What is Relish?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A relish is a condiment made with chopped fruits or vegetables and a sauce. Typically, relishes are pickled, which allows them to be stored for extended periods of time for year round use. In the United States, the most common form is made from finely shopped sweet pickles, but a wide range of others can be found as well, with some hunting. It is also very easy to make this condiment at home, and many cooks prefer to do this so that they can utilize home grown ingredients or play around with flavors and textures.

Apples are commonly used in fruit relishes.
Apples are commonly used in fruit relishes.

Some people distinguish between relish and chutney, arguing that relish is made with vegetables, while chutney is made with fruit. This distinction is largely regional, since both can be sweet, savory, or spicy, and they are intended to pair with substantial main dishes. A small amount of these condiments usually goes a long way, since the flavors are concentrated, adding a burst of energy to the dish in question.

Chutney is similar to relish.
Chutney is similar to relish.

Fruits like cranberries, apricots, persimmons, and apples are common choices for a fruit relish, which may be made slightly sweet to bring out the fruit flavors, or more spicy. Spicy fruit relishes can be served with things like seafood, while a sweeter ones pairs well with spicy food like Indian food. Cranberry relish with shavings of lemon peel is a common offering on the table at Thanksgiving in the United States, and it can also be canned for year-round consumption, for people who enjoy the tartness of cranberry and lemon at other times of the year.

Relish can contain pickled eggplant, among other vegetables.
Relish can contain pickled eggplant, among other vegetables.

Pickled cucumbers are a common feature in vegetable relish, although other veggies may be used for more flavor and texture. Carrots, onions, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, and cauliflower sometimes pop up as well, for example. Generally, vegetable relishes may be made savory, tart, sweet, or spicy, depending on the taste of the cook and the desired application. Vegetable relishes often go well with meats such as sausage and roasts.

Cauliflower is sometimes used in relish.
Cauliflower is sometimes used in relish.

Some consumers are quite fond of the taste of a zesty relish on a wide range of foods. It can elevate a boring dish to make it more interesting, or help to cut an intensely spicy flavor to make a dish more tolerable to those with delicate sensibilities. For people who are only accustomed to sweet pickle relish, an adventure into the wide options available might be rather enjoyable.

Apricots are often used in a fruit relish.
Apricots are often used in a fruit relish.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@babylove – I know exactly which one you’re talking about. My friend happens to be a chef at a Mexican restaurant and he makes it all the time. I’ve made it at home for my family too, but for some reason it just tastes better when he makes it.

Round sliced carrots

Sliced onion

Round sliced jalapeño pepper

Sliced garlic cloves

Bay leaf

Salt and pepper

White vinegar

Place the ingredients in a saucepan in this order, carrots, onions, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Cover with vinegar and bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender.

You can serve it immediately if you want to but my friend suggests letting it marinate overnight in the fridge to infuse the flavor.

That’s probably where I went wrong because I can’t wait to eat it.


My husband and I like Mexican foods so as you can imagine we like our relishes hot and spicy. There’s one in particular that has become our new favorite.

It’s an unusual jalapeno relish with carrots that we discovered from our favorite Mexican restaurant. It’s a warm relish that they serve as an appetizer.

I would love to know how they make it. If anyone has the recipe, would you please share with us.


One of my absolute favorite dishes is grilled tilapia with a mango onion relish. It’s super easy to make and so delicious.

All you do is mix together chopped Mango and red onion with a pinch of cayenne, ginger and lime juice then spread it over warm grilled tilapia. It’s so simple and you’ll be amazed over the flavor.

If you don’t like fish, it’s also good on chicken and pork. You can find the recipe and others like it on relish.com.

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