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How To Make Basic Chutney

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How to make chutney with a Basic Chutney Recipe that will produce the best homemade chutney.

Make the most of the summer bounty of fruit and vegetables with jars of delicious chutney for the winter months.

You’ll be pleased to hear how easy it is to make a chutney. Simply chop your vegetables and fruit, choose your favourite spices, add vinegar and sugar and you’re set to simmer.

A jar of chutney with a spoon, cheese and toasted bread.

Then simply simmer until your chutney is nice and glossy and just the right consistency.

Making chutneys and jams here at the Kitchen Shed is a great pleasure for me. Feedback, such as on my Spicy Courgette Chutney and Apple Chutney, tells me the recipes remain firm favourites. Whether from family, friends or Farmer’s Markets’ customers, there’s always a demand for tasty, easy to make chutneys and jams.

In easy to follow step-by-step format, I’m sharing all the chutney making tips I’ve learnt over the past 20 years.

A jar of chutney with a spoon, tomatoes, cheese and bread.


My basic formula chutney recipe can be customised to your personal taste. Why not experiment with your favourite combination of sweet, sour, spicy and salty ? There really is a special pleasure in delighting family and friends with your very own homemade chutney.

Regular readers will perhaps remember how much I value my CrockPot. It’s a great appliance for chutney making and that’s why my recipe includes the method for Slow Cooker Basic Chutney. Ideal for those days when you don’t want to be in the kitchen for long. You can leave your chutney in the slow cooker and get on with other things.

Stacked jars of chutney with ribbon, a pen and labels.

And don’t forget, chutney is a great make ahead Christmas gift as a chutney improves with age. Come Christmas time chutney partners perfectly with Christmas cheeses and cold meats. I always make enough chutney to go in the Christmas hampers for our family and friends.

What equipment do I need ?

  • Preserving pan – nice and wide so liquid can evaporate and your chutney becomes glossy and thick. If you make a lot of chutneys and jams it’s worth investing in a good solid preserving pan. I use an 8.5 litre Penguin Home Professional pan.
  • If you are choosing the Slow Cooker method then you will need a slow cooker. I used a 4 to 6 person (4.7 litre) CrockPot.
  • A spice bag or muslin cloth for the whole spices.
  • A ladle.
  • A jam funnel. I prefer to use a stainless steel funnel because vinegar reacts with other metals such as aluminium.
  • 4 to 6 jam jars with screw top lids. Make sure to use vinegar proof lids – generally plastic coated on the underside to prevent any acid reaction with metal.
  • Adhesive labels.

How to Sterilise Jars

Clean jam jars placed in the microwave to sterilise.

Sterilise jars shortly before they are to be used. This minimises the time in which the jars might pick up new bacteria and ruin your chutney. Make sure your jars are dry when you come to fill them.

  • I like to sterilise jars in the microwave. Clean your jars as normal and rinse. Whilst the jars are wet, pop them in the microwave for two minutes on full power. Remember the jars will be very hot, so remove with care.
  • Pour boiling water into a bowl or jug and add the lids and leave for 5 minutes. Drain and leave to dry completely before using.
  • Alternatively, wash jars and the lids in the dishwasher on a hot cycle.
  • Always sterilise more jars than you think you will need.

What ingredients do I need ?

The full details of my basic formula for chutney are in the recipe card below. You can definitely customise chutney to your own taste and I’d encourage you to experiment. The potential is almost endless, so go ahead and enjoy your own creation.
Just don’t be tempted to change the amount/ratio of vinegar, sugar and salt. They play an important role in preserving your homemade chutney as well as adding flavour.


Spices – use your favourite spices to compliment the fruit and vegetables you are using. To start you off I’ve included the spices I have in my basic chutney.

