The Brightest, Most Flavorful Carrot Salad We’ve Ever Had

Sweet, spicy, and acidic, this Maharashtrian-style gajarachi koshimbir features carrots tossed with lime juice, a spice-infused oil, cilantro, peanuts, and grated coconut for a crunchy and aromatic side salad.

Gajarachi Koshimbir hero
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

One of my favorite ways to eat carrots when I was growing up was my mother’s vibrant gajarachi koshimbir, a popular salad of grated carrots with mustard seeds and curry leaves from Maharashtra, my home state on India’s west coast. She’d serve the salad to me as part of a Marathi lunch or dinner of chapatis, rice, dal, vegetables, and yogurt. The tangy and acidic carrot salad paired well with the meal’s mild, hearty carbs. My mom’s salad was a medley of sharp flavors and contrasting textures. The grated carrots soaked up the lime juice they were macerated in; mustard seeds, onions, and peanuts provided crunch; the curry leaves heated in oil infused the salad with the leave's distinctive earthy aroma; and the cilantro and grated fresh coconut added a pop of color, chew, and delicate sweetness. 

This salad is common in Maharashtra, where it’s made with carrots or cabbage or both. I love my mom’s version so much that I even included her recipe in my The Essential Marathi Cookbook.

As a caterer and culinary instructor in California, I’ve made gajarachi koshimbir many times for events and cooking demonstrations over the years, and during this time, I began referring to it as a mayonnaise-less “slaw” because it's crunchy with an acidic bite similar to most slaws. Whether you call it a salad or slaw, it is great served alongside pasta or barbecue, and it also makes a delicious topping for meat sandwiches, like Vietnamese banh mi or even burgers. My version here is an adaptation of my mom’s recipe with a few tweaks: I use a lot more lime juice and curry leaves than she did, and instead of using grated carrots, I prefer thicker shredded carrots because they hold up to the acidic dressing better. Here is how to make this refreshing salad at home.

Gajarachi Koshimbir- headnote 1
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Tips for Making Gajarachi Koshimbir

Try using store-bought pre-shredded carrots. As a caterer, I often made this salad for large groups, and I found that grating pounds of carrots became tiresome. It was convenient and quicker to use store bought shredded carrots, Even when I make a smaller portion at home, I still reach for this convenience item. (The matchstick–shredded carrots from Trader Joe’s are my favorite.) 

On top of the time and arm strength saved by using pre-shredded carrots, I found that because the store-bought shredded ones were slightly thicker than the carrots I grated at home and more consistent in size, they retained their crunch after being marinated for hours in the lime juice and seasoned oil mixture. If you prefer, you can still grate the carrots yourself with a box grater for this recipe. Just make sure to store the salad in a cool place and serve it within two hours of dressing, otherwise the carrots will turn unpleasantly soggy.

Let the salad sit. Unlike many fresh, leafy green salads, this carrot salad’s flavors will improve with time as it sits dressed. As the carrots and onion macerate with the sugar, salt, and lime juice, the flavors blend together, and the acidity from the lime juice softens the carrots and onions slightly. 

Gajarachi Koshimbir - headnote 2
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Try using a seasoning wok. A seasoning wok is a small wok that is used in Indian cooking for toasting spices and for making seasoned oil blends. They generally are made from thicker metal than Chinese woks and can cook longer over high heat than thin carbon steel woks without the risk of burning. I often use a seasoning wok at home to make spice blends for a variety of dishes. 

If you don’t have a seasoning wok, a small, flat-bottomed saucepan works well. Whichever pan you choose, after pouring the seasoning into the salad, make sure to put some of the carrots into the seasoning pan, and use tongs or a spoon to push the carrots around, scrapping up the last bits of spice and flavor from the pan, before adding back into the salad. It’s a simple technique to make sure you get every bit of the cooked spice blend into the food.

Add asafoetida for an assertive flavor. Asafoetida is a gum resin that drips off the roots of an herb called ferula asafoetida, a central Asian plant in the celery family. It is gathered and then ground into a powder. Nuggets of it used to be left in sacks of grain because bugs stayed away from its strong aroma. Cooks in India learned that its strong onion-garlic smell and flavor was a welcome addition in many dishes. In the Indian state of Maharashtra, where my family is from, asafoetida-mustard-turmeric is often considered the “holy trinity” of seasonings. My father didn't like asafoetida’s pungent aroma, so my mother never cooked with it when I was growing up. But as an adult I’ve grown to love its flavor and always use it when I make a mustard seed seasoning, like I do here in my carrot slaw.

