Giardiniera FAQS

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Our mission: Spread the giardniera gospel, get more people to try it and increase people's general consumption of this wonderful garnish. So get answers to your burning (hee hee) questions here and get to chomping already!

What is Giardiniera Anyway?

What is this funny-named garnish anyway? Well, it's complicated. Italians have their style. Chicagoan have their own too. And there's a whole lot in between. The quick and dirty definition for Chicago style giaridniera is chopped pickled vegetables in an oil and vinegar blend with a heat element of a varying degree. Some details that make Chicago style what it is (the good ones at least):

  • Veggies should be chopped. They should not be large pieces like traditional Italian antipasto style which is eaten as a bulky side dish, but they should also not be finely minced like traditional muffulettas (unless it labels itself a "giardiniera relish"). This also goes for the olives, which, unfortunately in our opinion, some brands like to keep whole.
  • Veggies should be crisp.
  • Veggies should generally include celery, cauliflower, crinkle-cut carrots, pitted green olives, bell peppers and hot peppers (usually seranno or jalepeno peppers for hot versions) but some Chicago styles also go out of the box and add things like pimentos, gherkins, capers and mushrooms, or they omit some traditionally used vegetables (such as olives or cauliflower). That's all good with us and part of what makes it so fun taste-testing them all.
  • There should be spices involved. This is another major separation from the traditional antipasto giardiniere version. The spices involved usually include: salt, ground black pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, celery seeds or celery salt and oregano, but many also branch out and add things like coriander and cloves.
  • There needs to be an acid source. Acidity is a main component of this garnish.
  • Red or white wine vinegar is often used, although apple cider vinegar is another option we dig.
  • Soybean, canola or olive oil is mostly used.

So that's the rough version of what this Chicago-born topper is. There will be more to come on this topic. We're talking to the giardiniera kings of Chicago to learn as much as we can (recipes are often kept super secret) and to make sure we give you the most accurate description possible.

What Do You Put Giardiniera On?

We think the question is what DON'T you put giardiniera on. Meat-eaters and vegetarians alike can eat this beautiful condiment on many things.

Traditional Uses of Giardiniera

    • Italian beef sandwiches
    • Italian sausage sandwiches
    • Bratwurst, hot dogs or any other kind of encased meat
    • Sub sandwiches (especially Italian Subs!)
    • Thin crust or deep dish pizza (one of our favorite, albeit calorific ways to enjoy it)
    • Pasta dishes (spaghetti, lasagna, doesn't stop)

Other Ways to Eat Giardiniera (we just made your life better, didn't we?)

Giardiniera has way more uses than just beefs and subs. It's time to think just a tad outside the box and flavor up the rest of your meals! Other great uses include:

  • Eating it straight up like the hardcore pro you are
  • Drizzled over salads
  • Sitting on top of an avocado
  • Cooked over roasting squash
  • Mixed in hummus and accompanied by tortilla chips (el milagro or el ranchero!)
  • Loaded on your burgers
  • Nestled in your veggie and chicken wraps
  • Adorned over your baked potato
  • Pressed into your grilled cheese
  • Dumped liberally in your favorite meat crockpot dish
  • Tapped all over your favorite veggie or chicken noodle soup
  • Baked into cornbread or your other favorite breads
  • Added to any sandwich that has ever existed. Even PB & J. Try it.
  • Stuffed in and on a roasted chicken or turkey
  • Tossed into your eggs or egg casseroles
  • Bathed over your favorite cracker or a piece of toast

Did we miss your favorite way to eat giardiniera. Email us and we'll add it to the list!

How Do You Spell and Pronounce the Word Giardiniera?

The Spelling Controversy

Well, I guess we already gave the spelling away in the headers, but for those who want an extra confirmation, the correct spelling for the Chicago style garnish is: GIARDINIERA.

But here's the thing - all the major dictionaries have refused to add this beautiful word to their list. We're in the process of petitioning them to get giardiniera the props it deserves - as a REAL word that means a lot to people and their taste buds.

Oxford lists "giardiniere" as an Italian word meaning "diced, mixed vegetables, cooked and pickled" that literally <and poorly> translates to "gardener" in English. You can see "gardener" doesn't fit the description of the Chicago style garnish we know and love. And on top of that, traditional Italian antipasto giardiniera is a very different kind of food (big, chunky veggies sitting in a bland vinegar and water mixture) than our spicy Chicago garnish which is crafted with hot and mild peppers, oils, vinegar, chopped veggies and thoughtful spice bouquets.

When you search "giardiniera" in Merriam Webster's dictionary, you receive zero results, but you will get some recommendations, including "jardiniere", which is the French version of this misunderstood garnish (prepared very differently that our Chicago style mixes).

We need a proper English name officially listed in these dictionaries for our beloved hot pepper mix - and it needs to be called by the name that is already comfortably living and breathing in our lexicon.."giardiniera". (Also, we already started this site and it would really suck if we got the name wrong. That's going to be our main argument to Oxford and M. Webster.)

How Do You Say this Funny "Giardiniera" Word?

We've heard this pronounced wrong so many times it's been fun to see what people think it's supposed to sound like. The most common mispronunciations are: "GE-ARR-DIN-AIR", "GWAR-DIN-ERA", "JARR-DEE-A")... it's a hard word to read and say and you get the urge to skip over a bunch of vowels. But here's how to properly and proudly say this word:


Say it few times slowly, and then it starts rolling of your tongue. Say it loud and proud, folks. Loud and proud. We must all work to spread the word about this wonderful condiment.

What's the Difference Between Mild and Hot Giards?

Well heat level, yes, but how do they ramp up the heat? Quick answer: serrano peppers, jalepeno peppers and red pepper flakes are usually used to ramp up the heat. More details soon.

Where Was Giardiniera Created? What's the History of Giardiniera?

Chicago style giardiniera was created in the Chi town as the name suggests. There's some controversy on who was the first to create it, but we're getting to the bottom of the story and will report it back to you soon!

What's the Best Giardiniera?

Well, depends on what you like. We're creating top 10 lists to cover everyone's taste so you can find the right ones for your fridge (top 10 spicy mixes, brands without cauliflower, top 10 that use olive oil only as the base, etc.).

Where Can I Buy Giardiniera if I Don't Live Somewhere That Sells It?

We created a list of every giardiniera and where to buy them online or in the store. It's a work in progress, but so far it's already the most comprehensive list on the planet.

Why Doesn't Anyone Out of Chicago Know What Giardiniera Is??

This baffles us too. I mean, there are definitely some exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, the rest of the country doesn't really know what it is. The story is kinda complicated and we can't wait to tell you... soon (sorry, we're working on listing all the giaridnieras of the world listed before we answer these questions).

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