Sunday, June 29, 2008

Onion Chutney: Less is More

Onions + Red Chillies + Tamarind = Zesty Onion Chutney.

TBC shared her mother's recipe for the simplest Onion Chutney. A few weeks ago, I made dosas and realized at the last possible minute that I had no coconut on hand for the accompanying chutney. That's when TBC's recipe came to the rescue!

My only tweak to the recipe was to add a bit of tamarind juice for some tang. This is how I made the onion chutney, inspired by TBC's recipe:

1. Heat some oil in a heavy skillet and add 3 coarsely chopped onions.
2. Saute for a few minutes until the edges start browning.
3. Add 2 dried red chillies and salt to taste.
4. Continue to saute until the onions are soft and browned.
5. Cool the mixture. Grind to a fine paste, adding 2-3 T tamarind juice along the way.

This post is my first entry to MBP: Less is More.

Piping hot dosas dipped into this sweet-tangy-hot chutney- it was an utterly delicious combination. The Budding Cook is a great resource for simple and tasty recipes like this one.

Onions are truly miraculous ingredients. They contain complex flavors hidden within all those layers, so when you cook with onions, you get a whole array of flavors for the price of one! More onion inspiration:

Some day I also hope to make IronStef's Onion Butter, a sweet and savory spread made from nothing but onions, salt, olive oil, butter (and slow heat). You have to read that post to see how Ironstef and Jack make onion butter from 12 lbs of onions!

And recently, I got to taste Pille's superb Onion and Orange salad- simply slices of oranges scattered with onions and peppercorns. I don't think I have even uttered the words "onions" and "orange" in the same sentence ever, but this dish truly works!

What's your favorite simple dish using onions?
I'll start by sharing mine: Mix thinly sliced red onion with white vinegar (yes, that cheapo kind more often used to clean clogged sinks), salt and red chilli powder (cayenne pepper). There you have it- a delicious relish for grilled foods. Like tandoori paneer. Mmmm...


  1. Baby onion pickles. Tiny white onions bottled whole with the cheapo white vinegar(lol) and salt. They turn that beautiful shade of pink, and ohh so good with saag-chawal.

  2. Great entry, such a simple and quick one! I would love to make this sometime soon.. thanks for sharing :)

  3. Nupur, you can also add a dash of Ginger-garlic paste ! Ive seen my Mom make this chutney,(as u said when coconut is over) but she adds Ginger/Garlic paste 2 it !

  4. When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes make onion sandwiches. They were always a snack rather than a meal and usually cut up into four pieces and shared among four of us (though I longed to have one all to myself!). They were just thinly sliced onions with butter, salt and pepper between slices of white bread - yum! Of course that was before the day when we all started worrying about saturated fat :) Nowadays, one of my favorite ways to enjoy onions is sauted and mixed with potato and cabbage. Onions are SOOOO good in so many ways... I'll bet this chutney is just delicious!

  5. Beautiful chutney! I must admit that I'm not a huge onion fan, though I can't imagine cooking without onions. I don't eat them raw, but do love them cooked. And my favorite onion dish really is very predictable: French onion soup.

  6. its a never fail recipe nupur !! I love onion chutney but we add a dash of methi seeds and some tamarind. I love onions mixed with yogurt and pinch of salt. Its a heavenly relish for me.

  7. Nupur, I'm glad the recipe inspired you to make your own version. The addition of tamarind is a nice touch! :-)

    I can do without most vegetables, but I'm lost in the kitchen if I have no onions! I usually end up adding it to dishes that don't even require it.:D

    My fav dish has got to be something we call ulli-puli. It's basically a chutney-ish(for lack of a better way to describe the consistency) preparation(nothing similar to this one you have prepared) made with lots of shallots/onions(ulli), tamarind(puli) and ginger. I have never made it myself but I simply love it! Have to ask my mother for the recipe now.:D

  8. i love onion chutney too. sometimes i add a bit of tomatoes for the tangy taste cuz its healthier than tamarind :)

  9. nice chutney,..btw tried ur pavbhaji fro street food itwas yummmy...

  10. My fav simple onion chutney would be to blend shallots, cayenne pepper, salt and tamarind and mix in some oil..coconut oil the better..and you have a yummy dip for your dosas and idlis...

  11. Onion chutney is my favourite go to when I dont have coconut at hand - I just add a tbsp of chana dal to the ingredients you have used and it gives a wonderful texture!


  12. Lovely :-) I have also started making all kinds of chutneys to go with idlis and dosas :-) or even rice!

  13. wow never realised that making chutney was this simple .. looks really yummy

  14. Hi Nupur! Thanks for this post. I tried to make this once with raw onions. But it didn't taste good. I'll definately try this receipe... may be today.

    Also, we can add little Kairee (raw mango) for a tang.


  15. quite a simple and yummy chutney nupur!
    and, i cant make do without onions in the pantry

  16. A few months back I hosted our bookclub meeting. The book was 'Tea and Pomegranates' a book about childhood memeoies of Kashmir and its intricate ties with food, I made chapli kabab (recipe from book) for my buddies and as an afterthought added as an accompaniment a salad of thinly sliced onions, minced green chillies, coriander and a hefty squirt of lime. Well, as we were eating and discussing the book nearing the dinners end all the naans and kebeb were finished and my friends were happily picking away at the only dish left, the onion salad. What was funny was I got more compliments for the onion salad than the chapli kebab which were perfectly made if I may say it myself. How's our Dale coping with the summer heat, Daisy has dug herself a nice, cozy den under my husbands favourite hydrangea bush and everytime he fills it up she somehow, unbeknowenst to us, digs one up again. Poor man, with the deer eating his roses and daisy digging up his garden, may just retire from gardening.