Vinegar, apples, onions, sultanas, ginger, salt, spice sand sugar on a work top.
  • Apples – I used Braeburn but Cox’s Orange Pippin or Gala work well too. I don’t recommend Granny Smith’s or Pink Lady as they don’t soften or thicken the chutney in the same way.
  • Onions – brown or red onions, bearing in mind red onions will make the chutney sweeter.
  • Fruit or vegetables of your choice – from the first fruit of the rhubarb season through to pumpkins or squash at the end of Autumn. This recipe allows you to use whatever you have to hand. Choose firm fresh fruit or vegetables and discard any bruised parts. You don’t want to go to the trouble of making a chutney and it spoiling because some ingredients were damaged.
  • Dried fruit – sultanas are a favourite in my chutneys but I also love to use dried cranberries and raisins.
  • Vinegar of your choice – you will need a good quality vinegar with an acetic acid content of at least 5%. Most reputable brands have at least 5% acetic acid and some even go as high as 8%. My favourite vinegar to use is cider vinegar but I also use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and Balsamic. Be careful with malt vinegar as there is a tendency for it to overpower the final flavour.
  • Salt – adds flavour and helps to preserve your chutney.
  • Sugar – white sugar makes a sweeter chutney and helps maintain the chutney’s vibrant colour. A light brown sugar imparts a gentle molasses flavour whereas a dark brown sugar produces a deeper molasses flavour. Also, a darker sugar delivers a darker coloured chutney.
  • Coriander seeds – add a warm, aromatic and slightly citrus flavour.
  • Yellow mustard seeds – aren’t quite as fiery as black or brown mustard seeds. Giving a warm spice tone as well as slightly sweet.
  • Black peppercorns – not as hot as white peppercorns and tend to mellow during cooking.
  • Ginger – this is optional. If you like a spicy chutney fresh ginger root adds a gentle heat.
  • Chilli – this is optional as the chilli flakes add a final kick to boost the heat. The amount of chilli I use won’t blow your socks off but it does make a difference. Feel free to add extra heat or tone it down as you prefer.
Dishes of whole and ground spices with ginger and garlic.

How to make Basic Chutney

Making a chutney couldn’t be easier – just follow these easy steps for your best homemade chutney.

  • Cut your vegetables and fruit into roughly the same size pieces so they cook evenly. Bear in mind whether you want a chunky chutney or a smaller diced chutney. If you go too big you’ll have pieces of fruit or veg falling out of your cheese or ham sandwich. Equally, don’t be tempted to shred your fruit and veg or you will end up with more of a sauce.
Slicing Onion for Basic Chutney on a chopping board.
  • Add the diced vegetables along with the sultanas, chilli flakes, sea salt and grated ginger to a large preserving pan.
Adding chopped onions to the preserving pan with chopped apples in.
  • Make up your spice bag by tying the spices in a large muslin square or use a ready made bag.
  • Add spice bag to the pan, pour in vinegar, give everything a good stir and slowly bring to the boil.
Pouring vinegar onto chopped fruit and spices in the preserving pan.
  • Turn down the heat to low before stirring in the sugar until it has dissolved.
Adding sugar to the preserving pan.
  • Simmer until nice and thick. You don’t need to watch chutney like you do jam but you still need to keep an eye on it. Stir every now and then to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • The chutney is ready when the liquid has reduced and the fruit, vegetables and sultanas look plump and glossy.
  • Check your chutney is ready by drawing a silicone spatula or wooden spoon through the chutney mixture. If the chutney parts and the base of the preserving pan remains visible for a few seconds, it’s done.
Drawing a spatula through basic chutney to check it is ready.
  • Ladle your chutney into sterilised jars whilst still hot, filling to within 6 mm (1/4 inch) of the top. Pack down with the back of a spoon to remove any air pockets.
  • Seal tightly with a lid and label when cold.
Potting Basic Chutney into a jar with a ladle from the preserving pan.

How to make Chutney in the Slow Cooker

Can you make chutney in a slow cooker ? Yes you can! A slow cooker is the perfect appliance for making chutney as the process needs to be gentle. A slow cooker removes the the worry of your chutney drying out too much or catching on the bottom of your pan.

  • Firstly, the onion, apples, fruit or vegetables, sultanas, spices and vinegar are brought to the boil in a pan. Do this on your stovetop before adding the ingredients to your slow cooker.
Adding cooked onions and pumpkin to the slow cooker.
  • Next, cook for an hour with the slow cooker lid on to cook the fruit and onion.
Adding sugar into the slow cooker.
  • Then, the sugar is added and stirred in. The slow cooker lid is put back on but now it’s propped open with a wooden spoon or spatula. This allows the chutney to reduce down until it is nice and thick. This process usually takes about 5 hours on the high setting.
Slow cooker lid propped open with a spatula.
  • As with the stovetop method, check your chutney is ready by dragging a wooden spoon or spatula thought it. If the chutney parts and the base of the slow cooker remains visible for a few seconds, it’s done.
Drawing a spatula through basic chutney in the slow cooker to check it is ready.
  • Ladle into sterilised jars whilst still hot and tightly seal the jars with their lids. Label when cold.
  • There is no need to water bath Basic Chutney. The sugar and acidity are sufficient to preserve the chutney.


