Chutney, Thokku And Thogayal; Know The Difference
Image Credit: Archana's Kitchen

When it really comes down to it, cooking, especially cooking well, lies in the attention to detail and the nuances that make a recipe different from the other. Although similarities between cuisines or dishes draw parallels between cultural influences, eating habits and culinary traditions, the key to making something that is delicious and memorable lies entirely in the way a recipe is executed. Most times, it is easy for us to assume that something we might have tasted somewhere a long time ago, is also the same as a dish that we might eat more often than most. What we overlook as part of these presumptions is the methods in which the output might have been conceived or the ingredients might differ. Speaking of which, three of South Indian cuisine’s most popular condiments – the chutney, thogayal and thokku might seem similar to someone who might not be familiar with them when really, they aren’t just multiple terms referring to the same dish. Here’s what makes each one of them differ from the other.


Image Credits: The Indian Claypot

Often coconut-based, in South Indian cooking, chutney typically refers to a condiment or side that accompanies typical breakfasts of idlis, dosas or sevai. Typically ground to a semi-solid consistency and tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves, chutneys can be made within little to no time, simply by blitzing together any number of ingredients like onions, tomatoes, mint, coconut and black gram bits. A chutney is pretty much similar to a relish, in that, it is supposed to enhance the flavour of the food it is served with and do most of the heavy-lifting on a plate.


Image Credits: The Food Samaritan

Often stone-ground using a mortar and pestle, a thogayal is basically a chutney devoid of any additional moisture or wetness. Unlike a chutney, which is most likely to have a smooth mouthfeel and texture, a thogayal is coarser in texture; the ingredients for which are tempered before they’re ground into a thick paste-like substance. A thogayal is typically made with discarded vegetable peels or seeds, plenty of whole spices as well as a liberal helping of coconut, although the coconut only provides body to the dish, as opposed to being one of the key ingredients. A thogayal is usually eaten mixed into rice, with a spoon of ghee drizzled on top but it is equally delicious with other South Indian ‘tiffin’ items.


Image Credits: Bhojana Recipes

A cross between chutney and pickle, a thokku is a robustly-spiced condiment that normally has one ingredient as the foundation (read: tomatoes, raw mango), which is grated and undergoes a slow-cooking process, until it changes form and deepens in colour. Unlike a thogayal or chutney, a thokku does not require any kind of grinding and is relatively spicier compared to its counterparts.