This South Indian style Tomato Thokku (or Thakkali Thokku) is tangy, spiced, umami relish made with fresh tomatoes, tamarind, spices and herbs. This instant recipe comes together in about 40 minutes and makes for a flavorful condiment to go with your South Indian meals or breakfast like Idli, Dosa or Uttapam.
About Tomato Thokku
Tomato Thokku is a variety of a pickle or relish from the South Indian cuisine. In Tamil language this condiment is called “Thakkali Thokku” coming after the Tamil word for tomatoes which is ‘Thakkali’.
There are may ways this Tomato Pickle is made. My recipe is a simple and yet easy that features fresh tangy tomatoes, tart tamarind, savory spices and herbs. It also does not have any onion or garlic.
Generally thokku are made in large quantities, but I usually make a small batch that keeps well for about a week. You could easily scale the recipe and make a batch that could last for a month.
Mostly Indian meals are never complete without a pickle or chutney relishes. Like most relishes this tomato thokku is best served as a side condiment with any South Indian meal.
I also serve with Khichdi or Pulao. You can also enjoy tomato thokku with idli, dosa or even just plain bread or plain steamed rice.
Thakkali Thokku can be stored in the refrigerator for nearly about a week. If you want to serve for a long time, just add some more oil in the recipe.
How to make Tomato Thokku
1. Measure and prep all the ingredients and keep everything ready before you begin to cook the recipe.
Begin by rinsing 300 grams or 3 to 4 medium-sized tomatoes a few times in water. Then chop them roughly. You will need about 2 to 2.25 cups chopped tomatoes.
Also set aside the spices, herbs that will be needed to make the thokku recipe. Rinse curry leaves and thoroughly dry them and set aside. Break or halve the dry red chillies and remove their seeds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 teaspoon tightly packed tamarind or ¼ teaspoon tamarind paste to a blender or mixer-grinder.
Make sure the tamarind does not have any seeds.
2. Blend to a smooth and fine tomato puree without any chunks. Do not add any water while blending tomatoes.
Sauté Spices and Tomato Puree
3. In a pan, heat oil. Preferably use sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds, also called as gingelly oil. If out of sesame oil, add sunflower oil or any neutral tasting oil.
Keep the heat to a low. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black gram).
4. Fry till they sizzle, crackle and the urad dal turns golden. Keep stirring often.
5. Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger (optional), 10 to 12 curry leaves and 1 dry red chili (preferably broken and seeds removed).
Mix and fry for a few seconds until the raw aroma of ginger goes away, the red chillies change color and the curry leaves look crisp.
All the frying should be done on a low heat, so that the spices do not get burnt.
6. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chili powder and ⅛ teaspoon asafoetida (hing) or about 2 to 3 pinches.
7. Mix well on low heat.
8. Then add the tomato-tamarind puree. Take care as the tomato puree will splutter.
9. Stir the mixture very well. Season with salt according to taste.
Make Thakkali Thokku
10. Cover with lid and cook the tomato puree on low to medium-low heat. The thokku mixture splutters so better to cover the pan with a lid and simmer until the mixture stops spluttering.
11. Stir at intervals and check the tomato puree mixture. If it has stopped spluttering remove the lid and continue to cook without lid.
12. Cook on a low heat to medium-low heat for a total of 15 to 18 minutes or more (with and without lid) until the consistency thickens and you see oil on the top or at sides.
The tomatoes will also get cooked by this time. Do stir at intervals.
13. Add ¼ teaspoon fenugreek powder (20 to 22 fenugreek seeds crushed to fine powder in mortar pestle), 1 teaspoon jaggery or add as required (optional) and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more oil if planning to store the thokku for a long time.
14. Mix well and continue to cook tomato thokku for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat.
15. Let the tomato thokku cool at room temperature.
Once cooled, store tomato thokku in a small clean, dry, airtight glass jar or a lidded non-reactive bowl – steel or glass or ceramic. Keep in the fridge always. You can choose to sterilize the jar if you prefer.
The Tomato Thokku made from this recipe keeps well in the refrigerator for about about a week or more.
You can make a large batch of the recipe. But I would suggest to add more oil when you make a larger batch so that the Tomato Pickle or Tomato Thokku has a longer life. Store in a clean, dry, sterilized glass jar and refrigerate.
