Curtido is to pupusas what ketchup is to fries. Can you eat pupusas on their own? Sure, but why would you when they are so much better together?
Curtido is a fantastic way to add something special to your meals. I am certain that if you were to ask a Salvadoran “what can I serve curtido with?” the answer would be “everything!” The cabbage slaw adds crunch, tang, and spice to whatever it touches.
What Is Curtido?
The word curtido is short for the Spanish word “encurtido” which means pickled, and that is exactly how it is prepared. It is a typical Salvadoran slaw made from cabbage and other vegetables that are pickled in fruity vinegar and served as a side dish or topping. It bears similarities to vinegar coleslaw, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
While every family prepares it in their own way, there are some common ingredients typically found in curtido: cabbage, carrots, red onion, and oregano. Spice is usually added to curtido in the form of sliced jalapenos. The vinegar, normally a fruit-derived one like apple cider vinegar, will also impart a particular flavor to the mix.
The Secret Ingredient: Fermentation
Curtido’s secret “ingredient” isn’t an ingredient at all: fermentation. Allowing curtido to sit for a few days or more will bring new bold tastes that will make each batch unique and even more delicious.
To ensure healthy fermentation and curtido that’s safe to eat for weeks, refrigerate the mixture in a clean, well-sealed container. Avoid double-dipping with spoons or forks to keep your curtido free of any cross-contamination.
How to Serve and Store Curtido
This recipe is tangy and strong, and while you can start eating the curtido the moment you prepare it, it will be so much better after at least 24 hours in the fridge. As the days go by, its flavor will change and evolve.
However, if curtido is left for too long, the cabbage and other vegetables will lose their signature crunch. It’s best eaten within a few weeks.
Tips for Making Curtido
- Use a glass container or jar for your curtido. Plastic is porous and tends to stain.
- Experiment with different types of vinegar until you find the one you prefer—a sweet, fruity vinegar work best. Pineapple vinegar is traditional in El Salvador.
- Save your strength by using a mandoline or the slicing blade on a food processor to prepare the vegetables.
- Try different variations by adding vegetables you have lying around. Radishes, cauliflower, or even shredded beets (which will give the curtido a pink tint) all work well.
Use Up Excess Veggies With These Recipes
1 medium cabbage, finely shredded
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 carrots, grated
2 red onions, very thinly sliced
2 fresh jalapeños, sliced, optional
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups (480 ml) apple cider vinegar
Salt the cabbage:
Place your shredded cabbage in a colander and sprinkle it with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let it sit for a few minutes, then press it down to remove excess moisture.
Blanch the vegetables (optional):
Mix the cabbage with the carrots in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly.
This step is optional, and some people prefer to pickle the ingredients directly without blanching. Blanching is a good idea if you are planning to eat the curtido immediately as it will soften the vegetables a bit. If you are making this recipe ahead, you can skip blanching since pickling will do the softening for you.
Remove the vegetables from the water and dry them thoroughly.
A salad spinner is a great way to quickly dry the blanched vegetables.
Make the curtido:
In a glass container or containers, add the cabbage, carrots, red onions, jalapeños (if using), and dried oregano.
A couple of peppercorns or some bay leaves can also be added for extra flavor.
Add the vinegar. Slowly add salt to taste, combining thoroughly and tasting often.
Cover with a lid and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Because fermentation releases CO2, you want to keep an eye on your jars so they don’t leak. To prevent this from happening, crack open the lid every day or so to let excess gas escape (this is known as burping).
The curtido’s flavor will be best at least 24 hours after being made. It will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 41mg||205%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|