From Texas to Virginia and everywhere in between, sweet, spicy and tangy Chow Chow is a beloved Southern relish. It’s served atop hot dogs, barbecue or as a way to perk-up a classic bowl of pinto beans with a side of cornbread. It’s as integral a part of Southern toppings as salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen table with simple preparation to boot.

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Chow Chow

Chow chow comes in different 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 and I can’t imagine what type of bean it wouldn’t compliment. At times, I’ve also chosen to serve it as an appetizer with crackers and cream cheese.

Chow Chow Making Tips

A few pointers for making this recipe:

  • When a non-reactive bowl or pot is referenced, this signifies that you can use a glass (glass bowl only for overnight chilling) a stainless steel or a copper pot for cooking
  • If you’re unable to find green tomatoes, tomatillos will work in a pinch. Remove the seeds and dice just as you would the tomatoes.
  • 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.
  • Measure the amount of cabbage used in this recipe after chopping.
  • This is a refrigerator version of chow chow that can be kept in the fridge and enjoyed for up to one month. This recipe can also be canned using proper canning technique and boiled in jars in a water bath, if you want to store it longer.
  • Seasonings are imperative. 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.

How Did it Originate?

It’s believed that chow chow was a way of preserving the last of the garden season bounty. Too little to put up for the winter on their own but, together form a condiment perfect for cold weather meals. In addition, it’s 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. Another way to enjoy cabbage as a topping is this recipe for homemade Sauerkraut from The Pioneer Woman.

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Chow Chow

Prep Time20 minsCook Time25 minsMarinate time8 hrsTotal Time8 hrs 25 minsCourse: Appetizer, Condiment, Side DishCuisine: AmericanKeyword: southern-chow-chowServings: 4 pints


  • 2 lb chopped green cabbage (around 10 cups)
  • 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


  • 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.


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. 

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