Old-Fashioned Chow Chow Recipe – Tangy, sweet, and spicy, this easy relish recipe makes the most vibrant chow chow slaw that is delicious on sandwiches and with your favorite Southern dishes!

Glass jar of southern chow chow recipe. The lid is off and to the right side, a metal spoon is in the jar showing a scoop to camera.

What is Chow Chow?

This robust relish recipe is an extremely southern dish, often served with pulled pork sandwiches, sausages, on burgers and sandwiches, and as an accompaniment with cheese and crackers.

I first experienced Chow Chow relish in South Carolina, and it is quite popular there. However, it was originally created in Louisiana where the French word “chou” means cabbage.

Chow chow is a distinct combination of what makes a tangy relish or a perky vinegar-based slaw recipe really delicious… It’s hard to describe, but imagine if sweet relish and sauerkraut had a baby. Although cabbage is the largest ingredient in quantity, the flavor comes from perky unripe green tomatoes, sweet onion, peppers, and spices.

Chow chow is a great recipe to can in a water bath for later use. Or keep it in the refrigerator and enjoy it for a couple of weeks. Although, I doubt it will last that long! It’s great to pull out any time of year when you need to give a dish a little perky dollop of something sweet and tangy!

Top down view glass jar of chow chow relish. The lid is off and to the right side, a metal spoon is in the jar showing a scoop to camera.

Ingredients You Need

  • Green cabbage – finely chopped
  • Unripe green tomatoes – cored and finely chopped
  • Sweet onion – peeled and finely chopped
  • Bell peppers – green and red, seeded and finely chopped
  • Salt – to draw the moisture out from the veggies
  • White vinegar – tangy acid essential to quick-pickle the veg
  • Light brown sugar – a nice mellow sweetness to balance the vinegar
  • Spices – celery seeds, dry mustard or mustard seeds, ground ginger, ground allspice, dried dill, and crushed red pepper flakes
Recipe ingredients: Fresh red bell peppers, green pepper, tomatillos, white onion, and cabbage.

How to Make Chow Chow

Finely chop all the fresh produce. Set out a very large mixing bowl and add the chopped cabbage and green tomatoes.

Adding chopped tomatillos to the bowl.

Then add onion, bell peppers, and salt. Mix well.

Adding chopped bell pepper to the bowl of veggies.

Cover the bowl and allow the vegetables to season and soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Once the chow chow vegetable blend has had time to soak, drain off the excess liquid.

Chopped fresh veggies in a colander.

Set a 6 to 8-quart sauce pot on the stovetop. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, and all herbs and spices.

Get the Complete (Printable) Southern Chow Chow Recipe + Video Below. Enjoy!

Sugar added to the cooking pot.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower the heat and allow the liquid to simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the chopped vegetables into the simmering liquid.

Cooked chow chow in a large pot.

Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes until the cabbage and peppers are very soft.

Cooked chow chow recipe in a large pot.

Ladle the warm chow chow and liquids into 7-pint jars or 14-cup jars. Make sure to leave at least ½ inch of open space on top if canning.

Wipe the lids with a clean dampened cloth and screw the lids on tight while the chow chow relish is hot to seal.

3 glass jars of southern chow chow relish. Front jar has lid off, back two jars have metal lids on.

If not canning, store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Easy Canning Instructions

It is not essential for this chow chow recipe, but properly canning will allow you to store the jars without refrigeration for several years. If canning, set a large clean pot of water over the stovetop and bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, gently lower the filled jars of chow chow relish into the boiling water. Make sure they are fully covered by at least 1 inch of water on top. Simmer the jars for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to carefully lift the jars out of the boiling water. Allow them to cool to room temperature. Then label and store the shelf-stable jars at room temperature for 1-5 years. It’s best to store them in a cool dark place.

Top down view glass jar of chow chow. The lid is off and to the right side, a metal spoon is in the jar showing a scoop to camera.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you eat old-fashioned chow chow?

Use chow chow as a zesty condiment on all of your favorite burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. It’s fabulous on everything from cold deli hoagies to hot grilled cheese sandwiches, and everything in between! Try a scoop with a Patty Melt or Gourmet Grilled Cheese… Or keep things *really* southern and pair chow chow relish with a Pimento Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Fried Green Tomatoes. (Yes, that actually exists!)

This tasty condiment is also delicious to serve kind of like a slaw with hearty comfort food main dishes like barbecue Burnt Ends, Pulled Pork, and Fried Chicken.

But that’s not all, folks! This spicy cabbage and pepper relish is good enough to eat with a simple plate of cheese and crackers, or on bagels with cream cheese. Basically, you are going to love chow chow relish on any food you typically would enjoy with pickle relish.

What does chow chow taste like?

There is a delightful combination of tangy, tart, sweet, and spicy flavors here. The texture is similar to sauerkraut, and there is the same distinct cabbage taste in chow chow. But where sauerkraut leans almost entirely to tangy/sour, this veggie relish has a sweet taste from the brown sugar – plus a nice kick of red pepper heat.

Is chow chow the same as relish?

“Relish” refers to any pickled chopped veggies. So yes, Southern chow chow is a type of relish.

How long does this chow chow recipe last?

If you plan to just refrigerate soon after preparing the chow chow recipe, the relish will keep well for up to 2 weeks.

Chow chow canned in a water bath can last up to 4-5 years at room temperature. However, once it has been opened, the jar needs to be kept in the fridge and enjoyed within 2 weeks.

Glass jar of southern chow chow. The lid is off and to the right side, a metal spoon is in the jar showing a scoop to camera.

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Glass jar of southern chow chow. The lid is off and to the right side, a metal spoon is in the jar showing a scoop to camera.
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Chow Chow Recipe + Video

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Tangy, sweet and spicy chow chow is simply irresistible! This easy relish recipe makes the most vibrant chow chow slaw that is delicious on sandwiches and with your favorite Southern dishes.
Servings: 56 servings (14 cups total)

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Finely chop all the fresh produce. Set out a very large mixing bowl. Combine the chopped cabbage, green tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, and salt. Mix well. Then cover and allow the vegetables to season and soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  • Once the chow chow vegetable blend has had time to soak, drain off the excess liquid.
  • Set a 6 to 8-quart sauce pot on the stove top. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, and all herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower the heat and allow the liquid to simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the chopped vegetables into the simmering liquid. Stir and simmer another 10 minutes until the cabbage and peppers are very soft.
  • Pack the warm chow chow and liquids into 7 pint jars or 14 cup jars. Make sure to leave at least ½ inch of open space on top if canning. Screw the lids on tight while the chow chow is hot.
  • If canning, set a large clean pot of water over the stovetop and bring to a boil. Once boiling, gently lower the jars of chow chow into the boiling water making sure they are fully covered by at least 1 inch of water on top. Simmer the jars for 10 minutes. Then use tongs to carefully lift the jars out of the boiling water. Allow them to cool to room temperature. Then label and store at room temperature for at least one year.
  • If not canning, store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Video

Notes

If not canning, refrigerate and enjoy within 2 weeks. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2oz, Calories: 53kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 0.1g, Saturated Fat: 0.02g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 1020mg, Potassium: 92mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 247IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 23mg, Iron: 0.4mg
Course: Condiment, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Sommer Collier
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