Here in the UK, the water bath method is not generally used for chutneys. Jars and lids are sterilised before filling with hot chutney and tightened lids on filled jars form a vacuum seal as contents cool. However, if you prefer to use a boiling water canner, process for 15 minutes.

Recipe FAQs

How do you thicken chutney ?

The most common homemade chutney problem is runny chutney. Make sure you use a preserving pan or a large wide saucepan so the liquid evaporates and the chutney thickens. Long slow cooking is essential – it will take at least an hour and a half to cook down. You can’t hurry a chutney.

What is the difference between chutney and jam ?

A chutney is a condiment made from fruit or vegetables, sugar and vinegar. It’s often spicy, sweet or sour and served with cheese or meats or as an accompaniment to Indian dishes. It is cooked long and slow until it is nice and thick. Jam on the other hand is made with fruit and sugar and served with scones or used to sandwich a cake. It’s a much quicker cooking process and has to reach setting point.

How long will chutney keep ?

Homemade Chutney will keep for up to a year. Once opened, use within 4 weeks.

How long before I can eat my Chutney ?

Chutney improves as it matures. Leaving it in sealed jars for at least two weeks before sampling is definitely preferred. Leave for a couple of months if you can.
Despite knowing I should leave chutney to mature, I admit I have opened a jar the day after cooking. It was delicious and surprisingly there was no overpowering taste of vinegar.

How to use Chutney

A jar of chutney with a spoon, a knife, tomatoes, cheese and bread.
  • My basic chutney is perfect on a cheese or ham sandwich. Serve it up with a traditional Ploughman’s lunch or with cheese and crackers. On barbecue evenings we’ve been known to add a spoon or two to a hot dog or burger.
  • But don’t limit your chutney to your favourite sandwich, use it in your cooking too:
  • Add a tablespoon or two to your favourite stew, casserole or tagine.
  • Puree a couple of tablespoons, add a little water and use as a glaze for your Christmas ham or roast.
  • Puree a few tablespoons, add a little water and mustard and use as a dipping sauce.
    Spread some on toast, layer with cheese and grill – Yum !

More Homemade Chutney Recipes for you to try

  • Onion chutney is made with deliciously sweet caramelised red onions, flavoured with bay leaves and gently spiced with chilli flakes.
  • Pumpkin chutney is spiced with coriander, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, a touch of chilli and studded with plump cranberries. It’s a taste of Autumn in a jar.
  • Courgette Chutney is spiced with coriander, ginger, mustard seeds and a touch of chilli. It’s the perfect recipe for using up your overgrown courgettes / zucchini or marrows.
  • Cranberry Chutney is packed with the Christmas flavours of mulled wine spices and orange.
  • Tomato and Chilli Chutney  – a blend of ripe tomatoes and fiery chilli bursting with Indian spices.
  • Green Tomato Chutney is sweet and sour with aromatic spices and a touch of chilli. 

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Jar of chutney with a spoon, bread, cheese and tomatoes above steps to make chutney. Adding onions and spices to pan, checking it's ready and potting.
A jar of chutney with a spoon, tomatoes, cheese and bread.

Basic Chutney

How to make chutney with a basic chutney recipe that will produce the best homemade chutney. Make the most of the summer bounty of fruit and vegetables with jars of delicious chutney for the winter months.
4.98 from 37 votes
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Course: Jams, Pickles, Chutneys, Sauces, Dips & Spreads
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 90
Calories: 33kcal
Author: Sarah James

Equipment

  • Large preserving pan or saucepan
  • spice bag or muslin cloth and string
  • Ladle
  • Stainless steel jam funnel
  • Slow cooker or Crock Pot I used a 4 to 6 person (4.7 litre) CrockPot.
  • 4 x 450g Sterilised jam jars

