South Indian Coconut Chutney

South Indian Coconut Chutney

The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
164 Calories
16g Fat
6g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 164
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 10g 51%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 109mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 141mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Coconut is a popular ingredient in South Indian cooking. You'll find it in savory and sweet dishes that make the most of the fresh, mild flavor, and fat content of this versatile fruit. Coconuts come from the palm tree, one of the few plants of which all parts are used: fruit, fibers, trunk, and leaves are used for either food, fiber, fuel, or as building materials for houses and rafts.

South Indian cuisine uses coconut fruit and its derived oil for cooking, and our recipe for chutney makes the most of its flavor and texture. Chutneys include a variety of cooked, pickled, and raw preparations that have been adopted and adapted over the years to the palates and needs of other traditions; some chutney appeared as a way of preserving fruit for the winter, while others are made with overabundant seasonal produce. Some are sweet and others savory, and there is no one recipe to make it right. All combinations are great: spices, fruits, herbs, vegetables, vinegar, and sugar can be cooked and canned or prepared raw to be eaten within a few days. Our chutney uses a small number of yellow lentils or roasted garbanzos. You can find either in Indian groceries—if using the roasted garbanzos look for chutney chana.

Because all chutneys are different, they each complement different flavor profiles. Our mild coconut chutney is the perfect companion for South Indian steamed rice cakes known as idlis, for dosas, and uttapams rice pancakes. It's also the perfect accompaniment or side dish for pork or chicken, and it makes a terrific sandwich spread.  


  • 1/2 fresh coconut, grated

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil . or ghee

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • 5 to 6 curry leaves, finely chopped

  • 2 dry red chilies, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon yellow lentils, or roasted chickpeas

  • Salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    South Indian Coconut Chutney ingredients

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  2. Grind the grated coconut into a fine paste in the food processor. Reserve for later use.

    rind the grated coconut into a fine paste in the food processor

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  3. Heat the vegetable oil or ghee in a small pan and when hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chilies, and yellow lentils. Sauté the ingredients, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the mixture turns slightly darker in color and is notably aromatic.​

    mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chilies, and yellow lentils in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add to the previously made coconut paste. Mix well, add salt to taste, transfer into a serving bowl, and serve.

    South Indian Coconut Chutney in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

Additions and Substitutions

Our mild coconut chutney is great as is, but you can change up the flavor profile in a few ways:

  • Add 1 large tomato to give the chutney a slightly tangy taste. This addition makes the chutney a great side to firm white fish. Taste for salt and add a squeeze of lime to the chutney before you serve it.
  • Add ginger to add some kick to the chutney. Grate a piece of ginger the size of your thumb and grind it with the coconut before mixing the paste with the rest of the heated ingredients. This version is also great for fish and seafood.
  • Add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of red chilies to increase the heat. Accordingly, you can skip the spice altogether or add less for a milder chutney. For a really hot chutney, add 1 to 2 fresh green chilies in addition to the red chilies. Place in the food processor with the coconut. Once all the ingredients are mixed, leave the chutney to rest at least 10 minutes for the chili to flavor the paste. Stir well before serving. This spicy version suits meats that are mild in flavor, like chicken or turkey, or perhaps grilled tofu.
  • Grind half a handful of fresh cilantro and half a handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed, to make a green version of this chutney. Process the herbs with the coconut. This herby variation goes well with all meats and roasted vegetables.