Ah, Chicago-style giardiniera, the beloved Italian inspired condiment that took the Windy City by storm! This pickled veggie recipe is the perfect combo of tangy, spicy, and slightly sour flavors that can liven up so many dishes. As a Chicago native, I think it’s the ultimate culinary superhero that saves your sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and more from being boring and bland. It even takes great on my mojo roasted pork shoulder!
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Why Make Your Own Giardiniera
- It’s Versatile: This condiment can be used in so many ways! I love it as a topping for sandwiches, salads, and pizzas or as a condiment for meats and cheeses.
- Flavor: The combination of pickled vegetables, herbs, and spices in this recipe creates a tangy, slightly sour, and spicy flavor that can elevate just about any dish.
- Health benefits: A rich source of nutrients and contains health-supporting probiotic bacteria, as it is naturally fermented. And let’s not forget it’s packed full with lots of veggies!
- Homemade goodness: Making this recipe from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and tailor the flavor and spice level to your liking.
Is it Jardinera or Giardiniera?
If you’re confused about the differences between jardinera and giardiniera, you’re not alone. Even Google is confused. When you search “jardinera”, recipes for “giardiniera” are populated in the results. These terms can be easily confused as they have similar pronunciations but originate from different languages and cultures.
In English, “giardiniera” is the more commonly used spelling and refers to an Italian condiment made from pickled vegetables. The name “giardiniera” comes from the Italian word “giardino,” which means “garden.”
On the other hand, “jardinera” is a Spanish word that translates to “planter” or “window box.” It is also a dish that includes a mix of vegetables, typically cooked in a tomato-based sauce, commonly served in Latin American countries.
Chicago vs Italian Style Giardiniera
Chicago-style giardiniera and Italian giardiniera are both types of pickled vegetable relishes.
The Chicago-style tends to be hotter and have more of a kick than Italian giardiniera because it typically includes hot peppers, such as serrano peppers or jalapeños. In contrast, Italian giardiniera usually has a milder flavor profile and may include sweet or mild peppers.
Another difference is the pickling method. Chicago giardiniera is often pickled in vinegar and oil, while Italian giardiniera is generally pickled in vinegar alone.
There is also a difference in usage. Chicago giardiniera is used as a condiment on sandwiches and pizzas. Italian giardiniera is more commonly used as an antipasti or appetizer.
Ingredients Needed to Make Hot Giardiniera
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a common ingredient in giardiniera and adds a slightly sweet and crunchy texture to the mix.
- Carrots: Carrots add a natural sweetness and beautiful color to the mix.
- Celery: Celery also a crunchy texture along with additional depth of flavor.
- Bell Pepper: I used green bell peppers but feel free to use orange and/or red bell peppers.
- Jalapeno Peppers: Jalapeno peppers add a spicy kick to the mix. Other options would be serrano peppers, banana peppers, sport peppers and/or pepperoncinis. For a mild giardiniera you can omit the peppers.
- Fresh Garlic Cloves: Garlic adds a pungent and slightly spicy flavor to the mix.
- Kosher Salt: Salt is used to draw out the moisture from the vegetables and to help preserve the giardiniera.
- Dried Herbs & Spices: Feel free to use any Italian herbs here. I chose to keep it simple using just black pepper, oregano and celery seeds. Add red pepper flakes for even more spice.
- White Vinegar: The vinegar is used to pickle and preserve the giardiniera. You can use white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, white distilled vinegar or chardonnay vinegar.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is used to coat the vegetables and to provide a rich and flavorful base for the giardiniera. Use the highest quality you can afford. It’ll be worth it! You can also use avocado oil or canola oil.
- Optional Ingredients: Make this recipe your own by adding additional veggies such as green olives and green beans
How to Make Chicago Style Giardiniera
- Prep veggies: Chop carrots, celery and green peppers into 1/4″ 1/2″ pieces. Chop cauliflower into small florets. Finely dice the jalapenos. Leaves seeds in for more heat.
- Brine the veggies: In a large bowl, add cauliflower, carrots, celery, green bell pepper, garlic and salt. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly with salt. Cover and chill for 12 to 24 hours.