Ingredients

  • 1 kg fruit or vegetables of your choice
  • 500 g apples – about 3 medium apples
  • 500 g onions diced – about 3 medium onions
  • 200 g sultanas or raisins
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes optional
  • 25 g fresh ginger grated optional
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 400 ml vinegar
  • 400 g sugar
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds An alternative to coriander, mustard and black peppercorns, is a total of 2 tablespoons of your preferred spices.
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns

Instructions

  • Cut your vegetables and fruit into roughly the same size pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Add diced vegetables and sultanas (and chilli flakes, sea salt and grated ginger if using) to a large preserving pan.
  • Make up your spice bag by tying the spices in a large muslin square or use a ready made bag. Add to the pan.
  • Pour in the cider vinegar, give everything a good stir and slowly bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down to low and stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved.
  • Let the chutney mixture simmer for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours. Stir every now and then to prevent chutney sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Check for thickness by drawing a silicone spatula or wooden spoon through the chutney mixture. Your chutney is ready when it parts to reveal the pan base and this remains visible for a few seconds.
  • Whilst chutney is still hot, ladle into sterilised jars and fill to within 6mm (1/4″” inch) of the top. Use the back of a spoon to pack down your chutney and remove any air pockets.
  • Seal tightly with a lid and label when cold.

Slow Cooker / Crockpot method

  • Follow Stovetop method steps 1 to 4 before carefully transferring contents of pan to your slow cooker and cover with its lid.
  • Cook on High for 1 hour before stirring in the sugar.
  • Replace the slow cooker lid but this time prop it open a little with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook on High for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Check if your chutney is ready after 5 hours. If it’s not ready, replace the lid propped by the wooden spoon and leave cooking for another hour or so.
  • Ladle into sterilised jars following the instructions in Stovetop method step 8 & 9.

Notes

  • The basic formula is a ratio of 2kg of fresh vegetables and fruit (ie, excluding the sultanas or raisins) to 400 mls vinegar and 400 g sugar.
  • The recipe approximately makes enough to fill 4 x 450g jars.
  • The recipe is easily doubled or tripled. Just make sure you use a large enough preserving pan so the ingredients can reduce. Also, you’ll need to cook for an extra half hour to an hour. Quadrupling the quantities is not recommended.
  • Don’t be tempted to change the amount/ratio of vinegar, sugar and salt. They play an important role in preserving your homemade chutney as well as adding flavour.
  • Keep at least 2 weeks before eating.
  • Basic Chutney will keep for up to a year when stored in a cool dry place.
  • Once opened, use within four weeks.
  • Here in the UK, the water bath method is not generally used for chutneys. Jars and lids are sterilised before filling with hot chutney and tightened lids on filled jars form a vacuum seal as contents cool. However, if you prefer to use a boiling water canner, process for 15 minutes.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only. It is calculated based on using 1 kg courgettes as the vegetables.

    How to use Homemade Chutney

  • Serve with cheese, cold meats or your favourite burger.
  • Add a tablespoon or two to your favourite stew, casserole or tagine.
  • Puree a couple of tablespoons, add a little water and use as a glaze for your Christmas ham or roast.
  • Puree a few tablespoons and mix with a little water and mustard to make a dipping sauce.
  • Spread some on toast, layer with cheese and grill.
Calories: 33kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.02g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 54mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 32IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.1mg
Recipe Rating




savita

Thursday 6th of July 2023

Loved the flavors of the chutney. I am using it on bread and cheese toast for breakfast. Found it easy to make.

Sarah James

Friday 7th of July 2023

Thanks Savita, pleased to hear you found it easy to make. We love our chutney on cheese on toast too.

Jess

Thursday 6th of July 2023

I have never made chutney before. Your recipe gives me the confidence I need to make it successfully!

Sarah James

Friday 7th of July 2023

That's good to hear Jess. I hope you do try making chutney this summer, once you do, you won't go back to shop bought, Sarah.

suja MD

Thursday 6th of July 2023

Better than store-bought and so much more wholesome! Loving this!

Kathleen

Thursday 6th of July 2023

What marvelous flavors in this chutney. I want to put it on crackers, sandwiches, chicken etc.

Sarah James

Friday 7th of July 2023

Thanks Kathleen, we love chutney with cheese and crackers.

Toni

Thursday 6th of July 2023

I love how easy this is to make! Can't wait to make make it again!

Sarah James

Friday 7th of July 2023

Thanks Toni, pleased to hear you'll be making some more chutney, Sarah.