Curtido is a Salvadoran cabbage slaw or relish made with shredded cabbage, onion, carrot, and vinegar, essential for topping pupusas and other Salvadoran dishes.
Curtido Recipe (Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw)
We're taking a trip to El Salvador today in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends! Care to join in?
We're whipping up a big batch of Curtido, a delicious condiment you're bound to fall in love with.
What is Curtido?
Curtido is a traditional Salvadoran pickled cabbage slaw or relish served as a topping for various foods. It is important to many traditional Latin American dishes, particularly El Salvador, where it is essential for pupusas, or Salvadoran corn cakes.
It is made with a combination of vinegar and fermentation, resulting in a tangy, tart, slightly sour flavor that adds a refreshing acidic zing to many dishes.
Let's talk about how to make curtido, shall we?
The full ingredients list with measurements is listed in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Cabbage. Use green cabbage or white cabbage, shredded.
- Onion. Use white onion or red onion, thinly sliced.
- Carrot. Shredded.
- Vinegar. I'm using apple cider vinegar, though you can use white vinegar.
- Bay Leaf.
- Sugar. Optional, for a touch of sweet.
- Jalapeno. Optional, for a spicier version. You can use hotter peppers. Thinly sliced. Chile de arbol is GREAT here for some heat.
How to Make Curtido - the Recipe Method
Slice and Combine. Slice or shred all of your vegetables into thin strips that can be used as a slaw. Mix the cabbage, onion, and shredded carrot (and jalapeno, if using) together in a large bowl.
Jar them Up. Transfer the mixture to a large jar, like a Ball jar or Mason jar.
Make the Brine. Whisk together the brine ingredients - vinegar, salt, and optional sugar - then pour it into the jar. Be sure to completely cover the vegetables with the brine. Add the bay leaf.
Wait. Secure the lid and refrigerate for 3 days or longer to let the flavors mingle. It gets better as it ages and lightly ferments, though you can serve it immediately. See the recipe notes section below.
Boom! Done! Your curtido is ready to serve. Easy enough to make, isn't it? Whip up a batch of pupusas, or use it to top your next sandwich. So many uses!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Consider Blanching. Curtido is crunchy when you first make it, but softens as it sits for 3 days, or at least 24 hours. If you want softer curtido to serve more quickly, blanch the vegetables in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, then jar them up with the vinegar brine.
- Variations. You can easily add other ingredients to make this your own. Cauliflower is a popular addition, as is red onion, green onion, dried oregano, lime juice, and honey. Try your favorite veggies!
Curtido is traditionally served with pupusas, Salvadoran corn cakes that are often stuffed with beans, cheese, or meats. It can also be served with tamales and other Salvadoran dishes.
It's a rather versatile condiment, and adds brightness and freshness to richer dishes and fatty meats. I love it as a sandwich topping and over fish tacos, but it also makes for a nice side dish.
Mild. Traditional Salvadoran curtido is not spicy, though you can include a spicy chili pepper in the vegetable mix. Add a jalapeno or two for a touch of heat, or go hotter with serrano or cayenne.
If you add a fiery habanero pepper, you'll have something like Pikliz, a Hatian pickled slaw very similar to this recipe.
Curtido will last at least 1 month in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Enjoy it right out of the jar.
I do not recommend freezing it.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this curtido recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you, and if you decided to spice it up!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Curtido Recipe (Salvadorian Cabbage Slaw)
- 1.5-2 cups thinly sliced or shredded green or white cabbage (about 1/2 head)
- 1 small white onion thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
- 1 medium carrot peeled and thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
- 1 jalapeno optional for a spicy version - thinly sliced (or use hotter peppers)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- 1 bay leaf
- Mix the cabbage, onion, and carrot together in a bowl.
- Transfer the mixture to a large jar, like a Ball jar.
- Whisk together the brine ingredients - vinegar, salt, and optional sugar - then pour it into the jar. Be sure to completely cover the vegetables with the brine. Add the bay leaf.
- Secure the lid and refrigerate for 3 days or longer to let the flavors mingle. It gets better as it ages.