How to Make Green Tomato Chow Chow


Start to Finish: 2 hours, plus resting time

Servings: 6

Difficulty: Intermediate

Chow chow, also known as piccalilli, is a relish that is associated with the Southern United States. However, its origins are likely French. The relish was a means of using up extra or leftover vegetables at the end of the harvest season. Green tomatoes, tomatoes that would not have time to ripen before the first frost, were commonly used for chow chow because of their abundance and their firmness and tartness, which make them a prime choice for pickling. This recipe is based on ones by Saveur and Canadian Living.


  • 2 1/2 pounds green tomatoes, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 cup onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 1/4 cup sweet red pepper, minced

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

  • 1/2 tablespoon white peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds

  • 1 tablespoon whole cardamom pods

  • 1/2 tablespoon whole yellow mustard seeds

  • 1/2 tablespoon celery seeds

  • 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice

  • 7 whole cloves

  • 2 large bay leaves, dried

  • 1 tablespoon red chili pepper flakes

  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken into two

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

  • 3 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar


Toss the onion, carrot and green tomatoes in salt, coating each piece. Place in an even layer in a glass baking tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Drain the liquid that has collected in the tray, and wash the tomatoes and onions. Rinse thoroughly, as otherwise, the chow chow will be too salty. Drain the vegetables of all excess liquid.


  • This step is crucial as it reduces the amount of liquid in the tomatoes, minimizing cooking time, and also softens the green tomatoes, which are naturally very firm.

Toast the dried spices in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan on medium-high heat. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the spices are very fragrant and the seeds start popping. Wrap the ginger and toasted spices in a piece of cheesecloth.

Dissolve the vinegar and sugar in the saucepan, stirring regularly. This will take around 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the cheesecloth packet of spices and bring the vinegar mix to a rapid boil on high heat. Reduce to medium-low and add the tomato and onion mix.

Stir the relish occasionally. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered. The chow chow is ready when the tomatoes have broken down from chunks into a thick sauce.


  • Smashing the tomatoes in the pot with the back of a wooden spoon or ladle can speed up the cooking process.

Cool the chow chow to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Serve the chow chow as an accompaniment to roast meats, as a spread on sandwiches, or mixed with yogurt to make a fast vegetable dip.


In some cases, chow chow can be made to be very spicy. To boost spice levels, add dried or fresh chiles, such as cayenne, jalapeño or chile de arbol to the tomato and onion blend as the chow chow is cooking. Chop fresh chiles before adding.

Chow chow is commonly made with other vegetables, especially cold weather crops, which are in abundance at the end of fall. Cut vegetables to a similar size as the green tomatoes, and for firmer vegetables, salt and drain them before cooking as well. Common additions include cabbage, cauliflower and sweet peppers.

To give your chow chow a more pleasing color, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of either turmeric powder or sweet paprika when the chow chow is almost done cooking.

If you can’t find enough green tomatoes, tomatillos, a green-colored relative of tomatoes frequently used in Mexican cuisine, can be substituted in a 1-to-1 ratio.

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