Tomato Pickle or ‘Thakkali Thokku’ | Tamilian Style

Tomato thokku Align Center
Every year my Mother makes huge lots of pickles during the Summer and Winter. Summers are meant of hot raw mango avakkaya pickle, and Winters witness the making of tomato thokku.  Come November and we see a major drop in the price of vegetables and an upward surge in their availability. Winter also ensures that the vegetables are fresh and healthy looking unlike their tired and drained Summer counterparts.
This Winter we did not make a visit to Bangalore like we usually do, partly because of the odd school schedule, and partly because we just made a long visit during Diwali. As a result we missed out on my Mother’s usual 3 jars of tomato thokku which she prepares during my stay there.  Indians I tell you, just cannot do without a dash of hot pickle. It is not as though we eat it in major helpings but a lick of it every now and then makes a lot of difference especially because I am not huge on spicy food and the dishes I prepare for lunch or dinner are bland – not exactly spice less but not hot or very spicy either as Indian cooking is made out to be in food programs.
We also have varied pickling processes – sometimes mangoes are pickled in chunks and sometimes they are grated and then pickled. The grated varieties fall in the category of ‘thokku’ in Tamil. ‘Thokku’ usually cannot be stored for too long and are made in small quantities and refrigerated after use.Tomato Thokku is my favourite as it has varied uses – it serves as a tasty accompaniment by itself, ground with some pine nuts it forms a spicy vegan pesto and also serves as great sandwich spread. I have tried it all these forms but mostly it gets over soon because I end up using it in a lot of curries when I run short of time.  Each household has its own recipe for a thokku but the base is the same. The only variation comes in the form of addition of mustard powder, use of oil (more or less) and chilli powder. I get my red chilli powder from Fort in Mumbai. Mine is a personal blend of highly pungent chilli powder variety with a variety of paprika that imparts a bright red color. This way even a small amount (I use lesser than most people) ensures a good color while keeping the spice level adequate for me.This thokku is very addictive. Believe me, even if you say no to pickles you will never stop with a dash when you try this. Besides it is so easy even a novice cannot go wrong.

Yield: I used about 1.5 kgs of ripe tomatoes and the end product was only about 200g

Recipe: Thakkali thokku | Tomato pickle – Tamil Nadu Style

Tomatoes (Firm, ripe red juicy ones) – 1.5 kgs.
Red Chilli Powder – As per taste I used about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Salt – To taste (Keep it a little higher as it is also a preservative here, best would be rock salt)
Oil – 3/4 cup (Use 1/4 in the beginning and add 1/4 in the end) I used sesame oil (Idhayam brand)


Chop tomatoes roughly. Taste and see – If it is not tangy you can add 1/8 cup of tamarind extract for the tang. Our tomatoes at this time of the year taste great – they are tangy and sweet at the same time.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wide wok or kadhai. When the oil turns hot (not smoking), add the tomatoes.  Stir well and let cook. Cover with a lid that allows some steaming or alternately you can cook without a lid and keep stirring. This is messy so I go for the former. If you do not have a lid with a steam outlet, you could cover the wok with a big lid and pour a teaspoon of water over it to prevent burning.

Stir every now and then cooking on low fire. It takes nearly 40minutes to an hour for the juice to dry up.

When the juices dry add salt, chilli powder and extra oil and mix ensuring that the mixture doesn’t stick to the vessel and that the oil remains oozing in the periphery.

Remove and store in a clean, dry airtight bottle.

This should yield about 200 to 250 grams, and it gets used up pretty soon.

Do not scrooge on the oil – I have used very less as it is. This with the salt acts as a preservative else your thokku is likely to get spoilt soon.

Print Friendly


Have your say

  1. Mouth watering pickle…..

  2. Wow thakkali thokku looks perfect and mouth watering. Wishing u a very happy new year.

  3. We also prepare it like this SM. But nowadays what I do is I grind the tomatoes, spices, salt everything togher and cook it in the oil. Even in our house we eat less spicy food, which is definitely very less when compared to the average Indian household.

  4. That almost look like halwa! I love thakkali thokku with dosai. Nice pics.

  5. Mouth watering pickle recipe…love tomatoes already, awesome picture…color gives life, right.

  6. Tomato pickle looks delicious. We use tomatoes in the winter for chatni / sauces. This is a must try. 🙂

  7. I need some NOW! I remember one of my friends in college would get so many kinds of pickles…. I could just dig into this.

  8. this looks delicious 🙂
    excellent picture.

  9. oooho mouthwatering I never say no to any pickle with out pickle i can not think of my meal and superb pic i can not wait yaarhummmmm ok yes I made that clover roll s at home but i think the shape was little disturbed thanks for your lovely comment dear

  10. thakkali pesto sounds good! someone should arrest you for such soliciting pictures 😉

  11. I dig all kinds of pickles too.

    And I am dying to find out the color for January. What is it?

  12. I am in for anything edible that goes with suffix PICKLE….and loved this tomato pickle,since it is absolutely new to me and also since there is a bounty of tomatoes in markets 🙂

  13. They look so yum and bright!! 🙂

  14. We too cannot live without pickles. Gorgeous colour, bright way to welcome the year.

  15. I love it dear.I love anything with tomatoes.True,make diff version of curries with tomato as the main character,but never tried this at home by myself.Also thanks for the info on thokku.did not know it.I am already drooling here.
    If interested send it for click-red at j&B.Check the rules as well.

  16. I make tokku but it last only for one day, we end up finnishing all…Great spicy start!

  17. Pics look mouthwatering.. Me too prepares thakkali thokku the same way. Only addition is hing. I love it with dosa.

  18. I love pickles and this one has to be the favourite in our home after mango.:)

    A bit late but our best wishes to you and the family for a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year, Harini.

  19. Tomato pickle never seems to get offered in restaurants around here so thanks for the recipe. I really like tamarind 🙂

  20. This thokku looks yum, great pictures…loved the color 🙂

  21. The laal tamatar ka achaar looks finger-licking good,I love my achaar with yogurt rice:)

  22. that sure looks yummy

  23. Vanamala Hebbar

    lovely ….nice photography i like the style of watermark….
    nice recipe

  24. What a gorgeous red color. Lovely stuff- I usually make this but with a tadka of garlic and much less oil. But then we finish it off in a day or two. Would love to try this and be able to keep it longer.

  25. Thank you all for your kind words:)

    Madhuram, my Mother does the same!

    Rajani, he he! I am on seventh heaven after reading that!!

    Sweatha, I had something in mind for Click. Let me see whether it makes it by Jan end. If not I will send this one!

    Bharti, yes, that is possible for short durations but we usually make enough to last two or three weeks at least so I end up using this much oil!

  26. Absolutely gorgeous! I have a pickle fetish too, and can’t help but pick up jars and jars of Bedekar achaar each time I go to the Indian grocery store, despite Desi’s warnings that they are clogged with salt.
    Your Thakkali Thokku definitely looks addictive, and it’s nice that one can control the salt.

  27. you should send the first photograph in for this month’s click.

  28. …please where can I buy a unicorn?

Thanks for reading. Receive free updates by email.

Frank speak corner! Something you would like to say?