Chow Chow Relish
Chow Chow Relish

Chow chow relish is a typical Southern condiment. This recipe uses last summer’s harvest of green tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and onions and preserves them for months to come.

I grew up in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, North Carolina, where almost everyone had a garden. We lived on a suburban street, but every summer my mother processed the fruit and veg from our hearty garden: canned tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, and lots of shredded zucchini ended up in the freezer, waiting for quick bread when the weather got cooler .

Backyard gardens filled our plates and pantries all summer long. And just as August rolled in and we didn’t think it could get any hotter, the weather took a turn. As the days grew shorter and the nights cooler, the garden became a tangle of vines that had left their prime.

What is chow chow relish?

Simply put, chow chow is a late summer produce indulgence. Green tomatoes were the inspiration for this chow chow, so they’re the heart of the recipe. The taste is definitely tart or sweet to keep the fresh garden flavor.

There’s also plenty of onions, sweet peppers, and not a lot of spices—my family has a traditional Southern palate that just cooks “salt and pepper.” This recipe stays true to those roots by accenting it with celery and mustard and no hot peppers.

Chow Chow Story

The revered Southern food historian John T. Edgerton claimed the name came from a spice made by Chinese railroad workers. But this spice contained plenty of orange peel and ginger, a far cry from chow chow as I know it.

Other explanations include the migration of the French Acadians since their word for cabbage was “chau”. My theory is that the Carolina version I know came from the German and Dutch settlers of Pennsylvania who traveled the Wagenstrasse south and brought with them their love of spices and mustard.

Regardless of origin, the reason the chow chow continued in the Southern conservation canon has always been for economy. We use words like “sustainability” and “zero waste” these days, but the desire to reduce food waste is the same – and the results are delicious.

Variations on a Chow Chow Theme

Chow-chow is a late summer or early fall recipe inspired by the last of the summer garden vegetables. There are as many variations of this finely chopped, vinegared relish as there are heirloom tomato varieties. Try these simple tweaks:

  • Substitute 1 red or orange bell pepper for 1 cup of corn
  • Add 1 to 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Add 1 jalapeño or other hot garden pepper or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • Use brown sugar instead of white sugar

Storage and Preservation of Chow Chow Relish

It’s best to store chow chow in jars, since vinegar and spices can leave a residue of odors and flavors on plastic. Pint glasses are the most common size for chow chow (the spicy condiment can top a variety of dishes), but half-pints — commonly referred to as jelly jars — are also suitable.

Once the mixture is cooked and poured into jars, you can simply chill it for a quick fridge relish that will keep in the fridge for 4 months. For longer storage, chow chow can be enjoyed by processing in a water bath. The processing time is the same for both lens sizes.

I don’t recommend freezing the mixture as thawing can make it more watery than desired.

How to use chow chow relish

  • Put a dollop on top of black-eyed peas, kidney beans, or split peas
  • Hill on a hot dog
  • Top leftover kale
  • Use to garnish deviled eggs
  • Mix into cream cheese to make a quick dip

Save the summer with these canning recipes

  • Canned tomato salsa
  • bread and pickles
  • Corn Relish
  • Strawberry jam for canning
  • Pickled okra

Chow Chow flavor

preparation time
45 minutes

cooking time
40 minutes

rest time
4 hours

total time
5 hrs 25 mins

20 servings

to 6 pint glasses


  • 6 large green tomatoes (Above 3 lb)

  • 3 Middle yellow or white onions

  • 3 medium red, yellow or orange paprika (or a mixture)

  • 1 big green paprika

  • 1/2 medium head cabbage (Above 4 cups after hacking)

  • 1/4 Cup sea ​​salt, pickling salt, kosher salt

  • 3 1/2 cups white wine vinegar

  • 1 Cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon ground celery, celery flakes, or celery seed


  1. Prepare the ingredients for chopping:

    Remove the stems from the tomatoes, deseed if necessary and cut into quarters. Peel the onions and cut everything into quarters. Core and deseed the peppers and quarter. Core the cabbage, quarter and set aside.

  2. Cut vegetables:

    Use the cleaver on a food processor or hand-crank grinder to finely chop each vegetable. (With a food processor, you have to work in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the work bowl.) You want fine, small pieces, but not gazpacho, so be careful not to powder or liquify them. Place in a large non-reactive bowl or saucepan.

    Simple tip!

    If you don’t have a food processor or food grinder, you can finely chop the vegetables by hand or grind them in a coarse-nozzle food grinder.

  3. salt and cold:

    Once all the vegetables are chopped, sprinkle the salt on top. Mix everything thoroughly with clean hands, making sure to mix all of the veggies and get to the bottom of the bowl.

    Cover and chill in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. Don’t skip this step – it gives better flavor and texture.

  4. Drain vegetables:

    Remove the chopped veggies from the fridge, place in a colander and drain, gently pressing down on the mixture with the back of a spoon. Do not flush. Put aside.

  5. Prepare for canning:

    If you want to can your chow chow for a durable condiment, get equipment for double boiler canning while the veggies are chilling.

    Create a jar station by spreading a clean kitchen towel on the counter and setting out jar lifters and a canning funnel. Clean new jar lids and rings in hot, soapy water.

  6. Sterilize glasses:

    Place clean jars on a canning rack in a saucepan and cover with at least an inch of hot water. Bring to the boil and sterilize the jars by boiling for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer until ready to fill the jars.

    Simple tip!

    You can skip the canning steps and store chow chow relish in the fridge. After filling the jars and screwing on the lids in the following steps, let them cool on the counter for a few minutes before placing them in the fridge. The relish should last about 4 months.

  7. Prepare the brine:

    In a large non-reactive saucepan, add vinegar, sugar, mustard, and dried celery and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a high simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

  8. Cook the relish and you can:

    Add the chopped vegetables to the vinegar mixture, stir and bring to the boil again. After cooking, set a timer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust the heat as needed to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

    Once the vegetables are almost done cooking, carefully lift each sterilized jar out of the pot and pour the hot water back into the pot. Set them upright on the clean kitchen towel.

    Remove the relish from the heat and begin filling the hot jars with the chow chow, leaving 1/2 inch headroom at the top of each jar (about the width of the lip and jar screw thread). Gently wipe each rim of the jar with a clean, dry towel or paper towel, then place a clean lid on top and screw on the band so it’s finger tight. Repeat.

  9. Process Chow Chow:

    Use a glass lifter to gently lower the glasses onto the rack, adding more hot water if needed so that there is at least 1 inch of water above the top of each glass. Bring to a boil and process 10 minutes.

    Remove the jars with the jar lifter and set the jars on a cooling rack or other heat-resistant surface to cool. Once cool to room temperature, pat the lids firmly. If they thud, they’re sealed.

    Store unopened jars of chow chow relish in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Store opened jars in the refrigerator and use within 4 months of opening.

    Simple tip!

    On the days it is prepared, the chow chow can taste a bit spicy. The taste will weaken and improve after a few days.

    Did you like the recipe? Let’s star down!

nutritional information (per serving)
120 calories
0g Fat
28g carbohydrates
2g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!