This homemade giardiniera is brined and pickled in oil and vinegar, and super easy to make. It can be made hot or mild to use in sandwiches, salads, or as a pizza topping. The most difficult part is waiting for it to be ready!
Giardiniera, a pickled blend of vegetables, is derived from the Italian word for “garden”. Italian giardiniera is typically eaten as an antipasto.
You’ll find it on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus everywhere in Chicago, but we eat it in a different way! It’s the topping for Italian beef sandwiches, but we put it on pasta, salad, and pizza.
Traditionally, it’s one of the toppings on a Chicago Italian beef sandwich, so it could go on any type of sandwich. While it doesn’t belong on another traditional Chicago food, the Chicago hot dog, I could see it as a variation.
The classic veggies are celery, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, and onions. As long as you include these vegetables in some form, you’re good to go.
My pepper blend is green and red bell peppers, cubanelle peppers, jalapeños, and red pepper flakes. This recipe makes a mild version, but if you prefer some heat, you can replace some of the bell pepper with hot peppers (such as serrano peppers) and add more red pepper flakes.
This recipe takes 2 days to prepare, and it gets better with time, so prepare accordingly!
The first step is brining the vegetables in a saltwater solution for 12 hours or overnight. Using room temperature or cold water will leave a bit of crunch in the vegetables. If you prefer the veggies to be tender, you can use boiling water for the brine.
After the brining stage, you’ll pickle the vegetables in a mix of vinegar, vegetable oil, and olive oil, then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
🌶 Hot vs mild
You can get it in hot or mild, and each kind shines in its own way. I like adding big spoonfuls of mild giardiniera to pasta and sandwiches, but prefer the spicy kind as a condiment in small quantities.
🥕 Low oil
For me, store bought giardiniera has one downside: it can be unbearably oily. I usually end up straining most of the oil out of the jar as I eat it.
The 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 is refrigerated, the oil starts to thicken, and it’s just gross.
This recipe contains some oil, but not too much, but you can adjust the quantities to your preferences. The beauty of making it yourself is making these modifications. Homemade truly tastes better!
🥫 Bulk prep
If you’re going to spend time chopping all of these veggies, make it worth your while! This recipe makes 2 quarts, or 8 cups. They’ll last 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge. Give them away to friends, family, and neighbors if you need help eating it all.
This recipe does not include canning or preservation steps beyond refrigeration, so if you have canning experience, you could try canning the giardiniera. It’s a great way to use up fresh vegetables in the summer, especially if you’re growing peppers in a garden!
Your giardiniera will be ready to eat after a day, but if you can wait, it gets more flavorful after a few days.
- 4 stalks celery diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper or poblano pepper diced
- 1-2 cubanelle banana peppers, or peperoncini, diced
- 1-2 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 dried
- 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup 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.
- Keep in one large container, or portion into small jars. If there is not enough oil and vinegar to cover at more canola oil and white vinegar to the jar at a 1:1 ratio.
- 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.
- After the 24 hour period, you may keep the giardiniera in the large container, or portion into smaller jars. It will last 2-3 weeks covered in the refrigerator.
- When storing the giardiniera, make sure the oil and vinegar covers the vegetables completely. If you need more, add 1 part white vinegar and 1 part canola oil to the container(s).