Our homemade Giardiniera recipe gives you the freedom to choose your level of heat. These Italian pickled vegetables are the perfect condiment for an Italian beef sandwich, and much more!
What is Giardiniera?
Giardiniera (pronounced JAR-di-NAIR-ah) means “from the garden” in Italian. The concept has quite a long history in Italy, where fresh garden produce was pickled and marinated as a way of preserving it for the winter.
It was the early 1920s that giardiniera started to make a name for itself in the communities of Italian immigrants in Chicago.
Although it grew in popularity throughout the city, if you’ve never been to Chicago or tasted a Chicago style Italian beef sandwich, you may not have ever heard of this tangy, crunchy condiment.
Giardiniera: Authentic Italian Pickled Vegetables
In Italy, giardiniera is served as an antipasto (appetizer), and you will find a number of different, fresh garden vegetables used to make it.
- Bell peppers
- Hot peppers
- And more!
Since giardiniera is considered an appetizer in Italy, the vegetables are cut into one- or two-bite chunks, making the dish perfect for a bulky appetizer, served alongside some cheese and cured meats.
The traditional Italian brine and marinade is quite simple, letting the flavor of the vegetables shine with just a bit of vinegar tang and a few herbs to complement the crisp texture.
In Chicago, giardiniera takes a smaller and more intensely flavored form.
The vegetables are chopped smaller, sometimes even diced as finely as you would for a relish. But often, the pieces are just small enough that they can be used as a topping or garnish.
The marinade for Chicago-style giardiniera can include a much longer list of ingredients, including garlic, herbs, celery seed, red pepper flakes, and the list goes on. Each version has its own twist, and the marinade is where a lot of flavor variation can happen.
You will find Chicago-style giardiniera labeled as traditional or hot. The hot version typically includes seranno peppers to kick things up a notch.
What Do You Put Giardiniera On?
In the Windy City, giardiniera is the classic topping for Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches and Italian sausage sandwiches. You might find it topping bratwursts, hot dogs, sub sandwiches, even pizza!
We like to throw it on top of salads to add a fun boost of flavor.
Our Homemade Giardiniera Recipe
The process to make authentic Italian giardiniera does take nearly a week, but before you run away to your grocery store’s aisles for a jar of pre-made giardiniera, know that nearly all of that time is hands-off on your part.
There are two main steps to making giardiniera: the brine and the marinade.
- First, the vegetables are brined in a simple mixture of salt and water. This brine solution draws moisture out of the vegetables, helping them to stay crisp in the marinade.
- Next, the vegetables are marinated in a mixture of oil, vinegar, and seasonings. We give this mixture lots of space to marinate in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for three days, before transferring it to its final resting place in a mason jar.
As you can see, the process is quite simple. And, after a few days, you will have your own giardiniera, spiced just the way you like it, all ready for topping everything from Italian beef sandwiches to pizza!
This might just become your new favorite summer condiment!
This recipe may take 5 days to make, but most of it is hands-off time.
Yield: 3 cups of giardiniera
- ¼ c salt
- 1 c carrots, sliced
- 1 c cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- 2-4 serrano chilies, sliced (depending on desired heat level)
- ¾ c canola oil or pure olive oil*
- ¾ c white vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp oregano
- Mix 2 c water with the salt and stir until dissolved. Add the carrot slices, cauliflower, celery, bell peppers, and serranos. Mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain and rinse the vegetables.
In a clean bowl, mix oil and vinegar with the garlic and oregano. Add the vegetables to the seasoned oil and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days to marinate.
- After 3 days in the bowl, transfer the vegetables to a quart jar, pour as much of the seasoned oil/vinegar mixture in as you need to cover the vegetables.
- The mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.
*Olive oil does turn into a solid at refrigerator temperatures. So, if you choose to use olive oil to make your giardiniera, the oil will solidify in the refrigerator. This is normal. Simply remove your jar from the refrigerator and allow the giardiniera to come to room temperature before serving.