Curtido (El Salvadoran Fermented “Kraut”)

Thinly slice or shred the cabbage. The salt will create a brine by pulling moisture from the cabbage.
Curtido originates from El Salvador and is standard on the national delicacy, pupusas. It is often sold or available as a street condiment in a vinegar pickled form, similar to how we would use chow chow. My version is more akin to true fermented sauerkraut, consisting mainly of shredded cabbage and allowed to sour naturally over the course of days or weeks. Of course, given the jalapenos and some of the other added flavors, it has more kick than your normal sauerkraut. With enough time, it will achieve a great balance between spicy, sweet, and sour.
This recipe will make about a quart. If it seems like too much to fit, note that like sauerkraut, it needs to be packed tightly into the jar. Also like kraut, it is self-brining.


    • 1 medium-small cabbage, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
    • 3 carrots, shredded or thinly sliced (featured pic was peeled & shredded)
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1-2 jalapenos (more or less depending on your taste), cored, seeded, and thin cut
    • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your taste)
    • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (different than “regular” Greek oregano but that works too). You can buy it here on Amazon.
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp fine crushed coriander
    • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 TB non-iodized salt (pickling salt, himalayan, fine sea salt, etc.)

You can add or omit ingredients according to your preference (e.g. bay leaf would be a good addition). Typically recipes don’t include coriander or black pepper but they fit perfectly.
1.) Thinly slice the veggies; cover them with the salt and massage for 10 minutes or until a brine is formed.
2.) Do not discard any of the liquid that forms.
3.) Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
4.) Push everything (including the liquid) firmly down into a jar or other pickling container; pack down hard so that the juice rises to above the veggies, submerging everything.
5.) Leave around an inch or more of space between the veggies and jar top. You may use a fermenting weight if desired (will help ensure ingredients are submerged), but at least an inch of headspace should still be maintained.
6.) Cover with an airlock fermenting lid if available (if not, don’t keep the lid super tight and remember to “burp” it at least once a day for a week, and then every other day for two more weeks).
    • Ferment at a cool room temp with little to no sunlight and then store in the fridge once you start opening it.
    • It can be eaten at any time, but the longer you wait, the more probiotic and the more complex the flavor. The title picture features a 1-month fermented curtido.
  • Traditionally eaten atop pupusas but try on a burger or hot dog, with your favorite sausage or other meat, in soups or on congee, with other banchan or all by itself.


  1. I tried a Garlic Cortido at a local market a couple of years ago and fell in love with it so I’m thrilled to find this recipe. I’m about a week in, but I feel like it’s REALLY salty. I used 2 tablespoons of Pickling salt as recommended. Will it get less salty as it ferments or is there a way to make it less salty? Will it still brine & ferment properly with less salt? Thank you!

    • Yes it will be okay with less salt in the future. It is an older recipe which didn’t give gram recommendations at that point but any kraut-style ferment does well with a 1.5 – 2.5% salting by weight of the produce, but that recipe probably ends up more like 3.5% which I like but sometimes they seem too salty for others. I can say that a week in is very early and there’s a good chance you’ll like it more by waiting longer. I would give it 10 days to 2 more weeks and then decide. It’s not that the salt decreases, but the increase in lactic acid definitely helps offset that flavor. Keep me posted!


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