Kachumber, or cachumber, is the Indian version of a chopped salad, originally using tomato and cucumber. Although there are many variations now, it usually consists of freshly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with a pepper and lemon or lime dressing. It often includes fresh chilli peppers, or chilli powder can be added to the dressing. The dressing is unique to this salad, as it does not contain any oil and gives a peppery tang to the salad.
Some people equate kachumber with the slaw salads of the US and elsewhere, but this is an incorrect analogy.
The salad has many variations. It can also contain white radish (daikon), carrots and/or peanuts. I have seen it include cabbage. The dressing can be made with tamarind water, vinegar or yoghurt in place of the lemon juice. Flavouring elements can contain mint, cumin, coriander (leaves or powdered seeds), chaat masala, or amchoor. The basic salad can be added to yoghurt to make a raita. Although it is generally understood that Kachumber is a salad of tomatoes, cucumber and onion, some authors assume that any salad of chopped or small ingredients (e.g. chickpeas) with the typical kachumber dressing can be called a kachumber salad.
Although traditionally the ingredients are chopped, in today’s kitchen they are sometimes shredded with a mandoline, or with a food processor.
Kachumber is served as a side with Indian curries where the acid of the dressing and tomatoes cuts through the spicy heat of accompanying dishes. It adds a fresh, juicy, and cooling flavour and crunchy texture to the meal.
Around the World
The popularity of this salad has spread across the globe. Kachumbari is also a fresh tomato and onion salad that is popular in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The form varies there, sometimes containing citrus, and other times made from only salted tomatoes and onions, similar to some Indonesian condiments.
Other, but less traditional uses include as a dip with toasted pita bread or corn chips, with vadai, fritters or vegetarian burgers, in wraps, or layered with slabs of tofu that has been deep fried or steamed. You can also steam cubes of firm tofu, cut a pocket into the side of a cube, and stuff with finely chopped or shredded kachumber. Tofu can be substituted for paneer.
Browse all of our Kachumber Recipes here; they include these variations: