Mango Chutney and Salsa

Chutney vs Salsa – What is the Difference?

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Buckle down, because what we have here is a question that is perhaps as contrary, as tricky, as controversial as that age-old query about whether the chicken or the egg came first: Chutney vs Salsa – What is the Difference?

Let’s get right to it.

Salsa is a dish that is typically a mixture of vegetables or fruits in their raw form. They can additionally contain chili peppers, herbs, onions or garlic. A chutney is a type of blended or ground sauce, although thicker in consistency, commonly found in India and can be both sweet, sour or spicy. 

That’s the condensed version. Now let’s break it down, read about what makes chutney a chutney, what makes a salsa a salsa and what factors separate both of them from being used interchangeably.


What is it?

Chutney belongs to the family of condiments and sauces and is a major part of Indian cuisine. You think chutney, you bring to mind crisp dosas and hot samosas–that’s a couple of dishes that chutney is served in India.

Typically, chutney is made from grinding or blending a combination of vegetable or fruits— although fruit-based chutney is mostly just called jam in India—with ingredients like tomatoes, onions, mint leaves, coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, coconut, beetroot, carrots, raw mangoes and red or green chilies, to name a few ingredients. 

The Indian chutney

Chutneys are also called chemanthi, thuvayal and, if it is blended with curd, you can pass it off as a pachadi or raita. You will find that chutney is often served as a side and a dip, either over savory breakfast pancakes or steamed rice cakes or as a dip for just about any Indian snack. Another little tidbit about chutney is that it is almost always cooked. 

The English Chutney

Traditional ploughmans pickle chutney
Traditional ploughmans pickle chutney

We read about the aromatic, spicy and deep-flavored Indian chutney. 

Now, the English-style chutney refers to a cold, vinegar-based pickle, made from vegetables and fruits, spices and sugar, usually eaten with meat, bread and cheese, as opposed to actual fully-cooked dishes. This is the kind of chutney/relish you would find on a cheeseboard or spread over a sandwich, much like relishes or even jams. Popular English chutneys include fig chutney, pineapple chutney, mango chutney and tamarind chutney. 

While initially, one referred to this kind of chutney, one that, unlike its Indian counterpart, was rather chunky in texture with bits of nuts, fruits or veggies in them, today, the term is rather loosely applied to anything that has been preserved in sugar or vinegar, regardless of what ingredients went into making it, its consistency as well as the texture. 

So, by this standard, sauerkraut? That’s a chutney. As is ketchup, apparently. 

The mind boggles.

Is chutney a jam?

Chutney can be a type of jam, albeit one without the additional pectin and, as the English take it, flavored with vinegar, and like how the Indians prefer it, combined with spices and is cooked. The Indian chutney cannot be considered a preserve, although the English chutney can. 

Chutney is perhaps most similar to relish, with both of them containing chopped vegetables and have added spices and pretty similar consistency, if you like your chutney a little chunky. But, while chutney can have both fruits and vegetables in them, relishes usually contain only one type of vegetable, and no fruit. 

What a chutney is absolutely not is salsa, but before we jump over to that end, here’s a recipe for one of the most varieties of chutney: tomato chutney.

The Recipe For Tomato Chutney (Indian)

Tomato Chutney
Tomato Chutney


  • Two large Tomatoes – roughly chopped
  • One large Onion – minced
  • Four cloves of garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A pinch of Asafoetida 
  • A teaspoon of turmeric powder 
  • Salt
  • Dried red Kashmiri chilies – two (and/or) red chili p
  • Coriander leaves 
  • Two teaspoons vegetable oil


  • In a wide bottom pan, or a kadai, heat two teaspoons of oil. 
  • Next, add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. 
  • Add the garlic to the pan and saute till golden brown. 
  • Add the red chilies, broken in half and continue to saute for a minute. 
  • Add the minced onions, and saute until they soften and turn golden-brown.
  • At this stage, add salt to soften the onions. Simultaneously add the turmeric powder and red chili powder, depending on how spicy you want your chutney to be.
  • Once the onions are fully cooked, add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and mix them in with the onions. 
  • Cover the pan and allow the tomatoes to cook. 
  • Every few minutes, use the back of your ladle to smush the tomatoes as they soften. Towards the end, they should look pulpy.
  • Wait for the oil to release–an indicator that your tomatoes are cooked. 
  • Add the chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.
  • Allow your chutney to cool for around 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the mixture has cooled down, spoon it into your vegetable blender and blend till you get a nice, thick, smooth paste. 
  • Add water as needed. Remember that your chutney needs to be the right consistency—not too liquid that it’s a sauce and not too chunky that it’s a relish.

You can refrigerate it for up to two days.


Pico De Gallo salsa
Pico De Gallo salsa

What is it?

Salsa, too, is a condiment and is usually used in Mexican or Mexican-American cuisine, either as a dip or scooped up and ladled over a plate of loaded nachos. 

What defines a salsa, you ask? Well, salsa is usually spicy and contains tomatoes—shopped, pulped, semi-pureed if you want to go that way—onions and peppers. Add in some lemon, a little cumin and load it onto some warm tortilla chips. You’ve also got a green salsa, or salsa verde, which is just salsa with tomatoes and cilantro. 

Now, here’s the tricky part. Salsa is technically considered a variety of sauce, but a majority of the United States considers it a raw mixture of vegetables. A sauce is anything liquid, which negates salsa being a sauce, at least in this scenario. 

Can Salsa be cooked?

Unlike chutneys, which are almost always cooked, salsa can be had both raw and cooked, depending on where you eat it. In places like Florida, the salsa you’ll find will be raw, as no one wants to be bent over a simmering pot of hot tomatoes in that heat.

Raw salsa or salsa cruda is fresh, tangy and zesty, with a kick of lime and garnished with cilantro. You can serve it cold.

A cooked salsa is somewhere between a chunky tomato relish and spaghetti sauce, served with beans, corn and peppers, almost like you’d eat chili. Cooked salsa is deeper, with smokier notes from the garlic and herbs used, and can be layered on as a sauce.

If you want to mix it up, you can trade the tomatoes for fruits like unripe mangoes, pineapples, peaches or tomatillos. Balance the flavors with salt, lime juice or vinegar and pray that the vinegar does not make it an English chutney.

The Recipe

Salsa is one of the easiest things you can throw together.

Here’s a list of ingredients you’ll need:

  • Tomatoes on the vine, seeded, around three to four and chopped.
  • Finely chopped sweet onion – ⅓ cup
  • Finely chopped red peppers – ¼ cup
  • Finely chopped green peppers -¼ cup
  • Finely chopped English cucumber- ¼ cup(optional)
  • 4 large cloves of garlic- finely chopped
  • 2 fresh jalapenos(seeded, unless you love a nice kick) and finely chopped.
  • Half a bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • One lime, juiced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of cumin


  • In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients: the tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and the salt, pepper and cumin. Give it a toss.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for around half an hour or overnight.

Here’s a chef tip: Remember to remove the seeds from the tomatoes, or else your salsa will end up soggy and wet. 

Salsa and Chutney: A table of differences and similarities.

I love a good table as much as the next person. Here’s one of all we read about in this article, to sum up the differences and even some of the similarities between salsas and chutneys.

Salsas is chunky.Chutney is often smooth but can contain minimal chunks.Both Salsas and chutneys typically contain tomatoes, garlic, onions and jalapenos.
Salsa is a Mexican or Mexican-American.Chutney is originally from India, although there are variations of it in places like England.Both are a combination of food ingredients, never a single-ingredient, stand-alone dish.
Salsas can be served raw or cooked.Most chutneys are cooked.Both have strong, smokey and deep flavors. 
Salsa can be served cold or at room temperature. If cooked, it can be served hot.Chutney is either served warm or at room temperature.Both can be either smooth or chunky.

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