While removing the relish, always use a clean dry spoon. Seal again with the jar or bowl lid and refrigerate. Do not keep at room temperature.
Serve Tomato Thokku as a side condiment relish with a South Indian main course. It also pairs well idli, dosa, medu vada, uttapam. As you can see in the photos, I served it with Ragi Dosa.
This tangy tomato relish also tastes nice when mixed with steamed rice and eaten. If you make a large batch, you can use it to make a quick version of Tomato Rice.
Simply mix cooled cooked rice with the tomato thokku and your instant tomato rice is ready. You can fry some spices and herbs for tempering if you like when making this instant tomato rice.
- Tomatoes: Any variety of tangy tomatoes work well in this Tomato Thokku recipe. Ensure that the tomatoes are fresh, ripe, red and have a lovely tangy taste to them.
- Aromatics: My recipe is a satvik recipe made without onions and garlic. Feel free to include about ⅓ cup finely chopped onions and ½ teaspoon of finely chopped garlic in the recipe if you like.
- Jaggery: The traditional Indian sweetener Jaggery is used in this Tomato Thokku recipe to balance the sour and tart taste of both the tomatoes and tamarind. If you do not have jaggery, use palm sugar (or palm jaggery) or coconut sugar. I would not recommend adding sugar as it will give a completely different taste. Opt to skip jaggery if you prefer.
- Oil: Choose to add more oil if you plan to store the relish for a longer time. Oil helps in preserving it. Also, if you make a large batch, then do add more oil. Sesame oil made from raw sesame seeds also known as Gingelly Oil in South India, is traditionally used to make thokku. If you do not have it, use sunflower oil or any other neutral tasting oil.
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Tomato Thokku Recipe (Thakkali Thokku)
For Tomato Puree
- 2 to 2.25 cups tomatoes – chopped, 300 grams or 3 to 4 medium-sized
- 1 teaspoon tamarind (tightly packed) – seeds removed or swap with ¼ teaspoon tamarind paste
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil (gingelly oil) or use any neutral tasting oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black gram)
- 1 teaspoon ginger – finely chopped or 1 inch ginger, chopped – optional
- 1 dry red chilli – halved or broken and seeds removed
- 10 to 12 curry leaves – chopped or whole
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
- salt as required
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek powder or 20 to 22 fenugreek seeds crushed to fine powder in mortar-pestle
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (gingelly oil) or any neutral oil – to be added later
- 1 teaspoon jaggery or add as required, optional
- In a blender, puree the tomatoes with tamarind. Do not add any water while blending.
- In a pan, heat oil. Add the mustard seeds and urad dal. Fry till they crackle and the urad dal turns golden.
- Now add chopped ginger, curry leaves and red chillies. Fry for few seconds till the raw aroma of the ginger disappears and the red chillies change color.
- All the frying should be done on a low heat, so that the spices do not get burnt.
- Add turmeric powder, asafoetida and red chili powder and mix very well.
- Add the tomato-tamarind puree and mix very well.
- Season with salt according to taste.
- Cover pan with a lid and simmer on low to medium-low heat till the tomato puree stops spluttering.
- When the puree stops spluttering, remove lid and cook without lid on low to medium-low heat. Stir at intervals.
- Cook on low to medium-low heat for a total time of 15 to 18 minutes or more (with and without lid) till the tomato thokku mixture thickens and you see oil on the top or at the sides. The mixture will also look glossy.
- Lastly add the fenugreek powder, sesame oil and jaggery. Mix well and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat.
- When mixture cools, store in a small, clean, dry, airtight glass jar or a small lidded bowl while serving. Always refrigerate the tomato thokku. If you want to store it for more days, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons more oil.
- Tomato Thokku keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week. Remember to always use a dry clean spoon when removing it from the jar or bowl.
- Use ripe, red tomatoes. This recipe works well with both the larger variety of tomatoes which are not very tangy or the desi varieties which are more tart and sour.
- To make the thokku more spicy, add more red chilli powder if you prefer.
- For a gluten-free recipe, skip adding asafoetida.
- To make a big batch of this tomato pickle or tomato thokku, simply scale the recipe. You may add more oil when scaling the recipe up, so that it is preserved for a longer time.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Tomato Thokku recipe post from the blog archives first published in June 2010 has been republished and updated on January 2023.