Chow Chow Relish {No Canning Required}

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Homemade chow chow relish is a great way to use up fresh cabbage, peppers, and tomatoes. This easy vinegar slaw tastes amazing with chicken, pork, or fish. My easy recipe doesn't need to be canned and will last in the fridge for several weeks.

The chow chow has been spooned over a baked chicken breast. Green beans and a couscous side dish are in the background.

Have you heard of chow chow relish?

This new-to-me recipe was a discovery during our annual beach trip. I picked up a jar of pickled chow chow from a local farmer's stand on a whim.

One taste and I discovered how amazing the vinegary slaw pairs with savory chicken and pork. My fridge has had a container of chow chow in it ever since!

After trying several prepared brands of chow chow, I couldn't find one as delicious as that first one from the farmer's market. I decided to make a homemade chow chow so I could control the spices and amount of dressing.

This recipe is as close as I've been able to manage without knowing the secret behind that amazing slaw.

Jump to:

Why This is the Best Recipe

If you've never tried it before, trust me when I saw this is the best chow chow relish recipe because:

  1. Easy to Make: The hardest part of the recipe is simply chopping the veggies. The rest is just a matter of measuring and stirring.
  2. No Canning Required: Most chow chow recipes require complicated canning techniques. My recipe can just be stored in a jar in the fridge for several weeks.
  3. Small Batch: Most recipes make an enormous amount of chow chow you'd need to store in the pantry. My recipe makes a generous amount but just one jar at a time. It's easy enough to make, you won't mind doing it again every few weeks or so.
  4. Plenty of Dressing: My favorite part about chow chow is how the vinegary dressing tastes when I drizzle it over my chicken or pork. Many chow chow recipes can be a bit dry for my taste, this one makes plenty of the dressing to keep things moist.
  5. Just Enough Spice: My base recipe has just a very mild kick to it. Stronger than sweet or mild but not as hot as a spicy chow chow. However, I did include easy variations for you to adjust the spice to your liking at the bottom of the post!

Ingredients

The items needed to make the homemade chow chow are on the counter.

Chow chow relish is made from farm fresh vegetables and a few pantry ingredients.

All you need to make my relish recipe is:

  • Cabbage: Just a regular green cabbage.
  • Sweet Onion: A Vidalia onion would be perfect but any sweet onion will do.
  • Fresh Jalapeño: I promise it won't make it too spicy.
  • Fresh Tomato: A roma tomato is perfect but any tomato will do.
  • Roasted Red Peppers: I used jarred peppers because they are a bit sweeter than raw red peppers.
  • Cider Vinegar: You could use white vinegar if you prefer your chow chow less sweet.
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Whole Grain Mustard: You could use dried mustard seeds instead if you have them.
  • Hot Pepper Sauce: We love Texas Pete but Frank's Red Hot or your favorite will work great, too.
  • Turmeric: Gives the relish a lovely color and is perfect for helping reduce inflammation in your body!
  • Dried Celery Seeds

Chow Chow Vegetables

The main vegetable in chow chow relish is always cabbage.

My recipe uses just shy of half a head.

You could chop the cabbage into shreds or a small dice, I prefer a fine shred.

The step by step photos show how to shred a cabbage for chow chow relish.

To shred the cabbage, cut the head almost in half, just to the right of the stem.

Lay the half flat and cut it into very thin strips.

Turn the cabbage and cut the strips into smaller 1/2-inch pieces. You'll need about 4 cups of shredded cabbage.

Though cabbage makes up the bulk of the relish, what makes it so delicious is the addition of a few other vegetables to add color and flavor.

You'll want to choose at least 2 or 3 more chow chow vegetables to add to the mix:

  • Onions: These add both sweetness and a little bit of heat to the relish.
  • Red Bell Peppers: You could use either fresh raw peppers or roasted peppers like I did for a little more sweetness.
  • Carrots: A finely minced or grated fresh carrot adds a pop of color and more sweetness.
  • Sweet Corn: Especially when corn is in season, fresh sweet corn would be a tasty addition.
  • Jalapeños: I think these are essential but you could skip them if you prefer.

No matter which vegetables you choose, you'll want to finely dice them or grate them so the relish has the right consistency.

Here are the vegetables I used, chopped so you can see the scale:

The four main ingredients have been chopped and the photo shows the scale.

How to Cook It

Once you've prepped all the fresh veggies, all that's left is to stir the chow chow together and cook it.

Put all the chopped veggies in a large pot.

Add the cider vinegar, sugar, sea salt, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, hot pepper sauce, turmeric, and celery sides and stir it all together.

The ingredients have all been prepped and added to a large pot.

Place the pot over high heat and bring the vinegar dressing to a simmer.

Decrease the heat to medium.

Cover the pot to prevent too much of the dressing from evaporating. Cook for 20 minutes or until the cabbage is completely translucent and tender.

The relish is cooking over medium-high heat to come to a simmer.

