Chow-Chow Thogayal – South Indian Pesto with Chayote Squash Skin

Chow-Chow Thogayal – South Indian Pesto with Chayote Squash Skin

South Indian make a lot of thogayal, a look like to general chutneys but it is little thicker and creamier in consistency. I have been cooking vegetables like pumpkin, cucumber, chayote squash (called chow-chow in Tamil) . These veggies have high water content and are ideal to eat when you want to lose weight as they have a low calorie per serving size. Water based vegetables have diuretic properties. Chow-chow is high in fibre and is easily digestible. Chow chow has zero fat or cholesterol. Other than that, isn’t it awesome to explore new veggies and make refreshing stir fries or curries with it?

I found fresh and tender chayote squash at the Indian market last week. I grabbed six of them with a plan to make a stir fry and use the skin to make “thogayal/chutney”. I use this chutney as a dip for cucumber, carrots and celery sticks. Typically chutneys are served with idly, dosa, pongal, pooris and plain rice.

The cooking steps are very similar to making a pesto. For this South Indian thogayal / chutney, I have used black gram (uradh dhal) to create nutty, creamy texture; dry red chilies for heat, tamarind to add some tangy tint to it and finally some fresh coconut for flavor and to make it rich and smooth. If you compare to the pesto recipe, freshly crushed peppercorns are used for heat while pinenuts or walnuts or any nuts are used to make it creamy and lemon juice for the tangy tint. It truly conveys that a similar tasting dish is made with ingredients they got in hand. The use of local ingredient is key and the basic six taste are addressed by using same or equivalent ingredients. Pestos are dressed with general spoonful of olive oil and in this South India pesto, the final step is to garnish the ground paste with hot oil tempered with black mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you notice, even hummus follows similar list of ingredients.

According to Ayurveda, a complete meal should carry almost six tastes – sweet, sour, saly, bitter, pungent and astringent. Most dishes made in Indian household will carry ingredients that can fulfill the requirement of Ayurvedic eating.

The Indian/Asian varities do carry thorns but they are less compared to the black, heavy thorns of the Mexican variety. If you are making this recipe, please make sure you buy the green colored chayote squash called chow-chow in India. The skin is pale green is color and runs smooth. The color is similar to that of green pear or green apple. Once you peel the skin with a peeler, save them to make this thogayal/ chutney.

The skin cann’t be eaten raw and hence the recipe calls in to cook the skin for 20-30 minutes in minimum oil. Once cooked and cooled, they are ground to a smooth paste with roasted urad dhal, dry red chilies tamarind and coconut. You can use fresh or unsweetened dessicated coconut. The skin is pale green and smooth with slight ridges that run lengthwise. Many compare the color to a light green apple.

Chow-Chow Thogayal – South Indian Pesto with Chayote Squash Skin

Chow-Chow Thogayal

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Course: Dip, Side Dish
Cuisine: South Indian
Keyword: Chow-Chow Thogayal
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 People
Author: Advika Menon


  • 1 tsp Vegetable or Olive Oil
  • 6 Chayote skin peeled (save the skin after making your dish)
  • ¼ cup Urad dhal (black gram)
  • 3 dry red chillies
  • ½ tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened dessicated or fresh coconut
  • salt
  • ¼-½ cup water to grind

For The Tempering

  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp asafoetida


  •  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a saucepan. Once hot, add the chayote squash skin and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove and let it cool.
  • Heat a clean saucepan with 1 teaspoon oil and roast the dry red chilies followed by urad dhal and finally tamarind pulp. Saute for couple of minute. Switch off the flame and add the coconut. Let the remaining heat cook the coconuts. Remove and let it cool.
  • Grind together the cooked chayote squash, roasted urad dhal, dry red chilies,  tamarind and coconut with minimum water to a smooth paste . Add salt to taste. Mix well.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan. Once hot, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour this mixture over the chayote squash / chow-chow thogayal. A South Indian pesto with chayote squash to ready to devour.


  1. This is an ideal dip for those who are on a weightloss journey.
  2. This can be eaten in phase 1 of South beach diet.
  3. Also perfect one for women with gestational diabetes and also for those who are diabetic/ pre-diabetic.

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