Curtido: Fermented Salvadoran Cabbage Condiment

What You'll Need

  • measuring spoons
  • microplane or zester
  • good kitchen knife and clean cutting surface
  • large mixing bowl
  • 1/2 gallon mason jar
  • jar top fermentation kit
  • 1 head green cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons chile pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
Curtido, curtido! It's an El Salvadoran slaw, similar to sauerkraut in that it is made primarily from fermented cabbage. It's so dang tasty. Aside from the cabbage, it's made with carrots, onion, garlic, and oregano, and is a traditional accompaniment to pupusas. We veer from tradition in that we like to put it, on, well, everything. Starting with tacos, and takin' it from there. Curtido can be fermented from anywhere from 4-14 days, making a tangy, probiotic condiment that may quickly become part of your food traditions. What will you serve it with? 

This recipe comes from the Shockey’s first book, Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes, still a classic.


Prepare the cabbage. Remove the coarse outer leaves. Rinse a few unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water.
set leaves aside
Quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice the cabbage with a sharp knife or a mandoline, until the desired texture is reached. Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.chop cabbage
Add a tablespoon of salt, and massage it into the leaves. add saltLet the cabbage rest for 15 minutes while the salt works its way into the cell walls, creating a softened texture. Or, keep massaging the kraut to speed things up. massage cabbageEither way, a nice pale green brine should form at the bottom of the bowl, and the cabbage, when squeezed in the palm, should release more of the same. Taste the cabbage. You should be able to clearly taste the salt, but it should not be overwhelming. If desired, add another teaspoon of salt, until the desired saltiness is reached.squeeze
Peel and slice the carrots, and slice the skinned onion thinly. slice onlionAdd these to the cabbage and toss to combine. combine with cabbage and carrots
Add the spices and grate the garlic cloves over the bowl. Toss with your hands until the additions are evenly distributed.

add spicesgrate garlicTransfer the curtido to a half gallon jar, a few handfuls at a time, packing down on the cabbage with your fist or a tamper to work out air pockets. pack into jarYou should see some brine on the top of the cabbage as you press down. Leave 2-3 inches of headspace.

Top the curtido with one or two of the reserved cabbage leaves, folded over to fit into the jar. If necessary, use a glass or ceramic weight, or a small jelly jar, to keep the cabbage submerged beneath the brine.
add cabbage leaves on top
Affix a jar top fermentation kit like this KrautSource and secure the band.

use krautsourceSet the jar aside nearby, at cool room temperatures, but out of direct sunlight. Check daily for the first week, pressing down the cabbage to keep it submerged beneath the brine, as needed.

Allow the curtido to ferment for 4-14 days. That’s a long range of time, but it all depends how sour you like it. The longer the ferment, the sourer it gets! two weeks is usually about right.

Enjoy the curtido as you would sauerkraut, spoon it on tacos or as a side with warm, saucy dishes. It is a perfect foil for almost any cuisine, tangy and bright and full of probiotic goodness.

Over to You

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