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+ servings
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Brining time
4 hrs

This recipe is adapted from the one used by Mama E and Mamaw, and the original recipe was exactly as vague as you'd expect from something more memorized than written. Their recipe called for proper canning, but I wanted to make something I was quite sure about and have adapted it to be stored in the refrigerator. In sterilized, sealed jars, this chowchow will keep well for a month in the back of your fridge.

Cut vegetables depending on the type of chowchow you'd like. Use a rough chop for thicker slaw-like texture, and a dice or mince for relish. There's a lot of flexibility in the spicing of chowchow, so feel free to play around with flavor profiles.

Though based on Mama E and Mamaw's recipe, I turned to a couple of my southern food bibles, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt and Ted Lee and Mama Dips Kitchen by Mildred Council, for reference.

Recipe Type: Condiment
Keyword: chow-chow
Makes: 3 pints
Author: Elizabeth Stark
  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 quart water
  • 3 cups cabbage (roughly half a small cabbage), cored and cut into short, thin ribbons
  • 1 cup yellow onion (1 large), diced or minced
  • 2 cups tomatillos, green tomatoes, or a mix (about 6 medium tomatillos), chopped or diced
  • 4 cups red, yellow, or orange peppers, cored, seeded, and diced or minced
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Flavorful dried chili, such as ancho
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch cumin seed
  1. In a large bowl or stainless steel pot, combine sea salt and water, and swirl until dissolved. Add cabbage, onions, tomatillos or green tomatoes, and peppers, and stir. Cover and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
  2. Drain vegetables, discard salt water brine, and set vegetables in a bowl.
  3. In a large non-reactive stock pot, heat the vinegar over medium heat. Add the sugar, dried pepper, and all of the spices, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Heat mixture over medium-low for 10 minutes. To strain out the spices, pour pickling liquid through a mesh sieve, and then back into the large pot.
  4. Add brined vegetables to the pickling liquid and heat until it is bubbling gently. Cook 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, sterilize lids and jars in a large pot of boiling water.
  6. Use a funnel to fill each jar with the vegetables and then top off with the pickling liquid, leaving 1/4-inch of head space. Wipe the rim with a hot cloth and seal. Chow-chow will keep well in the fridge for 4 weeks.