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by Jody Gowans in Lacto-fermentation, Recipes
October 23, 2017

Early this summer, a foodie friend of mine introduced me to curtido after sampling some of my sauerkraut.  “This sauerkraut is good, but you should try making curtido- you’d love it”, he told me.  Every time we saw each other, he would ask if I had tried making it, but I was too distracted with the local summer harvests to start working with cabbage.  I also knew I could get cabbage late into the Fall, so I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to get started.  Wow, was I wrong!  I made curtido last week, and could kick myself for not making it sooner!  It is insanely flavourful, fresh and so easy to make!


As sauerkraut is to Germans, and kimchi to Koreans, so is curtido to El Salvadorians.  This spicy and zingy lacto fermented slaw is generally served with pupusas, the national dish of El Salavador.  The curtido pairs nicely with these fried, corn flour (masa) cakes, that can be stuffed with a delicious mixture of meat, beans and/or cheese.  The flavour is fresh, robust, and crisp with a touch (or more depending on your preference) of heat, along with the characteristic tang derived from the lacto fermentation process.    

I like to serve curtido with tacos, quesadillas, and on burgers.  Like sauerkraut, curtido also pairs well with grilled meats or other rich dishes.  The traditional recipe calls for Mexican oregano which can sometimes be hard to find.  Don’t worry, you can substitute other varieties of oregano.


Fermentation time: 5 days to 1 month


carrots, jalapeno, onions, lime, chili flakes, oregano, cabbage

  • 2 heads of cabbage 
  • 3 carrots (grated)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1-2 jalapeno or serrano peppers (seeded and diced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (2 tablespoons fresh oregano)
  • 2 Limes (juice and zest)
  • salt (non-iodized): 5-6 grams of salt/pound of ingredients (1 level tsp= approximately 5 grams of salt)


  1. Shred cabbage (the finer, the shred, the faster the ferment)

    Shredded cabbage

  2. Add carrots, onion, peppers, oregano, chili flakes, lime zest and juice to cabbage.

    Add rest of ingredients to shredded cabbage

    4. Weigh the mixture (subtract the weight of the bowl (tare) to obtain the weight of the ingredients). 

    5. Gradually add the salt (5-6 grams per pound of ingredients), mixing evenly while massaging the mixture.  Continue massaging until the vegetables begin to release their liquids and create a brine.  Let rest for an hour to allow more liquid to be released.

    let curtido mixture rest to release more liquid

     5.  Pack curtido tightly in fermentation container, ensuring that the mixture is below the brine. Close lid.

    tightly pack curtido in container

6.  Leave to ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.  The curtido is ready after 5 days.  For more intense flavour, leave for 1 – 2 months and use an airlock (or remember to burp jar to release built up CO2 pressure).

7. Store in refrigerator to decelerate fermentation.


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