Fermented Curtido is a traditional Salvadoran spicy and tart slaw that’s made from carrots, cabbage, onions, and peppers fermented in a salt brine.
Curtido is a Central American dish that’s very easy to make and traditionally served with pupusas.
Most people or restaurants don’t make fermented curtido – instead, they pickled it with vinegar. I think the fermented curtido is much better – not just in terms of probiotics but also in flavor.
I first came across curtido at a Salvadoran restaurant here in Phoenix when we ate there as a family. It’s an unbelievably delicious condiment served with pupusas, but can also be eaten along with tacos or as a side with any meal.
This particular curtido was fermented for just 4 days.. While that doesn’t fit the traditional ferment guidelines, I find a 4-day ferment much more tolerable than a ferment that has gone on for several weeks.
Perhaps I’m weak when it comes to krauts though – who knows.
This curtido comes together easily with just a handful of ingredients – cabbage, carrots, serrano peppers, salt and water.
Prep your cabbage, onion, carrots and peppers before combining with salt.
**Disclaimer: there really isn’t any hard measurements when it comes to selecting your produce. Just go with it!
Slice the cabbage and onions into thin ribbons (a medium head of cabbage works well)
Use a potato peeler or shredder to shred just a few carrots. A food processor works well too – but if you are trying to avoid washing that contraption, then stick with something simple.
Wearing cloves, remove the stem on the pepper, slice down the middle, and scoop out the seeds. Then finely dice.
**Serrano peppers can be substituted with jalapeño peppers based on preference. Use more if you wish or even omit altogether. The pepper just gives it a little extra kick.
Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and toss to mix well. Sprinkle the salt evenly throughout and use your hands to work the salt in well.
Cover the mixture with plastic wrap or a damp rang and allow to sit for 45 minutes to an hour until it begins to sweat.
Ferment your Curtido
Then pack the mixture into a one quart, wide-mouth canning jar or a fermenting crock.
Cabbage can be packed incredibly tight to fit a single quart jar. You’ll be surprised at how (what seems like) a relatively large mixture can fit a single jar.
You’ll want to place a fermentation weight on top, or push the contents of the jar down and squeeze in a 4 oz jelly jar to submerge the contents below its own juice.
(If you look closely at the top of the jar, above, you’ll notice a custard dish that’s smushing down the cabbage under the weight of its own juice).
Place your fermenting lid & airlock on your jar, and push to the rear of your counter top. Allow to sit for at least 3 full days, or as long as one month. Provided the cabbage remains under its own liquid, it will ferment quite nicely.
Once the fermenting session is done, remove the fermenting vessel and top with a canning lid and ring; refrigerate until ready to use.
- 1 head green cabbage
- 1 medium onion
- 2 medium carrots grated
- 2 ea serrano peppers stem removed, seeded and finely diced
- 1.5 Tbsp sea salt
- Prepare your ingredients: slice the cabbage and onions into thin ribbons. Combine the sliced cabbage, sliced onions, grated carrots and diced peppers in a large bowl, mix well.
- Toss with salt evenly throughout. Work the salt into the curtido with your hands to distribute evenly. Allow the mixture to sit for 45 minutes to an hour until it begins to sweat.
- Place your mixture in a fermentation vessel. Use a fermenting crock or a mason jar topped with an airlock. If you smush everything well you should be able to fit everything into a one quart canning jar.
- Top with a fermentation weight or a 4 oz jelly jar (which may cause liquid to creep up and overflow - but that's ok!) Your goal is to ensure the cabbage stays completely submerged in its own liquid.
- Add your fermentation lid and airlock and allow to ferment for at least 3 days. You can leave it longer if desired. Taste it after several days, and if it's to your liking, jar it up and refrigerate (which will slow the fermentation).
- Recipe makes 1 quart of fermented curtido - 16 servings (each 1 Tbsp).
This curtido will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. It’s best enjoyed on pupusas, tacos, or as a simple side dish with any meal.