Coconut Chutney Is One of the World’s Most Extraordinary Sauces. Here’s How to Make It.

published Jul 28, 2020
Cilantro Coconut Chutney

Coconut chutney is the quintessential South Indian condiment. It's usually served with idlis, dosas, or fried appetizers, but is equally delicious on a sandwich or just mixed with hot rice.

Makes2 cups

Prep10 minutes

Cook5 minutes

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Credit: Photo by Madhumita Sathishkumar

Coconut chutney is the quintessential South Indian condiment. It’s usually served with idlis, dosas, or fried appetizers, but is equally delicious on a sandwich or just mixed with hot rice. The majority of the chutneys made in my family use chana dalia (roasted split chickpeas) to give the chutney body, but you can sub in blanched almonds or leave them out for a perfectly tasty chutney.

This is the chutney I make most often. If you’re short on time, you can skip the last few steps of frying spices in oil. You can also play around with the fresh herb you use. My mother would usually make her coconut chutney with cilantro leaves, and like her, I’m a huge cilantro fan and enjoy any recipe where it has a starring role. However, I’ve made this recipe with basil leaves, or a mixture of mint and cilantro leaves, for a variation.

Credit: Photo by Madhumita Sathishkumar

Cilantro Coconut Chutney

Coconut chutney is the quintessential South Indian condiment. It's usually served with idlis, dosas, or fried appetizers, but is equally delicious on a sandwich or just mixed with hot rice.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes

Makes 2 cups

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup

    fresh, frozen, or dried unsweetened grated or shredded coconut

  • 1 (1-inch) piece

    fresh ginger

  • 1/2

    small red onion or 1 large shallot

  • 3 tablespoons

    chana dalia (roasted split chickpeas, see Recipe Notes)

  • 2 to 3

    fresh green Indian or serrano chiles

  • 2 cups

    packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

  • 2 tablespoons

    freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup

    water

  • 1/4 cup

    plain yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon

    canola or vegetable oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    black mustard seeds

  • Pinch

    asafetida (hing) powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    skinned urad dal (dried split matpe beans)

  • 3

    fresh curry leaves

  • 1

    dried red chile, such as Guntur Sannam, cayenne, or arbol (optional)

Instructions

  1. Thaw 3/4 cup grated frozen coconut, or add a little hot water to 3/4 cup dried coconut to plump up and rehydrate. Peel and thinly slice 1-inch piece fresh ginger. Quarter 1/2 small red onion or 1 large shallot. Trim the stems from 2 to 3 Indian green or serrano chiles.

  2. Place 3 tablespoons roasted chana dal in a blender and blend into a powder. Add the ginger, onion or shallot, green chiles, and coconut. Blend, adding a little water as needed to get the blades moving, until a coarse paste forms.

  3. Add 2 cups packed cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Add in just enough water to get the blades moving, 1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on the blender, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as needed. The chutney is ready when it has a creamy, paste-like consistency but still has some texture from the shredded coconut. Blend in more water if you desire a thinner consistency. Add 1/4 cup plain yogurt and blend to combine.

  4. Transfer the chutney to a bowl. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. The chutney can be served at this point, but if you have more time, proceed to the next step.

  5. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add in 1 black mustard seed. When it sizzles and pops, add 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds and a pinch of asafetida powder. Immediately cover the pan when the mustard seeds start popping. When the popping starts to subside, add 1/2 teaspoon skinned urad dal. Stir to coat with the oil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often so they evenly toast, until they turn a reddish golden-brown color and smell nutty.

  6. Rub 3 fresh curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils and drop them and the dried chile if desired (break it in half with your hands first) into the pan. Immediately cover the pan, as moisture from curry leaves will cause the oil to spurt. Once the sputtering stops, stir to evenly coat everything with oil and continue to fry for 10 to 15 seconds. Turn off the heat.

  7. Pour the spiced oil over the chutney. Taste for season with kosher salt and lemon juice as needed. Serve with dosa or as a condiment to any meal. Also goes great on tacos, sandwiches, or eggs.

Recipe Notes

Chana dal: If you have chana dal that is not already roasted, you can soak it in hot water for 15 minutes. An equal amount of blanched almonds or almond flour/meal can be substituted as a last resort.

Storage: The chutney is best served fresh, but will last a few days in the refrigerator. Mix in a little water or lemon juice to loosen it up before serving.

Chitra Agrawal’s Weeknight South Indian Cooking Guide

This recipe is part of our weeknight South Indian cooking guide, designed to bring the vibrant and colorful cuisine of South India into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Chitra, and check out all of the recipes below.

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Huli is a spicy lentil and vegetable stew served daily in Karnataka homes, usually with rice. This is a quick, one-pot version, made with baby spinach and red lentils.
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Potato Palya
This is the special potato palya or potato stir-fry that is filled into masala dosa, though it can also be eaten on its own. The potatoes are spicy and tangy and cooked with a little butter until they are soft enough to melt in your mouth.
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4 / 5
Cilantro Coconut Chutney
Coconut chutney is the quintessential South Indian condiment. It's usually served with idlis, dosas, or fried appetizers, but is equally delicious on a sandwich or just mixed with hot rice.
Go to Recipe
5 / 5
Chitra's Chitranna (Shredded Cabbage, Lime & Peanut Rice)
A variation of nimbekai chitranna, made with sautéed shredded red cabbage and carrots tossed with cooked turmeric rice, fried peanuts, lime juice and chopped cilantro.
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Credit: Kitchn