Tomato Chutney

I had a lot of tomatoes. There were tomatoes on the three small plants in a pot outside my back door. Planted mainly for the benefit of the grandsons but with them away for the summer holidays, there’s no little person around to pick off the ripe cherry tomatoes and pop them straight into their mouths – as they did last year.

There were also bought tomatoes which returned home with me at the end of our week in Wales, plus more I’d bought in a bout of enthusiasm when I got back. I love tomatoes and don’t like to be without them.

Last year, I had a similar problem and slow-roasted the garden tomatoes and preserved them in olive oil. It worked well; they were delicious. But now I had some large tomatoes as well as small cherry ones and decided to do something different. I would make chutney. I used to make chutney a lot when my kids were small. My dad grew lots of tomatoes and at the end of the summer he’d give me a large amount of the unripened ones and I’d make green tomato chutney. The tomatoes I had now were mainly ripened ones, just a few not quite ripe. I tried to remember what recipe I’d used about 20 years ago. I took a few old books from my shelves and finally found a recipe for ripe tomato chutney in a Katie Stewart book, Katie Stewart’s Cookbook (published 1983). This and a couple more of Katie’s books used to be my kitchen bibles and I used her recipes for years. I still occasionally go back to them. And I did for this chutney. However, having looked at some other recipes online I decided to update the recipe a bit, substituting red wine vinegar for ‘distilled white vinegar’; muscovado sugar for granulated; red onions for ‘ordinary’ onions; and to her spices of cayenne, mixed spice and paprika, I added a little mustard.

Katie’s recipe used 2.7 kg of tomatoes to make 1.8 kg of chutney. I had a lot of tomatoes but I didn’t have 2.7 kg worth! I even ended up buying a few more to make it up to half the quantity. But while I was busy preparing them, I was very glad I’d kept to half quantity. It takes some time to skin and chop lots of tomatoes!

It’s a very simple recipe. I found some recipes added apple, garlic and more spices, like ginger, but I wanted to keep to simple. And I generally think it’s a good policy to follow a recipe like this (and cake recipes) fairly faithfully first time and then make changes another time round. I’d made some changes to this one but the base of the recipe was essentially the same.

Tomato Chutney – Makes about 800g – 1 kg (4 small-medium jars)

  • 100g red onion
  • 1.35 kg tomatoes (mine were mainly ripe with a few semi-ripe; a mix of sizes)
  • 150ml red wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 level teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard (ready made not powder mustard)
  • 170g light muscovado sugar

Peel and very finely chop the onion. Put in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the onion is tender. Drain.


With a sharp knife, cut a shallow cross in the bottom of the large tomatoes, put them in a pan or bowl and cover with boiling water. After just a few seconds, no more than half a minute, remove carefully with a slotted spoon. Then you should be able to easily peel them. Take care – they’ll be very hot at first. Cut them in half and remove the woody core. Then chop into small pieces. Put the tomato in a large saucepan.

I didn’t try to skin the small cherry tomatoes but merely cut them in half or quarters, depending on their size. Add them to the pan too with the drained onion.



Gently bring the tomatoes to a ‘boil’ (you don’t need extra liquid) and then simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture is nicely reduced and quite thick. Katie Stewart helpfully warns that ripe tomatoes have more water than unripe ones and to make sure the mixture is well reduced before you add the vinegar – to preserve the chutney – or it won’t keep long.

Now add half the vinegar, the salt, spices and mustard and simmer for another 30 minutes until thick.

Dissolve the sugar in the remaining half quantity of vinegar. Now add this to the mixture, mix well and simmer for about another hour, until thick. I had a tiny taste about halfway through to test and added a very small amount more salt, but remember flavours will become more intense as the mixture thickens.

My mixture was quite dark as I’d used the light muscovado sugar; I think dark muscovado would be too strong a flavour.

After the hour or so get ready to pot the chutney.

Have some warm clean jars ready. I always put jars I keep through a dishwasher cycle, but you can just clean well in soapy water and pour boiling water in to sterilise them and after a few seconds tip (carefully) out. The jars then need to be warmed in an oven just before use so the chutney goes, still warm, into warm jars.

Carefully spoon the chutney into the jars.

Cut disks of greaseproof paper and put on top of the chutney, shiny side down, to help preserve it. Put the lids on tightly. Then label the chutney. It’s nice to do this, especially if you plan to give some as gifts, but it’s also important if you make a lot of chutney (or any preserve) to know their age if you keep them for a while. If you’ve got a nice cool larder, they should be fine there. I don’t have a cool place like that so mine, once cool, went into my fridge. Once a jar is opened, it should definitely be stored in the fridge.

I was quite excited by my efforts and almost impatient for the chutney to cool so I could taste it properly. I managed to hold out until after I’d eaten my supper, by which time the chutney was quite cold and slightly chilled from being in the fridge. I took a little taste on a teaspoon. It has a nice texture, soft and thick; the tomato flavour comes through well and there’s a nice little hit of heat at the end from the cayenne and mustard. It’s a very good chutney which I’ll enjoy most probably at lunchtimes, when I like to sometimes have bread and cheese and – chutney!

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

8 thoughts on “Tomato Chutney

  1. I also make tomato chutney, my favourite being green tomato chutney and I have just found out that dehydrating the tomato skins then make them into a powder is a useful tip also – the joy of food.

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