Tkemali (Sour Plum Sauce)

A bright, zesty, sour sauce made from fresh plums, tkemali underpins many dishes in Georgia. The classic version is made from the small green unripe plums that are prevalent in Georgia. Other plums can be used, as long as they’re not overripe—their skins contain enough acidity to give the sauce its characteristic tang. Mint may not be as traditional in this sauce as cilantro and dill, but Tasting Georgia cookbook author Carla Capalbo includes it for added verve. This sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days. It’s not intended for long preservation, but it can also be frozen. It’s absolutely delicious with roast or grilled chicken and alongside mtsvadi, Georgian pork skewers.

Total Time:
30 mins
2 cups


  • 21 ounces unripe red plums (about 5 plums)

  • 1 cup water

  • 3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt, divided

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 red Fresno chile, chopped (optional)

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, like mint, cilantro, and dill


  1. Combine whole plums and 1 cup water in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium until plums are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool 15 minutes. Remove and discard pits from plums. Place cooked plums in a food processor, and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl.

  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush coriander seeds and fennel seeds with a pinch of salt. Add garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and, if desired, chopped chile; crush into seed mixture.

  3. Add garlic mixture and fresh herbs to plum puree, and stir until well combined. Sauce may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days.

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