It’s easy to make homemade giardiniera with this simple recipe! Enjoy this delicious Chicago-style relish in sandwiches, atop thin crust pizzas and as deep dish stuffing, with burgers or hot dogs, on salads, in bowls, and more!
Back when I lived in Chicago I could buy giardiniera from grocery stores, sandwich shops, and local markets. We’d order giardiniera pizzas, enjoy it stuffed into sandwiches, and atop veggie dogs.
Now you might think surrounded by all this glorious giardiniera there’d be no reason to make it yourself! But haha, it’s like you don’t even know me. Of course I had to figure out how to make it at home!
It’s been some years since I lived in Chicago now, and store-bought giardiniera is hard to find. But that’s ok! It’s easy to make it and as a bonus quite inexpensive to make a large batch.
With one batch and you’ll get a few jars worth of the relish! Since it’s pickled vegetables it will last for some weeks in the fridge (at least a month and possibly more than two) when stored properly.
Enjoy it with just about everything until you run out, or share a jar or two friends or neighbors!
What is giardiniera?
Giardiniera, pronounced “jar-din-air-ah” with soft j-sound, is an Italian pickled vegetable condiment. It’s super popular in Chicago (thank to Italian immigrants circa the 1800s), where you’ll find this iconic relish on sandwiches, pizzas, hot dogs and more.
It comes in two varieties, hot and mild (or “regular”), though in my heart only hot giardiniera exists.
Now, if you really can’t handle your jalapeños… well. You know how to reduce the amount! You can also de-seed them for less heat or even leave them out.
As with any food that’s traveled across continents and through thousands of kitchens, there are many different ways to make giardiniera. From the ratios of vegetables to which vegetables you choose to go in it, everyone is sure to have their own take.
My recipe is for the Chicago-style giardiniera I know and love, and the way I’ve been making it for a decade and counting. But after making it once as written feel free to tweak the recipe to fit your own tastes!
What goes into giardiniera?
The most common vegetables in giardiniera are: cauliflower, carrots, onion, celery, and jalapeño (or other spicy pepper). I also include bell pepper in mine (bell pepper haters, feel free to leave them out).
Hot giardiniera will have a higher ratio of spicy peppers, while a mild giardiniera will have fewer spicy peppers, which may be seeded for less heat. For a completely mild version one could even leave out the jalapeños altogether and just use sweet bell peppers.
The vegetables get soaked in salt water for a day before they are drained, rinsed, then tossed in a flavorful dressing. Soaking them in salt water helps the veggies stay crisp!
For the dressing you need: garlic, minced green olives, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, celery seed, black pepper, vinegar, and olive oil.
You’ll want to use good quality olives here, the kind in jars or fresh from an olive bar but not canned olives. It’s better to use no olives than bad olives!
Adding crushed red pepper makes the hot giardiniera even hotter, but um, that’s my goal? It’s not a ton of red pepper considering the amount of veggies. Feel free to use more or less!
Celery seed adds so much flavor! If all you have is celery salt, that’s okay.
For vinegar you want a mild tasting vinegar with a little natural sweetness. I like to use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. If you want to just use unfancy white vinegar that’s okay too.
How long can you store homemade giardiniera?
Once you’ve mixed together the salt brined vegetables and the dressing, the mixture needs to sit for a couple of days to marinate. The longer it sits the more flavorful the relish gets! Sure you can eat it right away but a little patience pays off!
Once I’ve mixed together the vegetables and dressing I like to transfer them to clean glass jars right away and stick them in the fridge.
How to keep the homemade giardiniera good for longer:
For longest storage you want the vegetables to be fully submerged in the dressing. If you only need a bit of extra liquid then it’s ok to add some water. For best results use distilled water, filtered water, or water that has been boiled then allowed to cool back down to room temperature.
If you need more than 1 cup of water, switch to adding vinegar to cover the vegetables. The reason for this is you want to keep the dressing more acidic to preserve them and the more you dilute it with water the less acidic the giardiniera gets.
