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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

21 December 2011

Recipe: Curtido

Ok, so here is the curtido:

This is that lovely stuff we eat on top of pupusas and panes con chumpe.

If you like pickles, I think you'll like this.  As I described earlier, it's kind of a cross between Korean kimchi and German sauerkraut and also a bit of Italian Giardiniere pickles. 

1 small or 3/4 head of cabbage, shredded
1 small onion, finely sliced
5-6 cups boiling water
2 carrots, finely grated or mandolined

1/2 cup water *
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar *
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 rounded teaspoons oregano (oreganum) 
Sprinkling of red pepper flakes (optional) **

* I like my curtido super punchy, so I do 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup vinegar.  Try different ratios and see what you prefer.  However, I would stick with apple cider vinegar.  I've tried other vinegars and they can be way too strong.
** I like my curtido hot, so I add a lot of red pepper flakes, but you add it to your taste, or don't add any!


Place the finely sliced onions at the bottom of a colander that is sitting in a larger bowl:


Add the finely sliced cabbage on top:

Now pour the boiling water on top of the cabbage and onions and let them sit in the hot water.  This helps take the worst bite out of the onions and helps soften the cabbage a wee bit:

After a few minutes, take the colander out of the bowl and let the onions and cabbage drain.  Put it in a large bowl/container.  Oh, and don't worry, the cabbage stays very crunchy!

Now add the carrots:

Mix up all brine ingredients.  As with all my cooking, I recommend tasting and adjusting as you go.  Different people like their pickles at different "strengths."  P.S., I completely love saying "origaaahhnum" instead of plain ole' oregano! :o)

Pour the brine over the veggies:

And that's it!

It's better the next day and will keep for weeks in the fridge.  Use it like you would sauerkraut or kimchi.  It's a great way to cut through rich foods (like sausages ... or pupusas) or any time you need a good punch to your meal.


  1. Thanks for this recipe--I love pupusas but was never sure how to make the curtido. Do you ever serve a tomato sauce along with the curtido to put on top of pupusas? That's how I've had them in Toronto.

  2. Hi Mary,

    You're very welcome! As far as the salsa (that's what we call it) I've never made it ... but that's purely out of laziness because you're right, it is very typical to serve pupusas with salsa. I looked around and found a few recipes (most in Spanish) so here's what I think might be a good recipe ... I've never tried it but it's a good place to start ... I'm definitely going to try it next time I make pupusas. Here you go:

    6 Roma tomatoes
    1 small onion
    1 green pepper
    1-2 cloves garlic
    1 cube chicken bouillon
    salt and pepper
    oregano (optional)

    Blend all ingredients with a little water until very smooth. Transfer to saucepan and simmer for about a half hour. That's it!

    Serve warm with your pupusas and curtido and store any leftovers in the fridge.

  3. I finally found a great and simple recipe for curtido!

    Thank you!

    I'm a new fan of yours!

  4. Laura, curtido is awesome! It's great for anytime you want to add a zingy punch to your meal. So glad you liked the recipe -- it's how my mom always made it -- it's very simple but so good!

  5. I just made this for the 4th time since 4yrs ago. This is my go to curtido recipe!

  6. This is the closest recipe I've found for the authentic Salvadoran Curtido. Pouring the hot water over It is how I make it. I prefer agave to sugar and I use less vinegar, more water and include juice of 1 lime. I also often add a wee bit of sweet peppers and or radish to mine. A little cumin is also good.