Red and ripe tomatoes are chopped and cooked down in oil and finished off with a punchy spice mix. Making a South Indian pickle doesn’t get easier or more delicious than this. It’s the perfect accompaniment for idlis, dosas, upma, curd rice and more

Thokku typically refers to a variety of pickle, where the ingredient being pickled, namely raw mangoes, gooseberries or tomatoes, is grated and cooked down to a solid consistency along with some spices such as red chillies, fenugreek and asafoetida. Often times mustard powder is added to the preparation. Depending on the tartness of the star ingredient, sometimes tamarind and jaggery are added to balance the dish. Some people temper the pickle with mustard seeds and curry leaves. No matter how it’s made, the end product is a labor of love and an explosive sensorial treat!

This is a much easier, a five-ingredient-no-brainer version of the traditional method. For starters, I use a store bought ready to use pickle powder. There’s no tempering involved. All it takes to make this dish is to cook down some ripe and juicy tomatoes that are finely chopped (or blended) in sesame seed oil along with salt and turmeric. And when it gets to a stage when all the moisture has evaporated, the mixture has transitioned from a semi liquid to a cohesive solid state with the oil glistening on the edges, you add the pickle powder, mix well and turn off the heat. You’ve successfully made a cheat version but dare I say, a more delicious version of the labor intensive Tomato Thokku!

I LOVE this thokku and make it often. I have it along with pretty much anything and everything – idli, dosa, adai, thayir sadam, upma, upma kozhakkatai, rotis, poori, you name it!


  1. The success of this dish lies in picking the right kind of tomatoes. It’s nothing technical. The flavor lies in the pulp and so just make sure that the tomatoes that you pick are ripe, red and juicy ones.
  2. You could make this in any neutral flavored oil, but for best results and authentic taste , use sesame seed oil
  3. Please ensure that you buy a South-Indian pickle powder. I use Brahmin’s pickle powder. It’s made with red chillies, fenugreek, hing and salt. I’ve made this using Grand Sweets Pickle Powder too and it worked just fine.

SERVING: This recipe makes 1 cup of thokku


  1. Ripe Tomatoes – 12 medium sized yielding 4 cups when chopped
  2. Sesame Seed Oil – 4 tbsps
  3. Salt – 1/2 tsp
  4. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  5. Pickle Powder – 1.5 tbsp


  1. Wash and finely chop the tomatoes. Alternatively, you could just pulse them in the blender a few times. I like the texture and I almost always chop them.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Tip the chopped/blended tomatoes in along with the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well, put a lid on and let cook on medium-high heat.
  3. Stir the contents with a ladle every 5 minutes or so and put the lid back on. Cook the tomatoes down to about a fourth of the quantity that you begin with. Cook it to a stage where all the moisture has evaporated, the mixture has released oil and when mixed, it should move as one cohesive mixture like a ball. About 20 mins.
  4. Add the pickle powder and mix well. Cook for just one more minute. Turn off the heat.
  5. Bottle up and serve with idli, dosa, adai, thayir sadam, upma, upma kozhakkatai, rotis, poori, you name it!


  1. If at any point, you feel that the tomatoes are burning, reduce the heat a bit and sautee more often
  2. This will easily last for a week when refrigerated. Sometimes it even goes for 10 days.
  3. Most pickle powder contain salt in them. Brahmin’s pickle powder comes with salt. Please read the list if ingredients and adjust salt accordingly.

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