Whether you're a chutney connoisseur or simply seeking the ideal condiment, this article is your guide to finding the perfect balance of sweetness and spice in a jar of store-bought chutney!
In the vibrant world of South African cuisine, chutney holds a special place. Its sweet, tangy and sometimes spicy profile has the power to elevate even the simplest of dishes, adding a burst of flavour that tantalises the taste buds. From bobotie to boerewors, chutney always finds its way onto our plates in countless ways!
While homemade chutneys are cherished family recipes, there’s something undeniably convenient about having a ready-made jar of fruity goodness at your fingertips.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Chutney chicken
With shelves brimming with choices at retail stores across South Africa, there is one brand that has always stood out – Mrs. H.S. Ball’s. And while it can be a daunting task to pick the perfect accompaniment for your next meal, most South Africans would opt for the favoured familiar taste of Mrs. Ball’s chutney.
In this taste test adventure, not only do we embark on a journey to compare eight store-bought fruit chutneys, exploring their unique flavour profiles, but we also set out to see if any of the lesser-known brands or retail-owned chutneys can rival the hold that Mrs. Ball’s has on our chutney-loving nation.
Mrs. Ball’s chutney did not come out on top in this taste test, but, having said that, the results were extremely close and there was very little to separate each sample, as all the samples actually did quite well.
The winning sample was, however, favoured for its unique curried notes, and tasters found that it was the sample most reminiscent of a thick homemade condiment, two factors the tasting team scored favourably, pushing a local South African legend of a brand into the lead!
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In this taste test, the majority of the tasters seemed to be partial to that of well-balanced chutney, but as with any taste test, the results are heavily subject to individual taste preferences.
In terms of tanginess, Mrs. Ball’s chutney was the only tangy chutney that offered a serious flavour depth, though, which is probably what makes it such a staple item in South African homes.
1. Ina Paarman’s Kitchen Peach Apricot Chutney
Tasters seemed a little divided when it came to their comments, with some noting “I’d say this doesn’t taste like chutney in that it isn’t as sweet as the others, but I really like it because it has a good amount of spiciness,” and others sharing, “Loved this … chunky fruit vibes and pickled fish curry flavours.” Despite this, Ian Paarman’s Kitchen Peach Apricot Chutney was the sample that scored the highest in the blind taste test.
Tasters also noted that this sample had strong curry-flavoured notes to it, a telltale sign that the sample was, in fact, not the original Mrs. Ball’s offering.
Tasters noted: “It does not taste like chutney but still very tasty, it has a nice spicy kick at the end. But definitely not Mrs. Balls,” and “100% not Mrs. Balls, but also this one is so good. Definitely more curry vibes here, flavour packed, in fact. Curry does overpower fruitiness but I would still buy this one.”
Overall, the sample was thick and well-spiced, loaded with peach and apricots, and had a serious flavour depth to it, and it was the sample most tasters said they’d buy again.
Cost: R37.99 for 320g
2. Pick n Pay Mild Chutney
Tasters noted that this sample was peachy with a good amount of sweetness and tanginess to it, an all-round good fruit chutney to buy.
Comments tasters left: “I really like the tanginess! Still has a good sweetness to it, but the tangy flavour appeals to me,” and “Nice and peachy actually. Good sweetness and flavour is good with a subtle tanginess to it,” and “It’s just perfect, not too sweet or tangy.”
Cost: R29.99 for 470g
3. Checkers Housebrand Mild Fruit Chutney and Simple Truth Fruit Chutney
In third spot, we had a tie, and both brands are coincidentally from Checkers.
While the Simple Truth label is a reduced-sugar offering, tasters still found it to be quite sweet. Comments tasters left after tasting Simple Truth: “Loved the consistency, but it was too sweet,” and “Very apricotty. Less tangy option but still enjoyable. Not Mrs. Balls, though,” and “A little too sweet for me, but nice apricot and peachy flavours, nice fruit textures too.”
Cost: R34.99 for 430g
Tasters found Checkers Housebrand’s fruit chutney to be too runny and noted that it lacked fruit pieces. Comments tasters left after included: “Loved the flavour but … did they strain out the pieces of fruit? Who moved my fruit?” and “Very runny and not many fruit pieces. More tangy than sweet but tastes like chutney,” and “This is my favourite sample. It is not too strong or too tangy. And the sweetness is also mild.”
Cost: R24.99 for 460g
4. Mrs. H.S. Ball’s Original Recipe Chutney
Most tasters picked this sample to be the original Mrs. H.S. Ball’s chutney. Tasters noted that it was definitely tangy and that there was a definite chutney depth of flavour to this sample. However, this tanginess divided the tasting panel, with some finding the sample’s tanginess to be overwhelming and others welcoming it, which affected overall the overall scoring.
Comments tasters left: “Too tangy,” and “Very tangy and too sweet,” and “Finally some tang! Excellent fruit textures too for a nice thick chutney,” and finally “Definitely Mrs. Balls. Very tangy but has that characteristic flavour depth to it – that’s how you know it’s Mrs. Ball’s. Fruity but can’t say it’s apricot or peach I’m picking up on, just fruity with some serious tang.”
Cost: R40.99 for 470g
5. Pick n Pay Live Well Fruit Chutney
This too is a reduced-sugar chutney offering. Tasters found it to be very average, but overall lacked a bit on the flavour front.
Comments tasters left: “Your average, play-it-safe chutney,” and “Vinegary and fruity. Lacks flavour depth, though.”
Cost: R28.99 for 430g
6. SPAR Mild Fruit Chutney
Tasters noted that this sample was on the sweeter side and while it was visibly fruity, it didn’t deliver much on the fruity flavour.
Comments tasters left: “Too much sweetness and too much fruit in the sample,” and “Tastes like sweet chutney. Fruit flavours don’t come through, which is odd because there are lots of fruit bits visible,” and “It’s too sweet. There’s a nice spiciness to this one but it’s too sweet and not tangy enough.”
Cost: R22.99 for 460g
Prices correct at time of publishing
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The rules of Food24 Taste Tests:
– All tasters tasted and scored all samples. Each individual taster’s preference impacts the score they give.
– The samples were tested without packaging and were not easily identifiable.
– The samples were not labelled and were tasted in random order.
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