Terrifically tangy and sour Tomato Rasam is a delicious soup-like dish that can be enjoyed over rice or on its own as a hearty soup. Here I share step-by-step instructions with photos for preparing this recipe two different ways, as a traditional classic tomato rasam (thakkali rasam) or try a spicier Andhra-style version of tomato charu.
Table of Contents
About Tomato Rasam
Tomato rasam is a popular South Indian dish that is known for being equally healthful and delicious. In fact, it’s often served as a spiced hot drink that helps ease cold symptoms and digestion issues.
Tomato is called as “Thakkali” in Tamil language. So this delicious piquant rasam is also known as “Thakkali Rasam”.
It is a vegan recipe that features juicy tomatoes, bold spices, and lots of ginger and garlic for an extra pungent, wonderfully tangy flavor.
While there are many different recipes for making a traditional tomato rasam recipe – this is by far the easiest to make from scratch. And, in my opinion, it is the tastiest, too!
There are no dal/lentils used in this tomato rasam recipe. Also, there is no tamarind added and you don’t need any actual Rasam Powder to make this tomato rasam.
Below I share two of my favorite variations of tomato rasam. While the methods to make them are similar, the second recipe has a much greater kick of spiciness.
- Tomato Rasam (Thakkali Rasam) – Made without tamarind and rasam powder (My mom’s special recipe). This version has a more sour, tangy tomato flavor. This recipe also has a video.
- Tomato Charu – Andhra Style Spicy Tomato Rasam recipe. A spicier, smokier dish.
Both recipes are easy to make and are delicious to enjoy as a soup or with rice. Simply choose how spicy you like your tomato rasam!
Ingredients You Need
For the first tomato rasam recipe aka thakkali rasam, we use cumin seeds and black pepper as the main spices. You can increase or decrease the proportion of pepper to adjust with your taste and desired level of spice.
Other ingredients that are needed are tender coriander stems (cilantro, with or without leaves), ginger and garlic. Again, feel free to use more or less ginger and garlic depending on how fragrant you want your dish.
Plus you also need, of course, juicy red tomatoes and plenty of Indian spices and herbs.
How to make Tomato Rasam
Make Ground Herbs And Spice Mixture
1. To a blender or food processor add ⅓ cup (about a handful) of roughly chopped coriander stems, with or without leaves. Add 7 to 8 medium sized garlic cloves, peeled, and 1 inch of peeled ginger, roughly chopped.
2. Add 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds and ¼ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. Feel free to use less or more pepper to taste.
3. Grind to a coarse paste, but do not puree. Transfer the paste to a bowl or plate and set aside.
Making Tomato Puree
4. To the same blender jar add 3 large ripe and red tomatoes, rinsed and chopped. You will need 275 grams tomatoes, or roughly 1.5 to 1.75 cups of chopped tomatoes.
5. Blend the tomatoes to a smooth puree. For a beautiful bright red rasam, you can first blanch the tomatoes and then puree them.
To blanch tomatoes, boil them in a pot of water for one to two minutes before quickly plunging in a bath of ice water. This stops the cooking process and keeps the tomatoes super red and juicy.
Fry The Spices, Herbs
6. In a heavy pan or pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil on low heat. Once the oil is hot add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.
You can use gingelly oil (made from raw sesame seeds) or sunflower, peanut or any neutral oil.
7. Fry the mustard seeds until they begin to crackle.
8. Next add ½ teaspoon of urad dal (lentils). I have used whole urad dal, but you can even use split and husked lentils.
While the dal adds great texture and taste, feel free to leave them out if you don’t like them or don’t have any on hand.
9. Continue to stir often as you fry the urad dal to a golden brown.
10. Add 1 to 2 dry red chilies (halved and seeds removed), and 1 pinch asafoetida (hing). Turn the heat off if the pot gets too hot and nearly smokes.
11. Stir and fry the chilies for few seconds, until they start to lose their red color and become reddish brown.
12. Add the coarsely ground coriander, ginger, cumin, black pepper and garlic paste to the pan. Again, if the pan is so hot that anything begins to burn, promptly turn the heat off and/or remove the pan from the stove.
13. Now add 10 to 12 curry leaves, whole or chopped.
14. Sauté for a minute on low, being careful to not burn the spices.
15. Add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.
16. Stir to thoroughly blend the turmeric powder in with the spice mixture.
Making Tomato Rasam
17. Carefully add the tomato puree.
18. Mix well. The tomato rasam will almost immediately smell amazing.
19. Continue to stir and simmer for a minute to heat the mixture through.
20. Season with salt to taste.
21. Next add 1.5 cups of water, and stir. If you want a thinner soup you can add a splash more water. But I don’t recommend adding too much more, or you risk diluting the delicious flavors of the thakkali rasam.
22. Increase the temperature to medium-low heat and bring the soup to a gently boil. Stir again, and reduce the heat back down to low.
23. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occassionally.
24. Turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves. Taste, and add more salt if needed.
Serving Tomato Rasam
Serve tomato rasam or thakkali rasam hot, either like a curry over steamed white rice or enjoy as a bowl of hearty soup. Both ways are great with a side of pappadums or simple toasted bread.
Refrigerate any leftovers for a day. Reheat the tomato rasam in a small pot or pan until warm or hot. If you plan to make ahead the thakkali rasam then do not add coriander leaves. After you reheat rasam, add the coriander leaves.
- Tomatoes: Tomato rasam is best made with fresh, red, ripe tomatoes. Any variety of red tomatoes work, provided they are ripe.
- Spices: For a spicy and robust thakkali rasam, increase the amount of whole black peppercorns by adding a total of ½ teaspoon.
- Oil: Traditionally in the Tamil Nadu cuisine, rasam is made with gingelly oil. This gingelly oil is nothing but wood pressed oil extracted from raw sesame seeds. In a pinch you can opt to use sunflower oil, peanut oil or any neutral oil.
- Urad dal: Omit urad dal if you do not have these lentils.
- Asafoetida: For a gluten-free tomato rasam do not add asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida.
About Tomato Charu
Tomato charu is the Andhra version of rasam made with tomatoes, spices, herbs. This is a soupy spicy vegan recipe that is quick to make.
Rasam is called as “charu” in Andhra Pradesh and “saaru” in Karnataka. There are many ways of making tomato charu.
Whenever I make tomato charu, I usually puree the tomatoes. Of course, you can crush or chop the tomatoes too, but we like them pureed. The tomato puree can also be strained if you want.
You can blanch or skip blanching tomatoes, before pureeing them. I usually make quick lunch and dinners, so I do not blanch the tomatoes.
A bit of tamarind also goes in this charu recipe. Though skipping it also is fine, if you do not have it.
Tamarind simply make the tomato charu a bit more tart, than what it would be with only the tomatoes included in the recipe.
Step-by-Step Tomato Charu (Andhra Style)
Make Tamarind Pulp
1. Soak 1 teaspoon tamarind in ¼ cup hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Then squeeze the tamarind and extract the pulp.
Make Tomato Puree
3. When the tamarind is soaking, chop 250 grams tomato (4 to 5 medium tomatoes).
4. Add them along with their juices from the chopping board to a blender jar.
5. Blend to a smooth puree.
Cook Tomato Puree
6. Take the tomato puree in a pan or pot.
7. Now add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon red chili powder.
8. Then add 2 cups water and mix very well.
9. Keep the pan on the stovetop. Cover with a lid. Then on a low to medium flame simmer the tomato mixture for 3 to 4 minutes.
10. Then remove the lid and continue to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes or until the raw flavors of the tomatoes are not there.
Add Tamarind Pulp
11. Next strain the tamarind pulp over the tomato broth carefully, taking care that the steam does not touch your hands.
Or you can switch off the heat and add the tamarind pulp. You can also add the tamarind pulp directly without using a strainer.
12. Mix well.
Add Seasonings and Rasam Powder
13. Next add salt as per taste. Then simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
14. Then add 2 teaspoons Rasam Powder. Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. A bit of jaggery (about ½ to 1 teaspoon) can also be added to balance the sourness of tomatoes.
If you do not have rasam powder, you can skip it, but the taste of the tomato charu will be different.
15. Cover with a lid and set aside.
16. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan or tadka pan. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and let them crackle.
17. Then add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and let them splutter.
18. Next add 2 dry red chilies and 10 to 12 curry leaves along with a generous pinch of asafoetida (hing).
Making Tomato Charu
19. Fry until the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp and add this entire tempering mixture to the tomato charu.
Cover the pan for 4 to 5 minutes so that the tempering flavors infuse into the tomato charu.
20. Then remove the lid and add 2 to 3 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves.
22. Serve the andhra style tomato charu with steamed rice or you can drink it as a soup.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for a day. Reheat until warm or lightly hot in a sauce pan.
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Tomato Rasam (Thakkali Rasam)
For the spice-herb mixture
- ⅓ cup coriander stems – with or without leaves
- 7 to 8 garlic cloves – medium-sized
- 1 inch ginger – roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
For tomato puree
- 1.5 to 1.75 cups chopped tomatoes – 275 grams or 3 large-sized tomatoes
For making tomato rasam
- 1 tablespoon oil – gingelly oil (sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds) or sunflower oil or peanut oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds – black
- ½ teaspoon urad dal – husked, split or husked, whole black gram
- 1 or 2 dry red chillies – broken and seeds removed
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 10 to 12 curry leaves or 1 sprig of curry leaves
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- salt as needed
- 1.5 cups water or add as required
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
Making ground spice & herbs mixture
- Take roughly chopped coriander stems with or without leaves (about a handful of coriander stems) in a blender or mixer jar. Also add garlic cloves and roughly chopped ginger.
