Chow-chow (food)

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Chow-chow (also spelled chowchow or chow chow) is a North American pickled relish.[1]


Possibly chow-chow found its way to the Southern United States during the expulsion of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia and their settlement in Louisiana. It is eaten by itself or as a condiment on fish cakes, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, pinto beans, hot dogs, hamburgers and other foods. Southern food historian John Egerton cited a connection to relish recipes of Chinese rail workers in the 19th century.[2][3]


An early 20th-century American recipe for chow chow was made with cucumbers, onions, cauliflower and green peppers left overnight in brine, boiled in (cider) vinegar with whole mustard seed and celery seeds, then mashed into a paste with mustard, flour and turmeric.[4]

Regional variations[edit]

Its ingredients vary considerably, depending on whether it is the "Northern" (primarily Pennsylvanian) or "Southern" variety, as well as separate (and likely the original) Canadian variety, prevalent in the Maritimes. The former is made from a combination of vegetables, mainly green and red tomatoes, onions, carrots, beans of various types, asparagus, cauliflower and peas. The latter is entirely or almost entirely green tomatoes or cabbage. These ingredients are pickled in a canning jar. After preserving, chow-chow is served cold, often as a condiment or relish.[3]

Chow-chow has become regionally associated with the Southern United States, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, the Appalachian Mountains, and the Maritime provinces of Canada.[citation needed] The recipes vary greatly; some varieties are sweeter than others. Pennsylvania chow-chow, known by the Wos-Wit brand, is generally much sweeter than the Southern varieties.[citation needed]


The origin of the term "chow-chow" is obscure. The term "chow-chow" is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "piccalilli" (an English version of Indian-style pickles).

It has also been suggested[by whom?] that the name "chow-chow" is rooted in the French word chou for cabbage, or that it comes from choufleur which is French for cauliflower, with chou-chou also being a term of endearment.

See also[edit]

  • Mixed pickle – Pickles made from a variety of vegetables mixed in the same pickling process
  • Chutney – South Asian condiments made of spices, vegetables, and fruit
  • Piccalilli – British relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices
  • Branston pickle – British food brand known for its pickled chutney
  • South Asian pickles – Pickled varieties of vegetable and fruit
  • Giardiniera – Italian relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil
  • List of pickled foods


  1. ^ Skrabec, Q.R. (2009). H.J. Heinz: A Biography. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-7864-5332-0. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  2. ^ The Mountain Laurel, "Southern Sweet Chow-Chow Relish"
  3. ^ a b "What is chow chow? This pickled condiment is a Southern staple". Retrieved 2021-07-27.
  4. ^ Y.W.C.A. Cook Book. 1908. p. 45.

External links[edit]