Fresh, bright, and tangy, a delicious relish on top of your favorite burger or hot dog is hard to beat. But we’re not talking about just any ol’ relish or something that comes in a jar. We’re talking about homemade relish using fresh, quality ingredients.
If you’ve never tried making your own relish before, you may just be shocked at how easy it is and how much flavor it can add to your meal.
Technically, relish can refer to any dish made with cooked and pickled chopped vegetables, fruits, pickles, or herbs. But, when we talk about relish, we’re talking about the jam-like condiment typically placed on the top of burgers or hot dogs.
Relish comes in many different colors, but most commonly, it’s green (made with pickled cucumbers or green tomatoes) or red (made with red tomatoes or peppers). We’ll show you how to make a version of each in our recipes below.
As one can imagine, it’s difficult to know the exact origins of relish. Many believe that it originated out of the need to preserve food and vegetables for winter. There is also some evidence pointing to a relish-like chutney being popular in India back in the 1600s.
Heinz introduced a sour pickle relish as far back as 1888, though that recipe was yellow (due to the turmeric) instead of the more common green of today’s pickle relish. Each year, relish is among the top five most popular condiments in the US.
The most commonly used relish in the US is a green pickled relish made with pickled cucumbers in a mustard base or sauce. Pickle relish is commonly used on hot dogs and as an ingredient in many varieties of tartar sauce.
Hamburger relish is often made by using pickle relish set in a ketchup or tomato-based sauce. It’s also sometimes less jammy or in bigger pieces than hot dog relish.
Corn relish has become more popular over the years and features sweet corn, tomatoes, chilies or peppers, turmeric, mustard seed, and cumin. Corn relish can also be used on hot dogs, hamburgers, fish, chicken, tacos, or just about anything else.
Chicago style relish is a sweet pickle relish that’s bright green (neon), and it is typically used for Chicago style hotdogs. This neon green color is created by adding blue dye to regular pickle relish.
The best relish is a matter of taste and preference. But, according to some, the best includes Wickles Original Relish, Mt. Olive Sweet Relish, and Heinz Sweet Relish.
But, none of them can beat a freshly made relish using only the ingredients you want and love.
Regardless of the type of relish you make or the ingredients you choose, there are a few necessary steps to making a darn good relish.
Pickled vegetables add a depth of flavor that’s difficult to replicate. You can use vegetables that are already pickled (like pickles or peppers) or allow the vegetables to pickle once you’ve mixed the ingredients.
One of the best ways to enhance the flavor of your relish is to mix in ingredients like fresh herbs, crisp peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Also consider adding fresh garlic, chilies, and olive oil.
If you prefer your relish to be more jammy and saucy, then finely chop all your ingredients. If you prefer a chunkier, less saucy relish, chop your ingredients slightly larger. Try to make each ingredient around the same size.
Adding acid like citrus and vinegar helps break the ingredients down, enhances flavors, and allows the foods marry together.
You can eat the relish you make immediately, but if you want to increase its flavor, you should allow the flavors to marry together for a bit, consider overnight or even for a week. As it sits in your fridge, the flavors will enhance, creating more sauce for your relish.
Now, let’s dig into three of our favorite burger relish recipes, starting with classic pickle relish and ending with a copycat Wimpy tomato relish.
If a classic pickle relish is what you’re drooling over, then this is your recipe. It features pickling your cucumbers and a great mix of onions, peppers, and garlic. The recipe calls for some sugar too, but how sweet you want it to be is entirely up to you.
This recipe makes about four medium to large-sized jars of relish.
- 2½ lbs cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup kosher or pickling salt
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional or use less according to taste)
- 2 teaspoons dill seeds
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
Place the diced cucumbers, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Combine with the salt and pour water up to the top. Place a top on the bowl and leave for 6 hours or overnight (on the counter or in a warmer part of your fridge).
Drain the cucumber mixture in a colander. Rinse the mixture with water. Drain.
In a large pot, add sugar, vinegar, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for five minutes. Add cucumber mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for ten minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
Place the relish into sterile jars or containers, leaving about ¼ inch of room at the top. Seal tightly with lids.
To help your pickled relish last a long time (up to a year), place the jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. If you plan on using it up right away, you can skip this step.
If you choose to eat it right away, the relish will be more sour and the flavors more intense. If you let it sit in the fridge for at least a week, the flavors will marry, and the vinegar will mellow out.
Now to the sweet relish!
A quick look at the ingredients, and you’ll see that this recipe calls for much more sugar. As always, adjust as needed. This recipe is also quicker and calls for less wait time before enjoying.
- 4 cups cucumbers, seeded and diced
- 2 cups onions, diced
- 1 cup green bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1⁄4 cup kosher or pickling salt
- 3 1⁄2 cups sugar (adjust as needed)
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon celery seed
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
Put the cucumbers, onions, and both peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables. Cover with cold water and let stand for at least two hours. Drain the vegetables and press out the liquid.
In a large pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, and seeds. Bring to a boil. Add the vegetable mixture and bring it back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for ten minutes. Once the mixture is done, let cool, then transfer to pint jars. If you want the relish to be less liquid, use a slotted spoon to transfer.
If you plan on keeping this relish for a long time, boil the sealed jars in a water bath for ten minutes. Otherwise, enjoy it right away and for up to several weeks if kept in the fridge at cool temperatures.
If you prefer topping your burgers with tomato relish, then it’s seriously tough to beat this copycat Famous Wimpy Burger relish recipe. This relish is sweet, tangy, and has a bit of a spicy kick.
- 6 small/medium fresh tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup red onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt
- pinch of red pepper flakes (adjust as needed)
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes and onions. Strain the mixture in a colander based on how liquidy you prefer your relish. Add the mix back to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
This relish can be served immediately or put into jars and used within a few days. The acid from the tomatoes will break down the mix pretty quickly, so you don’t want to leave it in the fridge for too long.
Backyard BBQs or grilled homemade burgers will never be the same with these relish recipes. May all your burgers be juicy and your relish sweet, tangy, and full of deliciousness.