Customize it with your preferred vegetables. Sometimes, Mom made the salad even more colorful and hearty by adding chunks of tomato and thinly sliced cabbage. Feel free to do the same here, or add shredded broccoli or brussels sprouts. All of these can be used in combination or used as alternatives to the carrot. If adding other ingredients, scale down the amount of carrots to keep the final volume of the salad ingredients the same. This ensures the salad will still be evenly coated in the lime juice and dressing.

For the Salad: Place shredded carrots and onions in a glass, ceramic, or non-reactice metal mixing bowl. Toss with sugar, salt, and lime juice. Macerate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally to redistribute the lime juice.

Gajarachi Koshimbir step 1
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Stir cumin and cilantro into the carrots. Season with salt to taste.

Gajarachi Koshimbir step 2
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

For the Hot Oil Seasoning: in a small saucepan or seasoning wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat until just smoking, about 1 minute. Keep a lid/screen handy. 

Gajarachi Koshimbir step 3
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Reduce heat to low and test the oil with one mustard seed. If it pops right away, the oil is ready; if not, return heat to medium-high for 1 additional minute and retest. When ready, quickly add the remaining mustard seeds to the saucepan and cover with the lid/screen. The mustard seeds will pop, making a sound like popping corn, about 30 seconds. Once the popping stops, uncover the pan and add the turmeric, stir briefly, then add the asafoetida. Turn the heat up to medium-low and add the chiles. Stir well. 

Gajarachi-Koshimbir step 4
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Add the curry leaves and cook until sizzling, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and stir. Do not let the curry leaves brown. 

Gajarachi Koshimbi step 5
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Pour the spiced oil over the macerated carrot mixture immediately. Then put some of the carrots into the pan and, using tongs or a spoon, push them around to wipe up any leftover oil and lingering spices and spoon them back into the salad. Season to taste with salt and more lime/lemon juice if needed. Stir well to combine.

Gajarachi Koshimbir step 6
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

For Serving: Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro, coconut, and peanuts. Serve.

Gajarachi Koshimbir step 7
Serious Eats/Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Special Equipment

A small saucepan or seasoning wok

Notes

Use a ceramic, glass, or nonreactive metal bowl to make the salad. Avoid using a plastic bowl that might get discolored from the turmeric in the oil.

This recipe can be easily doubled.

I prefer to use store bought shredded carrots, my favorite brand is Trader Joe’s. You can also buy whole carrots and grate them yourself on a box grater.

Use white onions when making Indian food as they are the closest approximation to Indian onions that I have found. Red onions are too sharp for this salad and, in my opinion, yellow onions simply do not work with the spices in Indian food.

Asafoetida can be found at most Indian grocers. It’s also available to purchase online; Burlap and Barrel and Amazon are two sources. I recommend the powder sold in small jars, rather than large plastic containers, because they hold the aroma. You will smell an onion-garlic aroma from the asafoetida when you open the container. Keep it tightly shut between uses, otherwise the smell will pervade your entire kitchen. While it adds a distinct assertive garlic and onion–like flavor to the chutney, you can omit it if unavailable, but the chutney will be less aromatic.

Use fresh curry leaves, not dried. The dried ones do not have the intense flavor of the fresh. They are usually available at Indian stores.

Make-Ahead and Storage

This salad can be held at room temperature for up to 4 hours or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.

My Easy Sweet and Spicy Tomato Chutney Livens Up Almost Any Meal

Simmer chunks of juicy ripe tomatoes to make this aromatic, tangy chutney, which gets its distinct earthiness from fresh curry leaves. I always keep it on hand to serve with biryani, rice, dal, grilled chicken, and more.

tomato chutney hero
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Aromatic and tangy, with juicy chunks of simmered ripe tomato and a distinctive earthy, minerally aroma from fresh curry leaves, this thick tomato chutney is a condiment I always keep on hand to serve with biriyani, rice, dal, grilled chicken, and more. In South Asia, chutneys are often made very spicy so that a tablespoon or two per person is sufficient to add welcome heat to a meal. Rather than being added to dishes, it's on the table with most meals, so diners can help themselves to more if they like. 

