You love the tangy, sweet, and slightly spicy flavors that come together in every bite of chow-chow, the authentic Southern relish. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, this comprehensive guide will take you through the step-by-step process of making your own delicious batch of chow-chow. From selecting the freshest vegetables to achieving the perfect balance of flavors, this article will leave you feeling confident and ready to embark on your culinary adventure. So grab your apron and get ready to experience the true taste of the South with homemade chow-chow.

A Guide to Making Chow-Chow: The Authentic Southern Relish

Have you ever tasted the delightful tang and crunch of chow-chow, the authentic Southern relish? If not, then you’re in for a treat! Chow-chow is a delicious combination of green tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, hot peppers, sugar, vinegar, and salt. In this comprehensive article, we will guide you through the process of making this flavorful relish from scratch. So gather your ingredients and let’s get started!


To make chow-chow, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Green tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Hot peppers
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Salt

These ingredients come together to create a symphony of flavors that will add a delightful kick to your meals.


Preparation is key when it comes to making chow-chow. Before you begin, make sure to wash and sanitize all your utensils and work surface to maintain cleanliness. Once you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Chop Vegetables: Start by chopping the green tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, and hot peppers into small, uniform pieces. The size of the vegetables can vary based on your preference, but aim for bite-sized pieces.

  2. Salt and Drain Vegetables: Place the chopped vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle them with salt. Toss the vegetables gently to ensure the salt is evenly distributed. Let them sit for at least an hour to draw out excess moisture.

  3. Create Brine: While the vegetables are draining, it’s time to prepare the brine. In a pot, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved completely.

  4. Combine Vegetables and Brine: Once the vegetables have drained, rinse them thoroughly to remove any excess salt. Transfer the vegetables to the pot with the brine. Stir gently to ensure all the vegetables are coated in the brine.

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Now that your vegetables and brine are combined, it’s time to bring out the flavors through cooking. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Simmer Vegetables and Brine: Place the pot with the vegetables and brine on the stove and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

  2. Add Sugar and Vinegar: After the vegetables have simmered for 30 minutes, add additional sugar and vinegar according to your desired taste. Stir well to combine the flavors.

  3. Continue Simmering: Allow the mixture to continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes. This will help all the flavors meld together and create a delicious relish.


To preserve your homemade chow-chow and enjoy it for months to come, the next step is canning. Follow these instructions:

  1. Prepare Canning Jars: Sterilize your canning jars and lids by washing them in hot, soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly and place them in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes to sanitize.

  2. Fill Jars with Chow-Chow: Remove the sterilized jars from the boiling water bath and fill them with the hot chow-chow. Leave about ΒΌ inch of headspace at the top of each jar to allow for expansion during the canning process.

  3. Seal Jars: Wipe the rims of the jars to ensure they are clean and free from any food debris. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the bands tightly.

  4. Process Jars in Boiling Water Bath: Submerge the filled and sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Ensure that the jars are fully covered with water and allow them to process for about 10-15 minutes.


Once your jars of chow-chow have been processed and cooled, it’s important to check the seals before storing them. Follow these steps:

  1. Cool and Check Seal: Allow the processed jars to cool to room temperature. Once they are cool, press down on the center of the lids. If the lids are firm and do not flex, it means that a proper seal has been achieved.

  2. Label and Store: Label each jar with the date of canning and the type of chow-chow. Store the jars in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or cellar, to ensure maximum shelf life.

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Chow-chow is a versatile relish that can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Here are a few variations to consider:

Spicy Chow-Chow:

If you enjoy a little heat, add extra hot peppers to your chow-chow recipe. The spice level can be adjusted to suit your palate by increasing or decreasing the amount of hot peppers used.

Sweet Chow-Chow:

For those who prefer a sweeter relish, increase the amount of sugar in the recipe. You can also experiment with using different types of sugar, such as brown sugar or honey, to add a unique twist to the flavor profile.

Green Tomato Chow-Chow:

While traditional chow-chow uses green tomatoes, you can also experiment with using other vegetables like green bell peppers or green onions as the base. This variation adds a vibrant green color to your relish and can be a great way to use up excess garden produce.

Serving Suggestions

Now that you have your homemade chow-chow ready, it’s time to explore the many ways you can enjoy this delightful relish. Here are a few serving suggestions:

Accompaniment to Southern Dishes:

Chow-chow pairs perfectly with classic Southern dishes such as fried chicken, collard greens, or black-eyed peas. Its tangy and crunchy texture adds a refreshing contrast to rich and savory flavors.

Condiment for Hot Dogs or Hamburgers:

Add a new twist to your hot dogs or hamburgers by topping them with a generous dollop of chow-chow. The combination of flavors will elevate your humble dish to a whole new level.

Addition to Deviled Eggs:

Take your deviled eggs to the next level by incorporating chow-chow into the filling. The relish adds a burst of flavor and a delightful crunch that will have your guests coming back for more.

History of Chow-Chow

Chow-chow has its origins in the Southern United States, particularly in states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. It is a relish that has been passed down through generations, with each family adding its own unique twists and variations. The history of chow-chow is rooted in the cultural influences of diverse communities, including African, European, and Native American, coming together to create a distinct Southern culinary tradition.

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Popular Chow-Chow Recipes

While there are countless family recipes for chow-chow, here are a few popular recipes that have gained recognition over the years:

Classic Chow-Chow Recipe:

This recipe stays true to the traditional flavors of chow-chow, combining green tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and a delightful blend of spices. It is a reliable go-to recipe that captures the essence of authentic Southern relish.

Family Recipe Variations:

Every family has its own cherished chow-chow recipe, passed down from generation to generation. These variations often include secret ingredients or unique steps that make them truly special. Exploring family recipes can be an exciting way to connect with your culinary heritage.

Celebrity Chef Interpretations:

Several renowned chefs have put their own spin on chow-chow, incorporating modern culinary techniques and flavor combinations. From Bobby Flay’s spicy chipotle chow-chow to Martha Stewart’s refined variation, these interpretations showcase the versatility of this classic Southern relish.

Tips and Tricks

To ensure your chow-chow turns out perfectly every time, consider the following tips and tricks:

Choosing the Right Vegetables:

Select the freshest and ripest vegetables possible for the best flavor and texture. Look for vibrant green tomatoes, crisp and colorful bell peppers, and firm cabbage. This will ensure that your chow-chow is bursting with freshness.

Balancing Flavors:

As you experiment with different chow-chow recipes, don’t be afraid to taste and adjust the flavors as you go. Add more sugar, vinegar, or salt to achieve your desired balance of sweet, tangy, and savory.

Adjusting Spice Levels:

If you’re a fan of spice, feel free to amp up the heat by adding more hot peppers or even experimenting with different types of peppers. However, always exercise caution and start conservatively when adding spice, as it can quickly overpower the other flavors.

Storage and Shelf Life:

Properly canned chow-chow can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dark place. However, it’s essential to regularly check the seals and discard any jars with signs of spoilage or bulging lids. Once opened, store your chow-chow in the refrigerator and consume it within a few weeks for the best quality.

Now that you have a comprehensive guide to making chow-chow, it’s time to unleash your culinary creativity and embark on this flavorful journey. Whether you prefer the traditional recipe or experiment with exciting variations, chow-chow is sure to become a beloved addition to your meals. So gather your ingredients, follow the steps outlined above, and get ready to savor the taste of authentic Southern relish. Happy cooking!

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.