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 is so delicious and so little-known to the world outside of the former Soviet Union, that I feel like I need to share a recipe of this awesome Georgian plum sauce on my blog.
Tkemali is a perfect condiment for almost anything. It is perfect with roasted vegetables, (red) beets, burgers, potato wedges, any kind of protein, in salad dressings, as a bread spread… It’s almost as universal as ketchup. Tkemali is exceptionally good with grilled food.
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.
There are two varieties of Georgian tkemali: the green one, made of sour unripe plums and the red one, made of ripe plums. That’s exactly the type we will be making today.
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.
How to Make Tkemali
Tkemali is a nutrient-dense sauce that is a great healthier substitute for ketchup. Plums contain organic acids, pectin, vitamins C, E, B1, B2, P, minerals, tannins and carotene.
It’s a perfect time to make the red tkemali, as the season for plums is right now.
I haven’t missed this chance and made a big batch, like I do every year.
From 1 kilogram of plums (2.2 lbs) you will get around 650 ml (0.7 liquid quart) of sauce. You can store it in the fridge or in a cool place for months. The natural preservative used here is peppermint and coriander.
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.
Depending on the type of plums you use, you would 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 extra sugar.
Other ingredients include garlic, herbs and Georgian spices. Good news is: you can make tkemali at home from scratch from any plums that you have on hand!
To make tkemali last longer, 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.
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.
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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.
Tkemali – Georgian Plum Sauce Recipe
- 3 glass jars 220 ml or 8 oz, sterilized
- 1 kg or 2.2 lbs ripe red plums
- 100 ml or 1/2 cup water
- 4-5 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 small red chili pepper finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or 5 teaspoons dry)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 3 teaspoons dry)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh peppermint (or 2/3 teaspoon dry)
- 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons khmeli suneli (see the recipe below)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2/3 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
- olive oil
- Cut plums in quarters, remove stones and place in a pot with a little water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- 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 tranfer them back into the pot. Add garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, dill, peppermint, dried tarragon, ground coriander, khmeli suneli, salt, sugar, black pepper and pomegranate juice. Stir to combine. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
- 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. Enjoy!
How to Make Khmeli Suneli
Khmeli suneli is a Georgian seasoning mix, spicy, aromatic and nutty. Its aroma and taste make it suitable for almost any dish: sauces, salads, soups, stews, savory pastry, rice, any kind of protein, as well as pickled vegetable, marinades and Georgian appetizers.
Khmeli suneli a mixture of ground fenugreek seeds, coriander, dill, celery, parsley, basil, savory and black peppercorns. Remember my Georgian eggplant rolls with walnuts? It’s used there, too.
Khmeli suneli is not hot but spicy, aromatic, nutty and very fragrant. Its color is greenish-yellow, and the aroma and taste make it suitable for almost any dish: sauces, salads, soups, stews, savory pastry, rice, beans, as well as pickled vegetable, marinades and Georgian appetizers.
It can be your new taco seasoning, garam masala, za’atar or Ras el Hanout because you might have a temptation to put it in every dish you cook. For the simplified version of khmeli suneli spice mix you will need: fenugreek, thyme, coriander, basil, dill, bay leaf, dried celery, peppermint, majoran, parsley, savory (can be substituted for oregano), red chili pepper and saffron.
All of these herbs not only give their flavor and taste, but also make this seasoning a very good body remedy. It also plays a role in traditional Georgian medicine.
It’s believed that the substances contained inside the herbs can remove physical fatigue, improve mood and muscle tone, protect against viruses and infections, strengthen the immune system and help maintain good physical shape, when used in reasonable quantities.
All herbs and spices are taken in equal shares. Chili pepper makes up to 2% and saffron around 0.1% (if you intend to use cheap saffron, please don’t, as it will only give color, not taste).
Khmeli suneli is actually a made-up spice mix created in Soviet Union. As all other Soviet products, the recipe was standadized. 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. I use 3 threads in my recipe although in the „original” khmeli suneli only ½ thread would be used.
Check the recipe below for the precise volumes. In the end you will have around 60 grams or 1/4 cup of khmeli suneli.
Store it in a glass jar covered with a lid.
Khmeli Suneli Seasoning Recipe
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- 1 teaspoon dry dill
- 1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dry celery
- 1 teaspoon dry peppermint
- 1 teaspoon dry parsley
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 pinch red chili pepper
- 3 threads dark red saffron ground
- Combine all the ingredients.
What are the condiments that you often use? Do you have any “little-known” recipes on hand?