The most common ingredients of chutneys are pepper, fruits and vegetables, or a mixture of these. The spices used in their preparation almost invariably includes brown sugar, salt, garlic, onion, honey, vinegar, ginger and cinnamon. Spices commonly used are coriander, cumin, etc.

In the country of origin, India, Chutney is prepared at the time of being consumed, with local ingredients available, choosing to prepare those which are suitable to give strong sensations.In the rest of the former British Empire, and particularly in England, it is eaten on bread, with butter or cheese, in a similar way to jam or pickle. Note that what the English call pickle is also a sort of savory jam, not pickled cucumbers like in America.