My favorite style of tomato chutney is Hyderabadi tomato-curry leaf chutney. I was first introduced to it when I was 14 years old, after my family moved back to Hyderabad, India from Canada for my father’s job. I had never been to this historically Muslim city in the northern tip of south India before, and I was a bit of a foreigner with my Canadian accent. Still, a Hyderabadi Muslim girl, Ayesha, befriended me at school. We ate lunch together every day sitting cross legged on the playground. While I unpacked my sandwich, Ayesha opened her tiffin box filled with a traditional Muslim school lunch—shami kebabs, chapatis, a sauced vegetable dish, and tomato–curry leaf chutney. The deep red condiment with its green flecks of chiles and curry leaves was intoxicatingly aromatic. 

While I never got to try Ayesha’s chutney, I’d watch her enjoy the fragrant condiment, picking out the leaves one by one and leaving them on the ground beside her lunchbox. Every time we got up to go back to class I was amused by the circle of leaves she always left behind. I thought it was a shame that she never ate the chutney’s curry leaves, which gave it a distinctive aroma and flavor. I loved the smell of curry leaves and enjoyed them in other dishes that my mother cooked, like gajarachi koshimbir, carrot slaw with mustard seeds and curry leaves.

It wasn’t until several years after high school that I finally tasted Hyderabadi-style tomato–curry leaf chutney, and it was everything I had dreamed it would be. Tomato–curry leaf chutney is frequently seen on a Hyderabadi Muslim plate, often alongside chapatis, dal, rice, meat, and vegetables. Hyderabad's rich history and the influence of both Northern Indian and Southern Indian cuisines is reflected in its own unique cuisine.

Hyderabadi’s cuisine features dishes like kebabs and biryani, and ingredients like saffron, pistachio, and rose water, thanks to its Qutb–Shahi rulers, with roots in Turkey and Persia, who came to Southern India from the north of the country. Ingredients such as curry leaves, tamarind, and rice, which are native to Southern India, are also enjoyed in Hyderabad. And there are ingredients that came to India from the Americas via Portuguese explorers—chiles, tomatoes, and potatoes. All these ingredients, over generations, created a globally influenced cuisine unique to Hyderabad, and this influence is reflected in the city’s tomato–curry leaf chutney.

As an adult, I learned how to make the chutney myself from Bilkees Latif’s cookbook, The Essential Andhra Cookbook (part of the same Penguin series as my The Essential Marathi Cookbook). By this time, I was living in the U.S. and cooking for a living. With my professional culinary knowledge, I played with Latif’s recipe to make it my own and created a quick, easy version. Here are a few tips for how to make my tomato–curry leaf chutney at home.

Tips for Making My Tomato–Curry Leaf Chutney

Use plenty of fresh curry leaves and add them at different stages. To showcase my deep love for curry leaves, I call for 15 whole curry leaves—that’s more than Latif’s recipe and most other recipes call for in this style of chutney. It’s important to use fresh curry leaves, not dried, because dried leaves just don’t have the same intense flavor as the fresh do. Sautéing about half of the curry leaves with the other aromatics at the start of the recipe, then adding the remaining curry leaves after the tomatoes are finished cooking, intensifies the curry leaf flavor in the chutney.

While the tomatoes, chiles, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and asafoetida give the chutney more than enough flavor, I love to add ginger and garlic for even more savory flavor to balance the sweet stewed tomatoes. 

tomato chutney headnote 1
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Add asafoetida for assertive flavor. Asafoetida is a gum resin that drips off the roots of an herb called ferula asafoetida, a central Asian plant in the celery family. It is gathered and then ground into a powder. Nuggets of it used to be left in sacks of grain because bugs stayed away from its strong aroma. Cooks in India learned that its strong onion-garlic smell and flavor was a welcome addition in many dishes. In the Indian state of Maharashtra, where my family is from, asafoetida-mustard-turmeric is often considered the “holy trinity” of seasonings. My father didn't like asafoetida’s pungent aroma, so my mother never cooked with it when I was growing up. But as an adult I’ve grown to love its flavor and always use it when I make a mustard seed seasoning, like I do here in my tomato–curry leaf chutney.