It is important to check on and stir the chow chow as it cooks to make sure all the veggies get a chance to simmer in the dressing.

This is what the finished chow chow relish will look like when it is finished:

The cooking spoon is showing the texture of the finished chow chow cabbage mix.

Remove the chow chow from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

I prefer to eat chow chow once it has been chilled in the fridge but you could serve it at room temperature if you like.

Variations

Since taste preferences in condiments can vary, this chow chow recipe is easy to tweak.

Mild Chow Chow

Omit the jalapeño pepper.

I suggest keeping the hot sauce as it adds a depth of flavor but isn't too spicy. Use just a single shake of the bottle.

Sweet Chow Chow

Add 1 additional tablespoon of sugar (using a ¼ cup total).

For a spicy-sweet chow chow, keep the jalapeño, for just a mild-spicy chow chow skip the jalapeño.

You could also consider adding 1 finely grated carrot or extra-sweet fresh corn to the veggie mix for more flavor and extra sweetness.

Extra Hot Chow Chow

If you like your condiments HOT and spicy, you could consider keeping the jalapeño ribs and seeds in the mix, adding additional hot sauce, or adding ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper.

I recommend starting with the jalapeño seeds and cooking the recipe as directed.

Taste it and adjust with additional hot sauce and cayenne as needed at the end.

Storage Tips

A mason jar is filled with the finished chow chow relish.

To store the chow chow relish, simply put it in a jar with an airtight lid like a Mason jar or similar.

Keep it in the fridge for several weeks.

I don't recommend freezing the chow chow because the vegetables will lose their texture during the thawing process.

Canning Tips

The finished relish is in a mason jar cooling to room temperature.

If you are a talented canner and want to preserve a larger batch of chow chow, you could consider tripling the recipe so that you use the entire head of cabbage in one batch.

If you're interested in learning about canning, I recommend reading up on it at the Farmer's Almanac.

Serving Suggestions

The relish has been added to the top of a baked chicken breast

Sweet and spicy vinegary chow chow relish is my very favorite condiment for adding to savory baked chicken breasts, grilled fish, spicy pork, and even for topping a hot dog.

Sometimes I even just add a dollop to my plate like a vegetable side dish.

I love it cold from the fridge but it would keep fine served at room temperature, too.

You could try it on top of a pulled pork sandwich with barbecue sauce, as a complement to my sweet rum glazed pork tenderloins, or even as part of your holiday ham!

I loved it with my crockpot spiral ham with brown sugar glaze for Easter this year.

More Condiment Recipes

Looking for more homemade condiments to make your dinner even tastier? Here are some of my favorite recipes to make during the summer when the produce is fresh and in season:

More Southern Recipes

Chow chow is a classic southern recipe, but don't miss these other family favorites:

📖 Recipe

The chow chow has been spooned over a baked chicken breast. Green beans and a couscous side dish are in the background.

Chow Chow Relish

5 from 37 votes
This popular southern condiment is the perfect vinegary topping for savory meats and barbecue. Garden fresh vegetables are cooked in a sweet vinegar dressing and seasoned with mustard and turmeric for color. The base recipe has a jalapeño pepper for extra flavor but isn't too spicy. Check the notes for easy heat level adjustments.
TOTAL TIME 35 minutes
PREP TIME 15 minutes
COOK TIME 20 minutes
YIELD 2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups green cabbage, about half a head finely chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato seeds removed and diced
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion like Vidalia, diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeds removed, minced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard or dried mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, several good shakes like Texas Pete or Red Hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery seeds

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients in a large stainless steel pot over high heat. Bring it to a simmer and then decrease the heat to medium.
  • Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes or until the cabbage is completely translucent and tender.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature or chill it in the fridge before serving.
  • The chow chow can be kept in the refrigerator in an an air tight container for 2 weeks.

Recipe Notes

Variations:

Since taste preferences in condiments can vary, this chow chow recipe is easy to tweak.

Mild Chow Chow

Omit the jalapeño pepper. I suggest keeping the hot sauce as it adds a depth of flavor but isn't too spicy. Use just a single shake of the bottle.

Sweet Chow Chow

Add 1 additional tablespoon of sugar (using a 1/4 cup total). For a spicy-sweet chow chow, keep the jalapeño, for just a mild-spicy chow chow skip the jalapeño. You could also consider adding 1 finely grated carrot to the veggie mix for more flavor and extra sweetness.

Extra Hot Chow Chow

If you like your condiments HOT and spicy, you could consider keeping the jalapeño ribs and seeds in the mix, adding additional hot sauce, or adding 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. I recommend starting with the jalapeño seeds and cooking the recipe as directed. Taste it and adjust with additional hot sauce and cayenne as needed at the end.
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CUISINESouthern

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A photo collage shows the chow chow on a piece of chicken on top and the pot of the veggies cooking on the bottom.

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