Tomato rasam, a delicious and aromatic South Indian soup made with ripe tomatoes, spices and curry leaves. Rasam is a traditional soup that has been enjoyed by South Indians from the times immemorial. Well-known for its health benefits, it is a gluten-free and vegan dish that aids digestion, increases immunity and helps in detoxifying. This aromatic tomato rasam is not only easy to make but also makes a delicious and comforting side in your meal.
The concept of Ayurveda taught our ancestors that our everyday food should contain 6 basic tastes to balance & promote our health. These tastes include – sour, sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. So rasam was developed as a medicinal, healing and health-giving food that had all of those tastes.
Traditionally rasam was made only with tamarind and no tomatoes were used. With the passage of time, our lives have changed a lot and some of the ingredients used in the traditional rasam got replaced with others. Overtime tamarind got replaced with tomatoes.
So tomato rasam is one of those kinds made with alternate ingredients. However a lot of South Indians make tomato rasam with tomatoes and tamarind both, like the way I have used here.
About Tomato Rasam
This recipe will give you a delicious, flavorful and tasty tomato rasam that has a depth of different flavors from the spices & herbs used. The key ingredient in any kind of rasam is the spice blend used. So rasam powder is the essential spice blend here. In this post I have also shared how to make it just enough for this recipe.
However you can also use store bought or homemade rasam powder . But usually store bought one is more on the hotter side with loads of red chilies & lesser flavor. So adjust as per your need and taste.
Tomato rasam, as the name indicates is made with lots of fresh ripe tomatoes. Also known as thakkali rasam in Tamil and Tomato Charu in Telugu, this is made in numerous ways with different spices.
My recipe uses coriander seeds, cumin seeds, methi seeds, black pepper & red chilies to flavor the tomato rasam. Chana dal is another optional ingredient which I always use for the aroma and slightly thicker consistency it provides. A lot of people also use toor dal instead of chana dal. For more details check out the tips section below.
You can make tomato rasam with chopped tomatoes, pressure cooked tomatoes or pureed tomatoes. In the stepwise photos I show using chopped tomatoes. In the recipe card I have also shared using pressure cooked tomatoes which is easier method if you are cooking your rice as well.
My mom would make tomato rasam a lot of times with pressure cooked tomatoes. While cooking the rice, she would cook the tomatoes as well in a pressure cooker. Then all we need to do is tempering the cooked tomatoes. This method is easier and also flavorful. Check the recipe card for this method.
How to make tomato rasam (stepwise photos)
1. Optional: Skip this if you have readymade rasam powder. Add 1½ tablespoons chana dal to a small pan and dry roast it until lightly golden. Then add the following and dry roast
- 1½ tablespoons coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 to 2 dried red chilies
When they begin to smell good add 1½ teaspoon cumin & fry till aromatic.
Cool this and make a fine powder in a dry spice grinder. If you use more red chilies you will get a more colorful rasam powder.
2. Rinse and chop or puree 3 to 4 medium sized tomatoes (300 grams, 1.5 to 2 cups chopped). Update : I puree them most times as my kids do not like the skin of tomatoes in the rasam. Taste wise yes it does make a difference. You can also mash them for quick cooking. Set these aside.
3. Heat 1½ tablespoon ghee or oil in a pot. When the oil turns hot enough, add the following spices:
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 pinch methi seeds (fenugreek seeds). When they crackle add
- 1 pinch hing
- 1 broken dried red chili
4. The spices will begin to splutter, then add 1 sprig curry leaves and fry for a minute or two. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves at this stage. I forgot to add here so added with the tomatoes.
5. Add tomatoes, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Cook covered until the tomatoes breakdown.
7. Tomatoes turn mushy.
8. Add all of the rasam powder we made in step 1 and pour 2½ to 3 cups water. If using store bought powder use about 2 to 3 teaspoons. Adjust the quantity of powder to suit your taste. Also adjust the quantity of water to suit your taste. We prefer slightly thicker rasam so I use less.
9. Next let it come to a boil on a medium high heat. You can skip tamarind if your tomatoes are very sour. If using just rinse a small piece of it and add it directly. You can also add tamarind pulp as needed. I sometimes use a bit of jaggery, around 1 tbsp grated. You can also use it to bring down the pungency of other ingredients used.
10. After coming to a boil, reduce the flame and add ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves with tender stalks. Let simmer till the rasam slightly thickens. Taste test and add more salt, jaggery, tamarind or pepper to suit your taste. I usually set my kids’ portion aside and add some crushed black pepper for extra heat. Add more coriander leaves for fresh flavor of the leaves.
Serve tomato rasam with steamed mushy rice & a stir fried vegetable on the side. You can also serve this as an appetizer.
Importance of spices in tomato rasam
These points will help you tweak the quantity of spices used in this tomato rasam based on the season or your body type. A well-balanced quantity of these spices, such as the amount used in this recipe is ideal for most people. But you can easily adjust the quantities to suit the weather conditions.
According to Ayurveda, coriander seeds are an excellent remedy for promoting digestion. When used in combination with cumin, they help to heal hyperacidity and heartburn. They also help to balance the heating properties of other spices like black pepper & red chilies.
Cumin, apart from being an aromatic spice also promotes cleansing, digestion and metabolism. So if you want to increase the consumption of cumin, you can also increase the quantity by half tsp.
