Chutney is a term for a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish. Chutneys usually contain an idiosyncratic but complementary spice and vegetable mix.
Chutneys usually are wet, having a coarse to fine texture. The Anglo-Indian loan word refers to fresh and pickled preparations indiscriminately, with preserves often sweetened. At least several Northern Indian languages use the word for fresh preparations only. A different word achār applies to preserves that often contain oil but are rarely sweet. Vinegar or citrus juice may be added as preservatives, or fermentation in the presence of salt may be used to create acid.
In the old days, chutneys were ground with a mortar and pestle made of stone or an ammikkal (Tamil). In modern days, electric blenders replace the stone implements. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; the wet paste thus made is sauteed in vegetable oil, usually gingelly or groundnut oil.
Chutney is more familiar in North America and Europe in a form that can be stored. To this end, vegetable oil, vinegar, or lemon juice are used to enhance its preservation.