Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Relish
Make a big batch of this easy zucchini relish this summer, and spice up your sandwiches, burgers or hot dogs. It keeps for quite a while in the refrigerator and there's no canning required!
As a nutritionist, I appreciate food for the good things (or not so good things) it does for our bodies. Health aside though, I’ve always said one of the biggest reasons I love food is for the memories it makes.
Food plays such an important role in so many aspects of life. Every holiday, season, birth, death – people celebrate or mourn with food. I think it’s especially amazing how sometimes just a taste or smell or the act of making a certain food will remind you so much of someone you love, or miss.
This recipe I’m sharing today – Zucchini Relish, is from my friend Jill. She makes it in the summer, when there’s so much zucchini you don’t know what to do with it. It reminds me of visiting her Cape Cod house in Orleans, and packing sandwiches at the kitchen counter to take to the beach. There’s always a big jar of this zucchini relish in her refrigerator to add to the sandwiches.
She told me for the longest time she couldn’t bring herself to make it because it reminds her so much of her dad, who she lost unexpectedly and far too early. They always made it together in the summer, probably to put on sandwiches to eat at the beach.
I actually posted this recipe on this blog several years ago. Year after year, it's one of my most popular recipes on Pinterest, so I thought I'd share it again for anyone who's a new here.
I retested it and tweaked it a bit based on some of your helpful comments. I also added some jalapeño for a bit more spice - if you don't like it very spicy, feel free to leave it out.
Since this relish isn't processed, it should be kept in the refrigerator, but it should keep for several weeks. It also makes a lovely hostess gift, if you're lucky enough to get an invite to someone's beach house 🙂
UPDATE: I've had SO MANY wonderful comments and quite a few questions and suggestions on this post over the years, so I've compiled a list of my most frequently asked questions about techniques and substitutions here:
FAQs About Homemade Zucchini Relish
Yes! Many of my readers have asked this question and I'm happy to say now that we have easy access to some good quality zero-carb sweeteners like Swerve, Lakanto, and Splenda Monkfruit (all contain either erythritol and/or monk fruit) you can absolutely substitute those for the sugar in this recipe. I prefer the taste of those zero-calorie sweeteners over stevia, but you can certainly use that too if you prefer.
Personally, I haven't done this, but many of my readers have chimed in to say they have, and it works well. Keep in mind, that when you heat process relish recipes, the sugar helps to preserve the relish by maintaining color and texture and preventing bacterial growth. So I recommend using sugar vs a no-carb sweetener if you plan to heat process and store this on the shelf. Make sure you refrigerate it after popping the lid.
Absolutely! I like zucchini because it's a bit more firm, but if your garden is overflowing with cucumbers, feel free to substitute or add them along with the zucchini. You can also use yellow summer squash in this relish recipe.
You bet! You can swap any type of hot pepper you like. Jalapenos are easy to find and not super hot, so that's what I use, but serranos, hot Hatch chiles, or even habaneros if you're brave all work. If you want it hot (or hotter) and don't have hot peppers, you can also add a few pinches of red pepper flakes. And if you prefer just a sweet relish, feel free to leave the hot peppers out. You can use more red, yellow, green, sweet Hatch chiles, or even poblanos if you like.
Definitely a burger (or veggie burger) or hot dog. But I also love it on a turkey sandwich, chicken sausages, stirred into pasta salad, OR mix it with some ketchup, mayonnaise, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce to make homemade Thousand Island dressing.
A few people commented that 6 cups of vinegar seems like too much. I usually let it evaporate a bit and find it to be about right. But you can cut it back a bit if you like, or don't add all of the liquid to the jars. If you have too much liquid, save any leftover pickling liquid and use it in salad dressing (just add some olive oil).
If you love pickled zucchini recipes - check out my Zesty Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles. They have a similar flavor, but they're pickles.
Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Relish
- 2 ½ pounds zucchini ends trimmed and cut into slices (about 10 cups)
- 3 large vidalia or other sweet onions sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1 medium yellow pepper seeded and quartered
- 1 medium sweet red pepper seeded and quartered
- 3 medium jalapeno peppers seeded and sliced
- 3 Tablespoons kosher or pickling salt divided
- 6 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 ½ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon tumeric
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Place zucchini in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, and pulse until it's chopped into very small pieces. Place chopped zucchini into a large colander.
- Repeat with onions, and then peppers. Place all vegetables into the colander, and toss with about 1 tablespoon salt. Stir well to combine vegetables and salt, and let sit in the colander for at least 30 minutes to release some of their liquid.
- Meanwhile, mix together remaining ingredients in a large stockpot, and bring to a boil.
- Add vegetables and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat, and let cool for about 15 minutes.
- Ladle the hot relish with some of the liquid into sterilized jars, and seal tightly.
- Discard any extra liquid, or use for another pickling project.
- Refrigerate relish for at least 24 hours, and for up to 4 weeks.