Have your spices measured and ready before cooking. Heating the oil and cooking the spices and aromatics happens very quickly in this recipe, within minutes. Opening multiple jars of spices and measuring them out at the stove or even having many small bowls of spices ready to add to the pot, can be time-consuming and cumbersome, and lead to the oil burning. To ensure you don’t burn the spices or overheat the oil, you want the spices to be ready to add before you start heating it. I like to use an Indian spice box, and I recommend having one if you plan to make Indian recipes often. With the spice box, small portions of frequently used spices are at the ready, and the box can be opened for easy access while you wait for the oil to heat. Since the box only holds about a week’s worth of spices, they stay fresh but can be replenished when needed from the pantry. 

tomato chutney headnote 2
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

If you do not have a spice box, don’t worry. There’s an easy solution: Measure out your spices onto two plates and keep them by the stove. On one plate, put mustard seeds, turmeric, and asafoetida, about an inch apart; on the second, place the grated garlic and ginger, sliced chiles/chili powder, and seven curry leaves, also one inch apart. This way, when it's time to add each ingredient, it'll be ready to go. 

Use in-season tomatoes. The flavor of sweet, in-season tomatoes is incomparable, and I recommend using them here. Cooking the tomatoes down into a jammy mixture further sweetens their flavor to contrast the spices, aromatics, and fresh chiles. The result is a tomato chutney that is sweet, savory, and spicy.

tomato chutney headnote 3
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

How to Serve Tomato–Curry Leaf Chutney

You can of course serve this chutney with Hyderabadi dishes like biryani or baghara baingan (Indian eggplant in a rich cashew nut and spice sauce) or dishes from other parts of India such as hot white rice, chapatis, sautéed vegetables, and dal. But it’s also great as a burger topping, paired with grilled chicken, or added to a pasta sauce. I enjoy it dolloped on goat cheese and a cracker, with a bit of quince paste for contrast.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Keep a lid/screen handy.

tomato chutney step 1
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Reduce heat to low and test the oil with one mustard seed. If it pops right away, the oil is ready for the spices; if not, return heat to medium-high for 1 additional minute and retest. When ready, quickly add the remaining mustard seeds to the saucepan and cover quickly with the lid/screen. The mustard seeds will pop, making a sound like popping corn for about 30 seconds.

tomato chutney step 2
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Once the popping reduces, uncover the pan and add turmeric, stir briefly, then add asafoetida. 

tomato chutney step 3
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Turn the heat up to medium and stir in Thai chiles, garlic, and ginger. If using red chili powder, stir it in after the garlic and ginger. Cook until mixture is aromatic but garlic is not browning yet, 15 to 30 seconds. Add 7 curry leaves and stir to combine with the other ingredients.

tomato chutney step 4
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Stir the tomatoes into the spiced oil and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes begin to break down and start to release their juices, 8 to 10 minutes.

tomato chutney step 6
Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Pour the reserved tomato juices into the pan. Stir in the salt and ground cumin, if using. Cook chutney, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the tomato pieces have softened and reduced in size, 30 to 35 minutes. At this stage the chutney should be spreadable, like a compote. Season with salt to taste. Add the remaining 8 curry leaves and remove from heat. Stir to mix the curry leaves into the hot chutney to release their flavor. Cool the chutney to room temperature before serving. 

Special Equipment

Medium saucepan with lid or splatter screen

Notes

This recipe can be easily doubled.

Asafoetida can be found at most Indian grocers. It’s also available to purchase online; Burlap and Barrel and Amazon are two sources. I recommend the powder sold in small jars or plastic containers because they hold the aroma. You will smell an onion-garlic aroma from the asafoetida when you open the container. Keep it tightly shut between uses, otherwise the smell will pervade your entire kitchen. While it adds a distinct assertive garlic and onion–like flavor to the chutney, you can omit it if unavailable, but the chutney will be less aromatic.

Use fresh curry leaves, not dried. The dried ones do not have the intense flavor of the fresh. They are usually available at Indian stores.

Arbol chiles can be substituted for Thai bird chiles.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The chutney can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months. It can be enjoyed cold from the refrigerator or at room temperature.