Chow Chow

You’re likely to find this sweet and tangy Southern Chow Chow recipe used from Texas to Virginia and everywhere in between. It’s a homemade relish that can be served atop hot dogs, barbecue or as a way to perk-up a classic bowl of pinto beans or black-eyed peas. It’s as integral a part of Southern toppings as salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen table with simple preparation to boot.

Southern Chow Chow

Easy Southern Chow Chow Recipe

What is Southern Chow Chow? It’s a sweet and tangy relish made with a variety of vegetables. It traditionally includes chopped cabbage, green tomatoes, bell peppers and onion. It comes in many varieties depending on the region and the cook’s preference. You’ll find that some chow chow recipes consist primarily of chopped green tomatoes with varying amounts of cabbage, onion and peppers. At times, I make chow chow with poblano or jalapeno peppers to give it a kick. It adds spunk to a simple bowl of beans, grilled sausages or hot dogs and pork sandwiches. At times, I’ve also chosen to serve it as an appetizer with crackers and cream cheese. How to make authentic Southern Chow Chow: (Scroll down for full printable recipe.)

  • Prep and Combine Vegetables – In a large non-reactive mixing bowl, mix together the cabbage, tomato, onion, bell peppers and salt. Mix well, then cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight. Drain liquid.
  • Brine – In a large non reactive pot toast the mustard and celery seeds over medium-high heat about 1 minute or until fragrant, moving pot constantly. Add both vinegars, sugar, mustard, red pepper flakes, allspice, turmeric and ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Cook – Add the drained cabbage mixture and minced garlic to the pot. Mix well. Increase the heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened, to allow flavors to fully bloom and the juice to reduce. (Cabbage should still have a slight crunch)
  • Cool – Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature in the pot.
ingredients to make Chow Chow

How to Make the Best Southern Chow Chow Recipe

It’s believed that this simple relish was a way of preserving the last of the garden season bounty. The amount of each may have been too little to put up for the winter on their own, but together form a condiment perfect for cold weather meals. If you don’t garden, take a trip to the farmer’s market and pick up what you need. This is another dish that’s been influenced by those who settled here in the South and brought with them their techniques and dishes. Regardless, it’s a delicious topping destined to remain a star of Southern condiments. A few pointers for making this recipe:

  • Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Chow Chow relish: Chopped green cabbage, green tomatoes, Vidalia onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, pickling salt, mustard seeds, celery seed, white vinegar, granulated sugar, prepared mustard, turmeric, red pepper flakes, allspice, ground ginger and garlic cloves.
  • Kitchen gadgets you’ll need: A 4 quart heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid, sharp knife and chopping board, measuring cups and spoons and a large spoon to stir.
  • Please note, it’s best to measure the amount of cabbage used in this recipe after chopping.
  • When a non-reactive bowl or pot is referenced, this signifies that you can use a large glass (glass bowl only for overnight chilling) or a large stainless steel or a copper pot for cooking. Please note, use a glass bowl only for overnight chilling.
  • If you’re unable to find green tomatoes, tomatillos will work in a pinch. Remove the seeds and dice just as you would the green tomatoes.
  • What kind of peppers are best? Typically mild bell peppers are used in chow chow. That said, you can use jalapeno or poblano peppers in place of the green bell pepper. Should you choose to do so, you may like to omit or adjust the amount of red pepper flakes, as well.
  • This recipe is a refrigerator version that can be kept chilled in the fridge and enjoyed for up to one month.
  • What is pickling salt? If you aren’t familiar with pickling salt, it’s inexpensive and can be found with the other salt products on the spice aisle. What is it? Pickling salt is finely ground pure salt that doesn’t contain any caking ingredients and dissolves easily in the brine. Using it, prevents the juice from becoming cloudy and cabbage from becoming dark in color. Table salt could be used but, I don’t recommend it as it has ingredients that could change the color of the relish.
  • Store in an airtight container chilled in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. See next section for the canning technique for longer shelf life.
cooked Chow Chow relish in a pot

How to Can Chow Chow Recipe

This recipe as written is designed to be kept in the refrigerator for up to one month. That said, yes you can lengthen the shelf life of this chow chow recipe using proper canning technique to make it shelf stable. To do so:

  • Start with sterilized pint jars, ladling hot chow chow cooked per the recipe into the jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth and place the lids and rings on top, twist to close but don’t over tighten.
  • Process pint size jars into a water bath cooking for 15-20 minutes.
  • Use tongs or a jar lifter to carefully remove jars from water, then let jars stand until completely cooled.
  • Store filled jars in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.
Chow Chow in a mason jar

More Southern Style Refrigerator Salad Recipes to Make

Refrigerator salads are just what the name suggests. They come in a variety of ingredient combinations and they can be chilling in the refrigerator to add to your meal. More easy salad recipes you may like to try:

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Chow Chow

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Marinate time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 25 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Condiment, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: southern-chow-chow
Servings: 4 pints
Calories: 758kcal

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chopped green cabbage
  • 2 large green tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 1 jumbo Vidalia onion diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

Instructions

  • In a large non-reactive mixing bowl, mix together the cabbage, tomato, onion, bell peppers and salt. Mix well, then cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight. Drain liquid.
  • In a large non reactive pot toast the mustard and celery seeds over medium-high heat about 1 minute or until fragrant, moving pot constantly. Add both vinegars, sugar, mustard, red pepper flakes, allspice, turmeric and ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the drained cabbage mixture and minced garlic to the pot. Mix well. Increase the heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened, to allow flavors to fully bloom and the juice to reduce. (Cabbage should still have a slight crunch.)
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature in the pot, uncovered. Pack in sterilized jars. May store chilled for up to one month.

