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What is Chow Chow?

Amy Pollick
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Chow chow is a pickled vegetable relish that frequently is homemade and is most closely associated with Nova Scotia and the southern United States. It typically contains ingredients such as cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots and celery. This relish also might contain asparagus, peas, beans, peppers or other vegetables. The ingredients are pickled and served as a standalone dish or as a condiment for food such as hot dogs, hamburgers, mashed potatoes or other dishes.

Homemade Varieties

Its popularity as a homemade relish means that there are almost countless varieties of chow chow. Some varieties might be similar to a homemade pickle relish or to picallilli in Great Britain. Many cooks make chow chow out of homegrown vegetables, using whichever vegetables happen to be doing well in the garden in that particular year. Some cooks make it with tomato, some with corn, some with finely diced cucumbers — almost any vegetable can be pickled in a jar of chow chow.

Spicy or Sweet

This relish is generally spicy, although some cooks like it a little sweet, instead. Some varieties even call for chopped fruit, such as pears, to be included. Other varieties, such as those found in the southern U.S., might call for Cajun spices, and others might turn out more like a spicy tomato salsa. Many cooks make multiple batches, with some being more spicy than others.


Jars of chow chow usually are kept in a refrigerator and served cold, like other relishes or condiments. Chow chow be used as a topping for hamburgers or hot dogs. It also can be put on sandwiches or eaten as a relish with dishes such as fish cakes. Some people believe that a sign of good homemade chow chow is to see the spices, such as mustard seeds, floating in the mixture. Tastes vary from person to person, however.

Many Recipes

A person who has never made or eaten chow chow might want to try a commercial variety first, just to see if it is something he or she will like. It can be bought at many supermarkets, at certain specialty stores or over the Internet. After trying a commercial variety, one can try making a homemade version. Some cookbooks contain recipes, and there are many recipes available on the Internet. All of these recipes can be adapted to suit the cook's own personal tastes.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick , Former Writer
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.

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Amy Pollick

Amy Pollick

Former Writer

Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With...
Learn more
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