- Add cumin seeds and black pepper.
- Grind to a coarse paste. Remove in a separate bowl or plate.
Making tomato puree
- In the same jar add the tomatoes (rinsed and chopped).
- Grind or blend to a smooth puree. If you want, you can blanch tomatoes and then puree them – for a bright red color in the rasam.
Making tomato rasam
- In a heavy pan or pot, heat the oil. Keep the flame to its lowest.
- Add the mustard seed and let them begin to crackle.
- When the mustard seeds start to crackle, then add urad dal.
- Stirring often fry urad dal until they turn golden.
- Now add the dry red chilies (halved and seeds removed) and 1 pinch asafoetida. In case the pan becomes hot, then switch off the heat.
- Stir and fry for a few seconds till the red chilies change color.
- Add the coarsely ground coriander stems+ginger+garlic mixture and curry leaves. If the pan becomes too hot, then you can switch off the heat.
- Sauté for a minute on lowest flame taking care the mixture does not burn. You will get a nice aroma while sautéing this mixture.
- Add turmeric powder.
- Mix turmeric powder with the rest of the mixture.
- Now add the tomato puree. mix very well. Take care as the mixture splutters.
- Sauté for a minute. Season with salt as per taste.
- Then add 1.5 cups water. If you like a little thin tomato rasam, then you could add some more water. But do not add too much water as the flavors get diluted.
- Mix well and simmer thakkali rasam on medium-low heat until the rasam comes to a simmer.
- Overall simmer for 9 to 10 minutes.
- Finally switch off the heat and add 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves. Check the taste of tomato rasam and add more salt if needed.
- Serve tomato rasam hot, either like a curry over steamed white rice or enjoy as a bowl of hearty soup. Both ways are great with a side of pappadums or a simple toasted bread.
- Refrigerate any leftovers for a day. Reheat the rasam in a small pot or pan until warm or hot.
- If you plan to make ahead the rasam then do not add coriander leaves. After you reheat rasam, add the coriander leaves.
- Tomatoes: Tomato rasam is best made with fresh, red, ripe tomatoes. Any variety of red tomatoes work, provided they are ripe.
- Spices: To make the rasam more spicy and robust, increase the amount of black pepper. Add a total of ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns.
- Oil: Traditionally Tamil nadu style rasam is made with gingelly oil. Gingelly oil is wood pressed oil extracted from raw sesame seeds. In a pinch sunflower oil, peanut oil or any neutral oil also works well.
- Urad dal: If you do not have urad dal, then omit adding them.
- Asafoetida: For a gluten-free rasam do not add asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
For tamarind pulp
- 1 teaspoon tamarind – dried
- ¼ cup hot water
- 250 grams tomato or 4 to 5 medium tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- 2 cups water
- salt as required
- 2 teaspoons Rasam Powder
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 1 tablespoon oil (can use sesame, sunflower or peanut oil)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 10 to 12 curry leaves or 1 sprig curry leaves
- 2 dry red chilies – crowns removed, or halved and seeds removed
- Soak tamarind in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Then squeeze the tamarind and extract the pulp.
- When the tamarind is soaking, chop the tomatoes.
- Add them along with their juices in a blender jar.
- Blend to smooth puree.
- Take the tomato puree in a pan or pot.
- Now add turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
- Then add water and mix very well.
Making tomato charu
- Keep the pan on the stove top. Cover with a lid. Then on a low to medium flame let the tomato mixture cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Then remove the lid and continue to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes or till the rawness of the tomatoes goes away.
- Next strain the tamarind pulp and directly add it to the rasam.
- Mix well.
- Next add salt as per taste. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Then add rasam powder. Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
- Switch off heat, cover the pan and set aside.
- Heat oil in a small pan or tadka pan. Lower the heat & add mustard seeds. Let them crackle.
- Then add cumin seeds and let them splutter.
- Next add dry red chilies and curry leaves along with a pinch of asafoetida.
- Fry until the red chilies change color and curry leaves become crisp. Add the entire tempering mixture into the tomato charu.
- Cover the pan with a lid for 5 minutes so that the tempering flavors infuse into the charu.
- Then add chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve tomato charu hot with rice or like a soup.
- Ground spices like red chili powder and rasam powder can be added more or less as per your preferences.
- For a gluten-free tomato charu, opt for gluten-free asafoetida or skip it completely.
- You can skip rasam powder, if you do not have it but the tomato charu will taste different.
- If the tomatoes are too tart, to balance the taste, you can add ½ to 1 teaspoon of jaggery.
Nutrition Info Approximate values
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This tomato rasam post from the archives (January 2012) has been republished and updated on 13 March 2021.