If you follow these steps: 1) clean jars or storage containers, 2) fully submerged vegetables, and 3) refrigeration, your homemade giardiniera should stay safe to eat for several weeks (or even longer)! The longest I’ve taken to finish a batch of giardiniera is about 2 months and it remained good that entire time.
Keep in mind that because there is olive oil in the dressing, it will separate and turn solid in the fridge. Most of it will float to the top, but some will coat the vegetables and look like a film.
When brought to room temperature the oil will turn back to liquid. Give it a shake to mix it back in!
As long as the vegetables are crisp, taste good, and you don’t see mold (which again should be inhibited thanks to the vinegar) the giardiniera will remain safe to eat.
If you do canning, then you may seal jars for longer storage! I have not done so myself so can’t speak specifics here.
So I have all this giardiniera now. What do I do with it?
I’m glad you asked! The real question isn’t what should you do with homemade giardiniera but what can’t you do?!
So giardiniera is a condiment, sometimes called a relish, but really it’s just a pickle and you can enjoy it any way you would enjoy pickles!
On burgers, sandwiches, tacos, hot dogs, pizzas, salads, nachos, charcuterie boards, and more. It was one of my go-to fillings for deep dish pizza, and now I just make it at home!
I love adding pickles to my various bowls (buddha bowls/grain bowls/whatever-you-want-to-call-them), and especially love adding giardiniera to big bowls of beans and rice!
Just think to yourself, would this meal be made better by some tangy, briny, juicy vegetables? If the answer to that is yes (and it usually is!) then add some giardiniera! It may be an Italian pickle by way of Chicago, but giardiniera transcends cultures and cuisines. Just enjoy it!
If you make this homemade giardiniera recipe, leave a comment below and rate the recipe on the recipe card. And please share your photos with me on Instagram, tag @thecuriouschickpea and #thecuriouschickpea. I love seeing your recreations!
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Use this recipe for giardiniera as a template. It's decently spicy as is, but you can decrease the amount jalapeño or deseed them for less heat, or adjust the crushed red pepper to taste. Stored in the fridge it will keep for several weeks.
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (2 1/2 - 3 cups, 250g)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (3 cups, 370g)
- 2 red bell peppers, diced (2 1/2 - 3 cups, 350g)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (1 cup, 110g)
- 1 carrot, diced (3/4 cups, 100g)
- 1 celery stalk, diced (1/2 - 3/4 cups, 80g)
- 6 large jalapeños, thinly sliced or diced (2 cups, 175g)
- 1/2 cup (135g) coarse kosher salt*
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup (125g) chopped marinated green olives
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or white vinegar (more as needed)
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl combine the diced cauliflower, onion, bell peppers, carrot, celery, jalapeño, and 1/2 cup of coarse kosher salt. Add enough cold water to cover the vegetables, then put a lid over the container and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
- After soaking, drain and rinse the vegetables and set aside in the large mixing bowl.
- In a medium mixing bowl mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss, and cover the bowl or transfer to clean glass jars. If the vegetables aren't fully submerged, top off with one cup of water then if more liquid is needed top with additional vinegar until the vegetables are covered. Use distilled water, filtered water, or boiled and cooled water for longer storage.
- Refrigerate for at least 48 hours before enjoying. The vegetables will get more flavorful the longer it marinates. Homemade giardiniera will last for at least several weeks in the fridge.
I’ve provided a pretty traditional combination of vegetables, but if you aren’t a fan one of them then don’t include it and add a little extra of something or everything else.
You can mince the vegetables smaller if you prefer, to a more finely chopped cauliflower and diced jalapeño for example. This will change the volume that the vegetables will measure to, so either measure by weight or just use the number of vegetables called for.
I give amounts in the number of vegetables, approximate volume when chopped, and the weight when prepared. It doesn't need to be this specific though, so use it as a guideline more than a strict number to follow.
*If you use fine ground salt measure by weight as it will be denser than coarse kosher salt. If measuring by volume it will be about 2-2.5 tbsp of finely ground salt.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 40 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 63Total Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 360mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
Nutrition is calculated automatically so should be used as an estimate.