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Cold Onion Chutney

Curry House Style Cold Onion Chutney is so easy to make!

You know those sliced onions that are served in a red sauce with papadums before the meal at Indian restaurants? Well, they are a lot more popular than you may think. I get asked for this recipe all the time.

The fact that you are looking at this recipe means that you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

So many Indian restaurants purchase commercial brand pickles and chutneys. It just isn’t cost effective to make their own.

I think that one of the reasons this cold onion chutney is so popular is that it has to be made fresh.

Onion chutney

This is that famous curry house restaurant style onion chutney!

Working Ahead

When you dine at a restaurant that serves this delicious onion chutney, you know you’re in a good place.

It does take some preparation though. All of this is better done ahead of time for best results.

The onion chutney needs to be served super cold right from the fridge. Therefore, you should make that sauce and get it chilled. As a result you will get the perfect sauce for the chutney.

Slice up you onions and stir them into the sauce.

This will keep in the fridge nicely for a few days.


How to Serve

Dip your papadums in or spread a little over your favourite kebabs.

This easy chutney just plain gets it. If the onion chutney sounds like it will be good on what you’re serving, do it!

Making cold onion chutney

Mix the sauce ingredients.

Making cold onion chutney

Add the sliced onions and roasted cumin seeds.

As you can see from the photos and short video, it really is easy to make this red cold onion chutney. 

It only takes minutes to make and will keep in the fridge for 3 – 4 days. Therefore, if you are planning a curry feast for friends, you might as well get this one done early.

For that matter, I you are cooking up a feast you may as well make a few curries a day or two before. Curries and most chutneys actually get better by sitting in the fridge as the flavours develop. 


You will see in the video that I used less ketchup than I did on the day I made the cold onion chutney and photographed it.

You can do the same.

If you like a lot of sauce, go for it. Add more ketchup and/or tomato paste.

Taste as you go. That’s what making these curry house recipes is all about. By tasting as you go, you will be able to get the right flavour balance for your taste preferences.

Those toasted cumin seeds… Do I have to toast them?

No. But personally I prefer the flavour of toasted cumin seeds in the onion chutney.

It’s the difference between bread and toast! By toasting the seeds, you not only bring out the flavour of the cumin but I think it makes the chutney more interesting too.

Making cold onion chutney

Stir is all up.

Cold onion chutney

Dig in.

What else?

As I mentioned above, this curry house style cold onion chutney can be made ahead of time. I suggest you do this because this of course isn’t the case with many recipes.

As it will keep in the fridge covered for at least three days so it’s one you can easily check off your list of things to prepare for that upcoming curry feast.

I recommend serving it with papadums and a selection of other pickles and chutneys like my homemade lime pickle and/or spicy vegetable pickle. You might also like to try this smooth garlic, chilli and mint raita.

cold onion chutney

So good on popadums.

What to serve this famous onion chutney with? Here are some delicious ideas.

Pappada Vada
Home Fried Papadums
Homemade Stovetop Naans
Smoked Toor Dhal Samosas
Lamb Seekh Kebabs

I hope you enjoy this recipe as my family and I do. 

When you try this curry house style cold onion chutney, there’s no turning back. Isn’t it great that something so simple, tastes so good?

Yield: 4

How To Make Cold Onion Chutney

Onion chutney

This is the famous cold onion chutney found at curry houses around the UK. It's quick and easy to make and tastes amazing.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 large onion - finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoon ketchup (I use Heinz)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp rapeseed (canola) oil (optional)
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl of ice water and put in the fridge for about an hour.
  2. When the onion slices are good and cold, drain the water and tap them dry with a clean cloth.
  3. Now mix the ketchup, tomato puree, chilli powder, cumin seeds and salt with the sliced onions.
  4. Stick in the fridge for about 45 minutes before serving.
  5. This recipe is perfect with papadams though I could eat it on its own!

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I hope you enjoy this easy cold onion chutney. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 


Sunday 20th of January 2019

What kind of chili powder do you use for this? Cayenne? Kashmiri? Other? Thanks.

Dan Toombs

Monday 21st of January 2019

Hi Jeffrey

I use Kashmiri chilli powder which is what is most often used in Indian cooking. There's no reason you couldn't experiment with others though.

Thanks, Dan


Sunday 13th of January 2019

American "chilli powder" is a combination of ground chillies, cumin, salt, garlic, etc. For making chilli. Indian chili powder is straight up ground red chillies.


Saturday 5th of January 2019

Hi, how long will this keep in the fridge? Can it be frozen?

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

Hi Wayne

It will keep in the fridge for at least three days. I wouldn't freeze it though.

Thanks, Dan


Saturday 1st of December 2018

Made this to go with a homemade butter chicken. It’s a lovely recipe and have made it a few times but last night I added some mint sauce as that’s what they put in our Indian restaurant onion chutney just for a wee change. Both taste amazing 😉

Dan Toombs

Monday 3rd of December 2018

Great to hear Dee. The mint sounds like a nice touch.



Sunday 16th of September 2018

Is there a specific type of chili powder you use? Just regular (American?) chili powder doesn't seem like it would be spicy enough. Is something like cayenne appropriate? I love this type of chutney and would love to make some.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 18th of September 2018

Hi Taryn

I use Kashmiri chilli powder which you can get at some shops and also online in the US. I have used cayenne and it works but different flavour and heat altogether.

Hope this helps, Dan

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