough oil!

  • August 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious, Apsara! I love that it has lots of spices in it.

    • August 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Yes, do give it a try, Shari. It gives an authentic taste of southern Indian cuisine. 😉

  • August 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Is it crazy spicy???? <3

    • August 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      No, actually this turned out more sweet than spicy because the tomatoes were of the sweet variety. 🙂

  • August 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    So glad you posted this! Going to save it!

  • August 25, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    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.

  • August 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    I love tomato thokku:-) remember those days whenever my mom travel she prepares thokku and pulikaichal.. Love the color:-)

    • August 28, 2014 at 9:23 am

      sure, Meena. Let me know!

  • August 28, 2014 at 6:20 am

    I appreciate how easy and versatile this sauce is! Thank you!

    • August 28, 2014 at 9:24 am

      I’m glad you like it, Annie!

  • September 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Great tip about the peel and the oil leaving the sides…thanks!

    • September 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      I’m so glad you like the little notes. Thanks, Aneela!

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