I love olives, pickles, and all sorts of pickled and brined vegetables in between. Giardiniera is no exception, especially living in Chicago where this condiment is on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus everywhere. However, I never tried making homemade giardiniera until recently, even though is wicked simple once you have all of your vegetables chopped. The most difficult part is waiting long enough for the brine and pickling solution to work its magic.
If you’re not familiar with giardiniera, it’s an Italian blend of pickled vegetables. It’s very popular in the Chicago area as a condiment and sandwich topping (or in deep dish pizza!), and you can buy it in hot or mild. Most giardiniera brands use a blend of sweet and hot peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, and green olives.
How do you use it?
So, how do you eat giardiniera? My personal favorites are on a spoon, and on toast or a bagel. Traditionally, it’s one of the toppings on a Chicago Italian beef sandwich, so it could go on any type of sandwich. You could use it in my recipe for Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza, put in on pasta, or in a salad. There’s so many options!
For me, store bought giardiniera has two downsides: the jars are so dang small, and it can be unbearably oily. I usually end up pouring out most of the oil in the jar, and letting the oil drip off of the veggies when spooning it out of the jar. Giardiniera oil has its place; it’s part of what makes (vegan) Italian beef sandwiches so delicious, but for most other uses, I don’t want a mouthful of oil with my pickled vegetables. Once a jar of giardiniera is refrigerated, the oil starts to thicken, and it’s just gross.
With those two preferences in mind, I cut back (but did not eliminate—a little bit is good) on the amount of oil in my giardiniera, and made LOTS. I like mild giardiniera, so if you’d prefer a hotter blend, use hotter peppers and/or add red pepper flakes.
Get the recipe:
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper or poblano pepper, diced
- 1-2 cubanelle, hot/sweet banana peppers, or peperoncini, diced
- 1 or more jalapeño peppers, diced
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut in florets
- 1/2 cup fine sea salt
- Several cups of water
- 1/2 cup sliced green olives
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon oregano flakes
- 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
- Celery salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Combine all of the diced vegetables in a large glass bowl or container.
- Dissolve the sea salt in 1 cup of water to start, then pour over the vegetables. Fill the container with more water until the vegetables are submerged completely.
- Cover the container and place in the fridge overnight, or at least 12-15 hours.
- Rinse the brine off of the vegetable mixture under cold water.
- Add the garlic, olives, oregano, red pepper flakes, celery salt, and black pepper, and stir the mixture together.
- Add the white vinegar and canola oil, then stir to coat.
- Cover and return to the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving, stirring to coat every so often. It's safe to eat before then, but letting the giardiniera sit for a day or two will allow the flavors to blend and the vegetables to soften.