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Tkemali – Georgian Plum Sauce

Tkemali is a very flavorful and nutrient-dense Georgian plum sauce that is a great healthier alternative to ketchup or cranberry sauce. Use this sweet-sour vibrant condiment for almost about everything: grilled food, roasted veggies, burgers, potato wedges, any kind of protein, in salad dressings, as a bread spread and so much more!

Tkemali Georgian Plum Sauce in a jar with a serving spoon.

Tkemali is so delicious and yet so little-known to the world outside of the former Soviet Union, I just need to share this awesome Georgian plum sauce with you.

Georgian word “tkemali” stands for a variety of sour plum, which is the main ingredient of this sauce. The sauce owes its name to this plum, which is nearly impossible to find outside Georgia. However, other types of plums can be used as well, as you’ll soon see!

There are two varieties of Georgian tkemali: the green one, made of sour unripe plums and the red one, made of ripe plums (which is what this recipe uses). While the type of plum you use may vary, the result of the sauce is still delicious tartness.

You can find an interesting recipe for the green tkemali (as well as many other delicious recipes) in The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia, which I recommend to everyone who is interested in Georgian food.

Plums in a Pot for Tkemali.

Where Do You Use Georgian Sour Plum Sauce?

Tkemali sauce is a perfect condiment for almost anything. Just like you’d ketchup in North America, so you’d use Tkemali in Eastern Europe.

It is perfect with:

This plum sauce is pretty much as universal as ketchup.

A jar of tkemali (or khmeli suneli) is a perfect gift for a person who likes homemade preserved food and is eager to try new flavors.

Tkemali is pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and very flavorful. It’s truly one of a kind, so you might even want to make a double batch and share!
Tkemali in jars surrounded by ingredients.

What’s In Tkemali?

While the foundation of Georgian Tkemali is plums, it’s the added herbs and spices combined with the sweet tartness of the plum that complete its unique flavor profile.

Traditionally, herbs like dill, cilantro, summer savory and pennyroyal are used for tkemali but you are free to experiment with whatever herbs you like. 

I used fresh dill, cilantro, peppermint and dried tarragon, as well as dried coriander and khmeli suneli mix. You can skip it, as it is not traditionally used, but I found that tkemali tastes better if you do use it.

Other ingredients include garlic, herbs and Georgian spices. The good news is you can make tkemali at home from scratch from any plums that you have on hand! Just adjust the sugar as needed (more on that below).

This Georgian plum sauce is more than just delicious, too. It’s a nutrient-dense condiment that is a healthier substitute for ketchup. Plums contain organic acids, pectin, vitamins C, E, B1, B2, P, minerals, tannins and carotene.

Tkemali improves digestion and works as a metabolism booster, just like North African Harissa sauce, mojo verde, chimichurri or roasted garlic dressing.

Spices and herbs for plum tkemali.

How to Make & Store Tkemali

I make a big batch every year during plum season. Because it’s so easy, you may find yourself doing the same thing!

Plus, making extra means you can give some to friends and family.

From 1 kilogram of plums (2.2 lbs) you will get around 650 ml (0.7 liquid quart) of sauce.

See how to make this sauce step-by-step in this tkemali web story. And make sure to check the full recipe directions below.

You can store it in the fridge or in a cool place for up to 3 months. The natural preservatives used here are peppermint and coriander.

Depending on the type of plums you use, you’ll need to adjust the taste by adding more sugar if the sauce tastes too sour. If you use common plums or red plums that are sweet enough, you won’t need to add the extra sugar. If the plums are tart, then you will.

To make your Georgian plum sauce last longer, proper canning techniques should be utilized.

You should sterilize your jars (boil them for 15 minutes in water) and pour some olive oil on the surface before you seal them.

Make sure the jars are hot and dry when you pour the hot sauce in.
Georgian plum sauce on the tabletop surrounded by fresh dill and garlic.

Top Tips

  • Tkemali is a flavorful and nutrient-dense Georgian plum sauce that is a great healthier alternative to ketchup or cranberry sauce.
  • Georgian tkemali sauce is pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and full of flavor.
  • Serve it with roasted vegetables, (red) beets, burgers, potato wedges, any kind of protein, grilled food, tempeh, fresh bread, in salad dressings, as a bread spread, or as a dip for stir fried veggies.
  • From 1 kilogram of plums (2.2 lbs) you will get around 650 ml (0.7 liquid quart) of sauce. Double the amounts to make a bigger batch.
  • Depending on the type of plums you use, you’ll need to adjust the taste by adding more sugar if the sauce tastes too sour.
  • You can store it in the fridge or in a cool place for up to 3 months.
  • To make your sauce last longer, sterilize your jars (boil them for 15 minutes in water) and pour some olive oil on the surface before you seal them. Make sure the jars are hot and dry when you pour the hot sauce in.

Recipe Variations

  • Traditional tkemali is made from a variety of green sour plum. However, you can use  other types of plums as well. Depending on the type of plums adjust the amount of sugar you use for the sauce.
  • Traditionally, herbs like dill, cilantro, summer savory and pennyroyal are used for tkemali but you are free to experiment with whatever herbs you like. I used fresh dill, cilantro, peppermint and dried tarragon, as well as dried coriander and khmeli suneli mix. You can skip it, as it is not traditionally used, but I found that tkemali tastes better if you do use it.

Tkemali sauce on the wooden tabletop.

Check the recipe (and the recipe video) below and enjoy your homemade tkemali with your favorite dishes. If you can’t see the video, disable your AdBlock for this page by clicking on the AdBlock button and selecting Don’t run on this page.

 
cropped-Tkemali-Georgian-Plum-Sauce-Closeup.jpg
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4.5 from 10 votes

Tkemali – Georgian Plum Sauce Recipe

Tkemali is a sweet-sour, aromatic and flavorful Georgian plum sauce, perfect for roasted vegetables, grilled food, and salad dressings.
Course Condiment
Cuisine Georgian
Keyword tkemali
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 20
Calories 27kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 glass jars 220 ml or 8 oz, sterilized
  • 2.2 lbs lbs or 1 kg ripe red plums
  • 1/2 cup or 100 ml water
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small red chili pepper finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped (or 5 teaspoons dry)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill chopped (or 3 teaspoons dry)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh peppermint chopped (or 2/3 teaspoon dry)
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons khmeli suneli
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2/3 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • olive oil

Instructions

  • Cut plums in quarters or halves, remove stones and place in a pot with a little water. Bring them to a boil over medium heat and simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    2.2 lbs lbs or 1 kg ripe red plums, 1/2 cup or 100 ml water
    Tkemali is a Georgian plum sauce, perfect for vegetables, grilled meat, fish, seafood and salad dressings. It's pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and flavorful.
  • When plums are soft, drain them using a sieve and keep the juice (it's delicious and healthy). Using a wooden spoon, rub plums through the sieve and transfer them back into the pot. Alternatively, pulse them in a blender.
    Tkemali is a Georgian plum sauce, perfect for vegetables, grilled meat, fish, seafood and salad dressings. It's pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and flavorful.
  • Add garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, dill, peppermint, dried tarragon, ground coriander, khmeli suneli, salt, sugar, black pepper and pomegranate juice. You might need more sugar if you use sour plums (see notes). Stir to combine. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
    4-5 large cloves garlic, 1 small red chili pepper, 5 tablespoons fresh cilantro, 3 tablespoons fresh dill, 2 teaspoons fresh peppermint, 1 tablespoon dried tarragon, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 2 teaspoons khmeli suneli, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2/3 teaspoons ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
    Tkemali is a Georgian plum sauce, perfect for vegetables, grilled meat, fish, seafood and salad dressings. It's pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and flavorful.
  • Pour the sauce into hot and dry jars. Cover with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to preserve. Seal and store in the fridge or in a cool place for at least 2-3 months. To store it longer, see the canning instructions below. Enjoy!
    olive oil
    Tkemali Georgian Plum Sauce - Served Sauce witha Spoon Inside Ready for the Meal

Notes

Top Tips

  • Tkemali is a flavorful and nutrient-dense Georgian plum sauce that is a great healthier alternative to ketchup or cranberry sauce.
  • Georgian tkemali sauce is pungent, sweet-sour, aromatic and full of flavor.
  • Serve it with roasted vegetables, (red) beets, burgers, potato wedges, any kind of protein, grilled food, tempeh, fresh bread, in salad dressings, as a bread spread, or as a dip for stir fried veggies.
  • From 1 kilogram of plums (2.2 lbs) you will get around 650 ml (0.7 liquid quart) of sauce. Double the amounts to make a bigger batch.
  • Depending on the type of plums you use, you’ll need to adjust the taste by adding more sugar if the sauce tastes too sour.
  • You can store it in the fridge or in a cool place for up to 3 months.
  • To make your sauce last longer, sterilize your jars (boil them for 15 minutes in water) and pour some olive oil on the surface before you seal them. Make sure the jars are hot and dry when you pour the hot sauce in.