  17. Hi, I love this recipe! Will definitely try the tamarind version soon. I rarely use coconuts myself, so chutneys usually are improvised impromptu for dosa and idli. I make the onion chutney by sauteeing the onion and red chillies with chutney dal or with chopped tomatoes, or sometimes with coriander leaves. I have also tried just grinding all ingredients along with ginger first (when I am really pressed for time!), and then adding it to hot oil and tempering with mustard and curry leaves.

  18. hi nupur,to this add freshly powdered one spoon of coriender seeds and 1/2 tsp og cumin seeds.

    it just tastes yummy,better than only onions,chilli and tamarind.

  19. Dear Nupur, only to know Im publishing right now two recipes of your in my blog to the roundup of T&T your recipes are so nice!!! I like a lot!! xxGloria

  20. we make dry subji using onion with little oil n other spices and salt thats it. D and me both loves it a lot . a very quick dish too. Your post inspired me to post that.
    I have already though of something for "Less is More " .Was planning to post , will post is little later as i just posted something for Sia's MBP ha ha ha...

  21. btw, Sig has chosen Tamarind for JFI this month . you can send this to her too :)

  22. I make a similar chutney, adding some ginger and garlic and season it at the end. Looks delicious, Nupur! :)

  23. Oh that looks good and I like the idea of adding the tamarind to it.

  24. Your chutney looks delicious enough to eat alone! And I loved Pille's orange and onion salad too.

  25. I make quite a few coconut free chutnies and this is one of them. Good, isn't it? I love thogayal (chammandi), a spicy thick coconut chutney made with browned onions. Its heavenly.

  26. hey .. a surprise for you @ my blog

  27. Enjay- The minute I read your comment, I had to run and scribble "baby onions" on my shopping list! Pickles baby onions with saag-chawal sounds perfectly delicious.

    Sujatha, Glad you liked it.

    Sameera, Sure, one could add ginger-garlic but the real reason I made this was the enjoy the pure taste of the browned onions.

    Cathy, LOL those onion sandwiches sound soooo good! I think the fact that they were shared and you only got a small piece added to the taste :) I'll have to make this sandwich for myself one of these days.
    Onions sauteed with potato and cabbage sounds so comforting and delicious too!

    Lydia, Mmm...French onion soup. I know the "real deal" needs beef broth, but I love the meatless versions.
    I can't imagine cooking without onions either.

    Dee, Methi seeds would certainly add another layer of complexity to this chutney!
    Onions with yogurt- one of my favorite relishes too :) I usually serve it with rich curries and jeera rice.

    TBC, Thank you for sharing the recipe! I tend to overuse onions in the kitchen too ;)
    I think I have seen ulli puli on a blog...I know what you mean about the consistency. It is more like a jam, perhaps?? It sounds delicious and is definitely on my to-make list.

    Nags, Tomatoes are healthier than tamarind in the tiny quantities used for chutney??

    notyet100, Thanks for trying the pav bhaji recipe.

    Rachel, Coconut oil would definitely add a wonderful taste to the chutney!

    Miri, The addition of chana dal is such a great idea...I do love the texture it gives to chutneys.

    Raaga, Yes, it is nice to try something other than the old favorite coconut chutney.

    Vegetable Platter, I'm glad you like it.

    Sumi, Raw onions can taste very strong and quite bitter. Cooking them definitely mellows the taste. I can't find raw mangoes where I live so that is not really an option for me.

    Skribles, Yes, onions are a pantry staple for me too.

    Bulbul, How are you doing? There is something about tangy onion salads that makes them simply irresistible.
    Good to know that Daisy has some cool mud to nap in :D Dale's biggest gripe with summer here in the Mid-West is the frequent thunderstorms; they scare him witless. He find a cool spot on the floor and takes long naps in the hot afternoons :)

    Shreya, All your chutney ideas sound delicious!

    Bhagyashree, Well, adding spices would make this chutney taste different, but not better (in my opinion). Sometimes the taste of the onions is delicious just by itself.

    Gloria, Thanks for trying those dessert recipes!

    Pooja, The dry onion subzi sounds delicious...I must try it sometime.

    Kalai, Thanks :)

    Cynthia, Thank you :)

    Lisa, I don't know about eating it by itself :D but it is a versatile chutney! It would make a nice sandwich spread (if made a little thicker).

    Aparna, I have heard so much about chammandi! I should make it sometime. But I think it needs a nice big mortar and pestle to get the authentic taste :)

    Vegetable Platter, Thank you.

  28. simple dish with onions - koshimbir with chopped tomatoes and onions with a dash of salt, sugar and 1 tbl spoon of peanut powder - optionally u can add a tempering of 1 finely chopped green chilli , ghee and jeera - yum !!

  29. That chutney looks really delicious. I like ur addition of tamarind to it for tht tang..Yum ..

  30. Hi Nupur,

    Your blog is very good and interesting! keep up the good work!


  31. Hi Nupur,

    pls do visit my blog sometime and add me to ur blog roll if u can...

    thank u


  32. That is a lovely chutney, would work very well with idlis too! Two of my favorite onions fixes - thinly sliced red onions mixed with left over green chutney and a squirt of lime (this is my next favorite after onions pickled in vinegar, especially if the green chutney was made with mint) :)
    And the second is my mom's ultra quick tamatar-pyaaz. Thin long slices of onions, tomatoes and green chillies sauteed in oil with cumin seeds, red chile, turmeric, salt and a dash of black pepper at the end. Tastes great (especially if the onions still have some crunch to them)with rotis and plain daal.

  33. Nupur,

    Local Indian grocery stores usually keep raw mango on shelves all year round.



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