Black pepper is a warming spice which helps to dissolve toxins in the body, fight against flu, cold and cough. So it is great during colder days. On warmer days, you may reduce the quantity.
Methi seeds apart from imparting a great aroma, also helps in metabolism and stimulates appetite.
Mustard is also a heating spice & helps in cleansing & prevents accumulation of toxins. So a lot of people also add the powdered mustard seeds. When you make the rasam powder mentioned in the recipe, you can dry roast 1/8 teaspoon seeds after roasting cumin. Remember not to use a lot else your rasam can taste bitter.
6 different tastes in rasam
Sweet – jaggery & ghee
Sour – tomatoes & tamarind
Bitter – mustard & turmeric
Astringent – hing & turmeric
Pungent – cumin, pepper & mustard
Salt – salt
Tomatoes: Using chopped tomatoes is the easiest way but some people, blanch the tomatoes, remove the skin and mash them well before using. Though using chopped tomatoes is what I like, I puree the tomatoes for 2 reasons.
- Pulpy tomatoes don’t get mushy quickly so they take too long to soften. In the end you may be left with chunky tomatoes in the rasam.
- If you have picky eaters at home, especially kids then the tomato skin won’t be preferred. So blending is a better option. Sometimes I use chopped tomatoes and then for my boys I strain the rasam once it is done.
So choose the option you like.
Rasam powder: Ensure the spices are blended to super fine smooth powder as we don’t want any coarse bits of spices in the tomato rasam.
Coriander leaves: Adding tender and young coriander stalks to the rasam will enhance the flavor. Avoid using too old stalks as they infuse a soapy taste and aroma to the dish.
Tomato rasam (Tomato charu)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1½ to 2 cups tomatoes (3 to 4 medium) – 300 grams chopped or pureed
- 2½ to 3 cups water (adjust the consistency)
- 1½ tablespoons ghee or oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 pinch methi seeds (fenugreek, skip if you don’t have)
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 1 dried red chili broken (optional)
- 4 large cloves garlic crushed (more if desired)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ cup coriander leaves (chopped finely with tender stems)
- 1 tablespoon jaggery (optional, adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon tamarind or paste (optional, adjust to taste)
To roast & powder or use 2 tsps rasam powder
- 1 Kashmiri red chili broken (less spicy kind) (optional)
- 1½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper (I use ¼)
- ¼ teaspoon methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) (skip if you don't have)
- 1½ tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1½ tablespoons chana dal (optional, to use for slightly thick rasam)
- Skip this section if you have ready rasam powder. To make instant powder, on a low heat dry roast chana dal till deep golden & aromatic.
- Then add coriander seeds, methi seeds, red chili and pepper corn.
- Dry roast until aromatic. Add cumin seeds to the hot pan and fry till aromatic.
- Cool them and make a fine powder. Keep this aside.
How to make tomato rasam (method 1)
- Heat a pot with oil. Add cumin, mustard & methi seeds.
- When they begin to splutter, add red chili and hing. Add curry leaves and fry for a min.
- Next add pureed or chopped tomatoes, salt and turmeric. Salt helps to cook tomatoes faster.
- Fry for about 2 minutes. Cover and cook. Tomatoes should turn mushy and soft.
- Next add the crushed garlic, tamarind, rasam powder and jaggery. Then mix well.
- Pour water & bring it to a boil. Then add coriander leaves with tender stalks. Simmer for 3 to 5 mins or until slightly thick.
- Taste the rasam and add more jaggery, tamarind, salt as needed to suit your taste.
- I make it sweet, sour and slightly hot. To add more heat sprinkle some crushed pepper.
- Add few more coriander leaves for fresh flavor. Turn off the stove. Keep the pot covered to retain the flavors.
- Serve tomato rasam with rice or just serve it as an appetizer in your meal.
Andhra style Tomato charu (Method 2)
- Place the whole tomatoes or halved in a bowl and cover the bowl. Place it over your rice bowl in your cooker. Pressure cook as you would cook your rice. Later remove the bowl. The skin loosens so you may remove it if you prefer.
- Mash the tomatoes with a masher.
- Follow all the instructions as mentioned above for method 1 – tempering, adding rasam powder, tamarind, jaggery and water. Let the water come to a boil and then pour all of the mashed tomatoes along with the liquid.
- Let simmer for a while, 3 to 4 mins. Add coriander leaves. Serve tomaro rasam with rice.
- Tomatoes can be pureed or chopped. Chopped tomatoes will take longer to soften and get mushy. So the results will be – chunky tomatoes in the dish. So cook the tomatoes in the pot until they get mushy or puree them and use.
- You may skip the red chilli completely and make the tomato rasam with just black pepper. I usually prefer to add extra black pepper at the last step, before turning off the stove. This infuses more pepper flavor into the dish.
- Ensure the spices and chana dal are ground to fine powder. If you do not have a powerful blender then it is good to make this tomato rasam with store bought rasam powder. Coarse ground spices won’t taste good here.
- You can adjust the quantity of tamarind, jaggery and black pepper to taste. I use more than mentioned in the recipe.
- Tomato rasam keeps good in the fridge for 2 days. You can reheat it on stovetop or in the instant pot (PIP) with zero minutes pressure cook option.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
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