Have you ever had curtido? Curtido is a Salvadoran cabbage slaw that is made with fresh cabbage, carrots, jalapeños, red onions, and green onions. The fresh veggies are sliced into thin strips then combined with vinegar, oregano, and salt to give the curtido a bold, tangy flavor. Curtido is most commonly served alongside pupusas, but it also makes a great companion for cheesy fried foods such as quesadillas and sopes.
This recipe is intended to make a quick curtido that soaks in the vinegar and salt for a few hours or days. If you want to make a curtido that ferments for a longer period of time you will need to take additional steps to make sure your equipment is properly sanitized.
What is in curtido?
- Cabbage. Cabbage makes up the base of this recipe for curtido. The cabbage is sliced into thin strips and submerged in boiling water until it breaks down a little. Then it is combined with the rest of the veggies.
- Carrots. Two whole carrots are grated and added to this curtido. The carrots bring a little sweetness and a bright orange color to the dish.
- Jalapeños. Jalapeños are added to this curtido to give it a little bit of spice. The jalapenos are sliced into thin slices before they are added to the curtido.
- Red onions. Red onions add beautiful color and flavor to the curtido. If you do not have red onions you can also use white onions, but red onions are preferable due to their beautiful color and mild flavor.
- Green onions. Green onions are a great addition to a quick curtido that will only soak for a few hours or days. If you plan to let your curtido soak for longer you should omit the green onions as they will break down.
- Vinegar. Quick curtidos that are only left to rest for a few hours or days are more similar to pickled veggies than fermented veggies. It is important to add vinegar to quick curtidos to give them a tangy flavor.
- Salt. The salt helps to extract some of the juices from the vegetables and break them down.
- Oregano. A little bit of oregano is added to give this recipe that signature curtido flavor. Mexican oregano works best if you can find it, but any type of oregano will work in a pinch.
How do you make curtido?
- Slice the veggies. Slice the cabbage and red onions into thin strips. The thinner the strips are, the better. Grate the carrots using a grater or a zester. Slice the jalapeños and green onions into thin slices.
- Cook the cabbage. Boil a pot of water then take the pot off of the stove and add the cabbage to the pot of water. Soak the cabbage in the water for about a minute so that it starts to soften. This step is not as important if you are going to let the curtido rest for a few days before eating it. If you are going to eat the curtido the same day, it is more important.
- Add the salt to the veggies. Add the salt to the veggies and leave the veggies to rest for a little. This will help to soften the veggies and extract some of the liquid from them. You can also massage the salt into the veggies to speed up the process.
- Add the vinegar, salt, and oregano. Add the vinegar, salt, and oregano together. Make sure that the vegetables are fully submerged in the mixture. It may be helpful to put a ziplock bag filled with water on top of the vegetables to keep them fully submerged in the liquid.
- Wait. Let the curtido rest for a few hours or the few days. The curtido will have a stronger, tangier flavor if you let it rest for a little while.
Fermenting curtido for longer time periods
There are two different ways to make curtido. The first way is to soak the veggies in salt and vinegar for a few hours or a few days like we do here. The other option is to let the curtido ferment long term. Here are the main modifications you need to make if you plan to let your curtido ferment long term.
- Use sterile jars. If you are going to leave your curtido to ferment long term you need to properly sterilize the jars that you store your curtido in. This step is important so you should do your research to make sure you are properly sanitizing everything.
- Do not boil the cabbage. If you are going to leave the curtido to ferment long term then you do not need to boil the cabbage to break it down. You only really need to boil the cabbage if you intend to eat your curtido the same day.
- Use more salt. If you intend to leave your curtido to ferment for a longer period of time you will need to add more salt. You should use around 1 1/2 tbsp of salt for this amount of cabbage. The curtido will be salty initially but as time goes by the flavor will develop and it will taste less salty.
- Decide whether or not to use vinegar. Vinegar is necessary to give curtido a tangy flavor if you are only letting the curtido rest for a few hours or days before you eat it. If you leave the curtido to ferment for a longer period of time the curtido will develop a tangy taste on it’s own even if no vinegar is added. Some people choose to add vinegar anyways, but it is also possible to make curtido without the vinegar if you are leaving it to ferment for a long time.
How to store leftover curtido
How do you store leftover curtido? Leftover curtido should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight food storage container. Leftover curtido will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- 1/2 head green cabbage
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 jalapeño
- 3 stalks green onion
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- Boil a medium sized pot of water over high heat.
- Slice cabbage and red onions into thin strips. Grate the carrots with a grater or zester. Slice the green onions and jalapeños into thin slices.
- Add the cabbage to the boiling pot of water then take the pot off of the heat. Leave the cabbage in the pot of water for about 1 minute then drain the water from the cabbage.
- Mix the vegetables and the salt together in a large jar or bowl. Leave the veggies to rest for at least 15 minutes. The salt will help to draw some of the liquid out of the veggies and break down the cabbage. If you find that your cabbage is still tough you can try massaging the salt into the cabbage.
- Top the veggies off with the vinegar and oregano and let the veggies rest for at least 1 hour. You can leave the curtido to rest in the refrigerator for up to 3 - 5 days before using it. You might need to pack the veggies down in the bottom of the jar so that they can be more easily covered with the liquid. You can put a ziplock bag filled with water or a weight on top of the veggies to push them down.
Recipes that pair well with curtido
Do you want to make some pupusas to serve alongside your curtido? Check out our comprehensive tutorial on how to make pupusas. This article contains a recipe for bean and cheese pupusas.
Are you looking for a pupusa recipe that is even easier than our simple bean and cheese pupusa recipe? Then check out this recipe for cheese pupusas. It doesn’t get much easier than that!