Chutneys are those side dishes or condiments that form an essential part of Indian cuisine in general. Be it in any corner of our country, a variety of chutneys is what completes a meal in Indian food culture. Not just that, chutneys also elevate the flavors between different dishes in a meal and make it all the more sumptuous. Just like this Tamil Nadu style Kara Chutney – a spicy chutney made with pearl onions (shallots), tomatoes, spices and herbs.
The word ‘kara’ refers to spicy and chutney is something that we Indian can’t really think our meals without! When put together, Kara Chutney simply means a spicy chutney which is a specialty of the cuisine of Tamil Nadu in South India.
Since the flavor profile of the Kaara Chutney is essentially spicy, it pairs really well with dosas, idlis, vada and uttapam.
Recently while preparing dosa, I had made kara chutney. Took pics when making the kara chutney, so that I can share the recipe on blog. Usually, I prepare Coconut chutney with dosa or idli, but at times I also make Onion chutney or Tomato chutney.
I never prepare both the coconut chutney and Onion-tomato chutney together. I just make one type of chutney and a sambar to go along with idli or dosa . In most 5 star hotels, they serve both coconut chutney and onion-tomato chutney together in their breakfast buffet.
This kara chutney is spicy as red chilies are added. You can make it less spicy if you want, by adding less chilies or using chilies which are low in heat.
I have also used pearl onions in the recipe and they give a really good flavor. Instead of pearl onions, you can also use shallots or regular onions.
Serve kara chutney with rava idli, masala dosa or uttapam. This chutney specifically also goes very well with vendhaya dosa.
How to make Kara Chutney
1. Heat 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a pan. Lower the heat and then add 1 teaspoon urad dal (split husked black gram) and 1 teaspoon chana dal (split and husked Bengal gram).
2. On a low heat, saute both the lentils till they start turning golden.
3. Then add ¼ cup sliced pearl onions (shallots) or ¼ cup chopped onions.
4. Begin to sauté.
5. Saute till the pearl onions begin to turn golden. Then add 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
6. Now add 4 to 5 dry red chilies. You can use byadagi red chilies or Kashmiri red chilies. I used byadagi chilies.
7. Saute for half a minute or till the red chilies change color.
8. Now add ½ cup of chopped tomatoes.
9. Stir and mix well.
10. Season with salt as per taste. Mix well.
11. Next add ¼ teaspoon tamarind.
12. Saute the tomatoes on a low heat.
13. The tomatoes need to get softened. So stir and saute till they soften. Switch off the heat. Let the kara chutney mixture become warm or cool down at room temperature.
14. Once the mixture becomes warm or cools, then add it to a chutney grinder or a small blender. Also add ¼ cup water and grind or blend to a smooth paste.
15. Remove the chutney to a bowl and keep it aside.
16. Add the remaining ¼ cup water and run the grinder jar again, so that the chutney sticking at the sides and the bottom get mixed with water. Add this chutney mixed water to the bowl and mix very well.
Tempering for kara chutney
17. In the same pan or a different pan, heat 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds and crackle them.
18. Then add 7 to 8 curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida (hing). Saute till the curry leaves become crisp.
19. Pour the tempering mixture in the kara chutney. Mix well.
20. Serve kara chutney with idli, set dosa or uttapam. This spicy chutney also goes well with Paniyaram.
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Spicy Kara Chutney
ingredients for grinding
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ¼ cup sliced pearl onions or shallots or chopped onions or 4 to 5 pearl onions (shallots) or 1 small onion
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes or 1 medium to large tomato, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic or 4 to 5 medium sized garlic, chopped
- 4 to 5 dry red chilies, can use byadagi or kashmiri red chilies
- ¼ teaspoon tamarind
- 1 teaspoon split and husked bengal gram (chana dal)
- 1 teaspoon split husked black gram (urad dal)
- salt as required
- ⅓ to ½ cup water for grinding chutney
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 7 to 8 curry leaves
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
sauteing & grinding
- Heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a pan.
- Lower the flame and then add 1 teaspoon urad dal (split husked black gram) and 1 teaspoon chana dal (split & husked bengal gram).
- On a low flame, saute both the lentils till they start turning golden.
- Then add 1/4 cup sliced pearl onions/shallots or 1/4 cup chopped onions.
- Stir and saute till the pearl onions begin to turn golden. Then add garlic.
- Now add 4 to 5 dry red chilies. Saute for half a minute.
- Next add 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes.
- Add salt & tamarind.
- Saute the tomatoes on a low flame till they soften.
- Switch off the flame and let the chutney mixture become warm or cool down at room temperature.
- Once the mixture becomes warm or cools, then add it in a chutney grinder or a small blender.
- Add 1/4 cup water and grind to a smooth paste.
- Remove the chutney in a a bowl and keep aside.
- Add remaining 1/4 cup water and run the grinder jar again, so that the chutney sticking at the sides and the bottom get mixed with water.
- Add this chutney mixed water to the bowl and mix very well.
tempering for kaara chutney
- In the same pan or a different pan, heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Add ½ tsp mustard seeds and crackle them.
- Then add 7 to 8 curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida.
- Saute till the curry leaves become crisp.
- Pour the tempering mixture in the kara chutney. Mix well.
- Serve kaara chutney with idli, dosa or uttapam. This spicy chutney also goes well with paniyarams.
- You can add less or more water depending on the kara chutney consistency you want.
- You can add less dry red chilies for a less spicy version.
- You can also use dry red chilies which are low in heat for a less spicy chutney.
- You can remove the seeds from dry red chilies.
- If tamarind is not available, then skip it.
This Kara Chutney post from the archives first published in September 2016 has been updated and republished on January 2023.