Recipe Variations

  • Traditional tkemali is made from a variety of green sour plum. However, you can use  other types of plums as well. Depending on the type of plums adjust the amount of sugar you use for the sauce.
  • Traditionally, herbs like dill, cilantro, summer savory and pennyroyal are used for tkemali but you are free to experiment with whatever herbs you like. I used fresh dill, cilantro, peppermint and dried tarragon, as well as dried coriander and khmeli suneli mix. You can skip it, as it is not traditionally used, but I found that tkemali tastes better if you do use it.

Nutrition

Serving: 20g | Calories: 27kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 106mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 221IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg
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Georgian Plum Sauce Tkemali Pinterest Image.
Recipe Rating




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Helena

Monday 3rd of June 2019

My favorite part of the Georgian cuisine is a hot khachapuri with plenty of tkemali - nothing can ever beat this combo! 👍

Elena Szeliga

Tuesday 4th of June 2019

Oh yes, love it with chachapuri, too! This sauce is good for so many things!

John Shaver

Wednesday 12th of September 2018

I see you add two more teaspoons of coriander in addition to what is already in the Suneli spice mix. Do you mean more ground coriander seeds or fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) for the Tkemali sauce?

Thank you!! Spice mix sounds great. Really only one half thread of saffron!?

Can't wait to make this :))

Elena Szeliga

Wednesday 12th of September 2018

Hi John, it's funny but I just reshot this recipe a few days ago and filmed a video, so I will be updating it real soon :) Hope I can make it more useful and provide more details on how to make tkemali. So I'm really glad you posted this comment today because now I know what to improve.

To start with, I used both fresh cilantro AND extra coriander seeds, however I found that 5 tbsp fresh cilantro is too much. It's a matter of personal taste though. If you love cilantro, go for 5 tbsp but if you don't, 2 or 3 tbsp would be enough.

In addition to khmeli suneli, I added some more coriander to tkemali simply because I like it. Again, if you are not a big fan of coriander, just skip it and use khmeli suneli alone.

And now a funny thing about saffron :) Khmeli suneli is actually a made up spice mix created in Soviet Union. As all other Soviet products, the recipe was standartised. So the "original" recipe contained equal amounts of all the spices and herbs plus 0.1% saffron as it was (and is!) very expensive. Adding more saffron would enhance the taste but increase the price. However, I will upgrade the khmeli suneli recipe as well and definitely increase the amount of saffron to at least 3 threads.

I hope this was useful for you :) Please let me know how you like the recipe. I would appreciate your feedback. Again, thanks for your thoughtful questions!

Sherrie

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Love Khmeli Suneli! I get mine at www.worldspice.com - they grind it to order, too, so it's always fresh. Love using it in soups or on chicken. Will definitely have to make this! I can see a lot of uses for it. Thanks!

Elena Szeliga

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Thank you, Sherrie! If you like khmeli suneli, I'm sure you would enjoy tkemali as well ;)

Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table

Friday 6th of November 2015

I absolutely love tkemali, but I actually never thought about the ingredients that go into it, or making it my own... What a lovely find! And I can see myself using khmeli suneli in many different recipes, it really is such a diverse spice mix.

Elena Szeliga

Friday 6th of November 2015

One of my favorite condiments! I used to buy khmeli suneli in Russia but one day I ran out of it and made it myself. I put it almost in every dish since then :)

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About Elena Szeliga

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Elena Szeliga is the founder of Happy Kitchen.Rocks, where she shares delicious and healthy vegetarian and vegan food, from weeknight dinners to veganized classics and gourmet appetizers. Her recipes have been featured at Better Homes & Gardens, BuzzFeed, Country Living, The Kitchn and Reader’s Digest. Her mission is to help cook easy vegetarian and vegan meals with simple and fresh ingredients. Read more about Elena.

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