Notes

The best way to divide this into jars is, to use a slotted spoon to evenly pack the chow chow into prepared jars. Then fill the jars evenly with the juice left in the pot. 
Can this Chow Chow recipe be canned? This recipe as written is designed to be kept in the refrigerator. That said, yes you can lengthen the shelf life of this chow chow recipe using proper canning technique.
  • Start with sterilized pint size jars, ladling hot chow chow cooked per the recipe into the jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  • Wipe the rims with a clean cloth and place the lids and rings on top, twist to close but don’t over tighten.
  • Process pint size jars into a water bath cooking for 15-20 minutes.
  • Use tongs to carefully remove jars from water, then let jars stand until completely cooled.

Nutrition

Serving: 1pint | Calories: 758kcal | Carbohydrates: 179g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2739mg | Potassium: 897mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 167g | Vitamin A: 2495IU | Vitamin C: 176mg | Calcium: 158mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @melissassk or tag #melissassk!

 

86 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have never pickled anything a day in my life and I’m so nervous but this recipe makes such a large amount that I feel pickling & storing wld be best. That said, how long can the pickled jars last in a cool, dry place? I certainly don’t want to harm anyone by storing improperly

    1. It’s essential to use the proper canning techniques and sterilized utensils and jars. When canned and stored properly, you can keep it for up to 1 year.

  2. I keep finding pickling spice without salt but not pickling salt in every grocery store in my community. Are they the same thing??

      1. Kosher salt can be used as a substitute for pickling salt, as long as it doesn’t contain any anti-caking agents. Please note: The difference in size and potency will effect the amount to be used.

  3. Can you cut the sugar in half I’m a type two diabetic but need to cut back on the sugars how much can I cut back on in your recipe or can I use Stevia in place of sugar how much give you could I use in your recipe

    1. HI Nejla, that’s a challenge, truly. You may be able to cut back on the sugar a bit, but I haven’t tested this recipe using Stevia. I’m certain someone probably has a diabetic friendly option somewhere on the internet. If you try it with Stevia, please let us know how it goes.

      1. 5 stars
        I made this without the any of the sugar and it was great. A little more tart, I’m sure, but we didn’t miss it at all.

  4. Thank you Melissa for sharing this. I was introduced to chow chow many years ago, as you described, plopped atop a piping hot bowla pinner beans (Bowl of pinto beans) for those not hip to the Southern vernacular of the grammas and grampas I grew up around 😉 There was also a pile of biscuits near by!! Can’t wait to give it a try.

  5. have not tried yet but can i use pickling spiced mix all are included?
    thanks for your help.

  6. 5 stars
    Melissa, thanks so much for sharing this. I am always looking for a unique relishes and toppings, and this one seems super versatile. I am sure I will be using it frequently.

    1. I’m from Iowa and I barely remember eating this. Our Mother’s called it Cabbage Relish. I don’t remember Green Tomatoes in it but it was Vinegary and very small minced onion and cabbage in it. It looked all green. I think the “Dutch” ladies in our town made it because it was always available at Church dinner’s fundraisers.

  7. This chow chow is amazing! So simple and easy to follow recipe. Thanks for sharing this, can’t wait to make a pot of beans and cornbread

    1. Looking forward to trying this recipe at the end of summer when produce is at it’s best and most abundant here in the Pacific NW. I love chow chow and this looks like one of my favorites with the green tomatoes in it.
      To Renae: I’ve been canning for many decades (started very young with my Mom) and our rule of thumb, when in question, was to wait a couple of months, if possible, for best results and flavor. Jam is ready quite soon after you put it up, but sometimes pickled items take a bit longer. You can eat things before, but we always knew that whatever we put up at the end of summer would be perfect by Thanksgiving and beyond with a rule of thumb that home-canned items should be eaten within a year. Enjpy! Mary

  8. 5 stars
    This recipe, like so many, is just a starting point. Thank you for pointing us in the right direction. I took a ton of creative license and it was delicious. We had it on our Oktoberfest brats tonight. For those wondering about cabbage, 2 – 1 pound bags of coleslaw worked great.

  9. Hey Melissa
    I haven’t made your recipe yet but will making it later today. One thing I have realized from reading all the comments is that you need to read the recipe completely. All questions are answered in your recipe. Can’t wait to have this with a pot o beans, corn bread and porcupine balls. Thank you

  10. 5 stars
    Very good & easy to follow. Made 2 batches, the 2nd one I added dryed cilantro instead of the turmeric.

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