- Drain the brine and rinse the veggies under cold water to remove excess salt. Pat dry.
- Pickle the veggies: In a separate bowl, mix white wine vinegar, olive oil, celery seeds, oregano and black pepper. Stir in the vegetable mixture until well coated.
- Transfer the giardiniera to a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using. You can enjoy right away but it tastes so much better the next day!
How to Make a Quick Giardiniera if You’re Short On Time
If you’re short on time and want to make this without an overnight brine, here are some simple recipe instructions.
- In a large pot, bring a quart of water to a boil.
- Add all veggies (except for the garlic) to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they are slightly tender.
- Drain the vegetables and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.
- Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
- Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using.
How to Store Homemade Giardiniera
Once prepared, giardiniera should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The high-acid content of the vinegar in the giardiniera will help to preserve the vegetables for up to two weeks.
The oil in the mix may solidify in the refrigerator, but this is completely normal and does not affect the flavor or quality. Simply allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
Avoid storing giardiniera at room temperature for extended periods of time, as this can lead to bacterial growth and spoilage. Additionally, it is not recommended to freeze giardiniera, as the texture of the vegetables can become mushy and unpleasant once thawed.
What to Serve with Giardiniera
- Sandwiches: A classic topping for Italian beef sandwiches, but it can also add flavor to other sandwiches such as these Cuban sliders. It’s also great on hot dogs, roast beef and meatball sandwiches.
- Salads: A spoonful can add a tangy and crunchy element to your favorite salads. Try it on pasta salad, potato salad, or a classic chopped salad.
- Pizza: Sprinkle on top of Chicago style deep dish pizza for an extra burst of flavor and texture. This sauce is yummy with spicy sausage or pepperoni.
- Charcuterie boards: Makes a great addition to any charcuterie board, adding color and flavor to cured meats, cheeses, and crackers.
- Antipasto platters: A classic ingredient in Italian antipasto platters, which typically include a variety of cured meats, cheeses, olives, and pickled vegetables.
- Crostini: Spread a dollop of goat cheese on a crostini and top it with a spoonful of giardiniera for an easy and flavorful appetizer.
Tips for Success
- Use fresh vegetables: Choose fresh and high-quality vegetables for your giardiniera to ensure the best flavor and texture. Look for firm cauliflower, crisp carrots, and celery stalks with no signs of wilting.
- Cut the vegetables evenly: Cut the vegetables into similar-sized pieces to ensure they pickle evenly. This will also make your giardiniera look more visually appealing!
- Don’t skip the salt brine: Salt draws out the moisture from the vegetables and helps to preserve them. Let the vegetables sit in salt for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
- Rinse the vegetables well: After soaking in salt, rinse the vegetables well to remove any excess salt and prevent them from becoming too salty.
- Use a good quality vinegar and oil: Use a high-quality white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to create a flavorful and well-preserved giardiniera.
- Adjust the spice level to your liking: If you prefer a milder giardiniera, simply reduce the amount of jalapeno peppers or just leave them out. If you like a lot of heat, add more jalapeno peppers or other spicy peppers.
Hot Chicago giardiniera is a condiment that can transform your meal from ordinary to extraordinary. Seriously! And let’s not forget the fun of making your own from scratch. Let me know if you give this recipe a try!
Chicago Style Giardiniera
- 1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped
- 1/2 cup carrot, sliced
- 1/2 cup celery, sliced
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper, sliced
- 2 jalapeno peppers, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp celery seeds
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, carrots, celery, green bell pepper, garlic and salt. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly with salt, and let sit for 12 to 24 hours.
- Drain the vegetables and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water to remove excess salt. Drain well and pat dry.
- In a separate bowl, combine white wine vinegar, olive oil, celery seeds, oregano and black pepper. Stir in the vegetables until well coated.
- Transfer the giardiniera to a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
If you’re short on time and want to make a quick giardiniera, here are some simple instructions. In a large pot, bring a quart of water to a boil. Add the chopped vegetables (except for the garlic) to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they are slightly tender. Drain the vegetables and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the giardiniera is ready to use.