Do you have any favorite food memories?
If you make this recipe, drop me a line and let me know. Or snap a pic and tag me on Instagram at @CravingSomethingHealthy!
This looks so good! What a great way to use up a bunch of garden zucchini!
I have shredded zucchini from this year in the freezer. Could I use it? I apologize if you’ve already answered a similar question.
I think you can us it Anita, since everything cooks down anyway. Maybe use a bit less liquid. I've never tried that but let me know if it works!
I made this a year ago and canned it in water bath! It is better than my family recipe as less sugar and can make it anytime! Mine was with green tomatoes and tough to come by! I had way more than 2 quarts but veggies all bigger ! Perfect for liquid! Used your exact recipe and so yummy and processed maybe 15 minutes! Thanks so much and will be doing again very soon as I am almost out! Barb
Thanks Barb! That's so good to know - so many people ask about canning it in a water bath. Glad it works and you like it!
Good to know as this is the best recipe I have found and would like to water bath can as well. Thanks!
I made this for the first time last night, it is runny, should there have been more cornstarch or less liquid?
Audra, you don't have to add all of the liquid to your jars. I would just strain off any excess.
What to do with a 2 pound, 10 ounce zucchini? This! Yum! It made 5 pints! I used Leslie M.’s variation so I could can the relish. Also added a couple yellow banana peppers, as I only had a small red sweet pepper and a green. Also Serrano peppers instead of jalapeños, because we have an abundance, and like extra heat. Definitely works. The next time, I will make this with habaneros. Their fruitiness will complement the relish. With the extra sugar, it thickens enough the cornstarch isn’t necessary, and it cooks down in less than 30 minutes.
That's one large zucchini! So glad you liked the recipe! Thanks for sharing how you made it your own 🙂
Can you process this so it lasted longer.
Hi Cathy, I've never tried it myself because it lasts for a while in the refrigerator. But I believe many people have tried it and found it to work fine - it's pretty acidic so I think it should last well. Look through the comments and you'll see suggestions people have left.
Let me know if it works!
I cooked mine for 30 mins but it is still too runny. Shall I put back in pan and cook some more
The cooking is mainly to soften the vegetables. it won't thicken up very much. When I put it into jars, I usually just add a little bit of the liquid with mostly the relish. Hope that helps!
The recipe says to put in sterilized jars. Can you tell me how you do that since I don’t have canning equipment.
If you just run your jars through the dishwasher they'll be good to go. Or if you have a tall stockpot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil and dip the jars in for a minute. You just want to make sure the jars are clean and free from any bacteria.
Hi, I put my jars in the oven on low fan at 100 deg. C while I'm cooking the relish. Usually about 20mins or so. Lids go in as well. The relish goes into the jars hot. Usually the lids pop well.
Interesting! I've never heard of the oven method! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Wanting to make this relish. Recipe called for 3 Tablespoons of salt, divided. You only used 1tablespoon of the salt. When so I use the rest of the salt? Thanks, Donna.
Hi Donna, one tablespoon gets tossed with the vegetables to release some of the liquid, and the remainder goes into the pot with everything else! Enjoy!
I completely forgot about the rest of the salt and didn’t add it. It’s not cool yet, I guess I can add it now and put back on simmer a bit.
Oh shoot! I just saw your message Liz. If you've already canned it, just taste it when you open the jar and season it then.
Can you use yellow squash in place or mixed with the zucchini?
Hi Sara, Yes, Absolutely!
Does this recipe have to b refrigerated ?
Yes it does Gail - because it's not heat processed. Some readers have mentioned that they heat-processed it though. If you look through the comments, you should see their suggestions.
Would it be possible to replace the cornstarch with arrowroot powder?
I have many allergies and intolerances and corn is at the top.
Hi Tammy - I think you could swap it or leave it out. It's really just to thicken it up a bit.
I made the relish but I did change the of vinegar. 6 cups of vinegar would make it too sour so I went off of another relish recipe and it was equal amount sugar and vinegar so I used 3 1/2 cups of each and it was perfect. I also processed it for 23 minutes in a canner. Now the relish will last for a couple of years and does not need to be refrigerated. Thanks for the recipe it is delicious.
Thanks so much for sharing your changes and the canning technique Leslie! I'll publish it so everyone can see. Glad you like it - I think it's a great condiment to have on hand.
Was hoping this could be canned!!! Water bath canner or pressure canner?
Hi Kate - I've never tried canning it but a few people have asked and I haven't heard anyone say it didn't work. It's pretty acidic so I think you'd be OK. Let me know if it works and I'll update the recipe to mention it!
hi, I am excited to try this recipe. I did not grow jalapeno peppers, I grew pobleno peppers. Can I replace the Jalapeno for Pobleno?
Hi Lisa, of course you can! They just won't be as spicy. If you want some heat, add about 1/2 teaspoon of dried chili pepper flakes. Enjoy!