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Spice it Up with this Fermented Hot Pepper Relish

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This hot pepper relish is the perfect way to preserve the spicy goodness of just about any kind of pepper — mild or fiery. 

If you like hot stuff, you should also try my smoky hot pepper sauce.

white tray with green hot pepper relish, glass jar with more behind

During the summer months, I typically have a lot of different hot pepper plants producing. If I need to add a bit of heat to a dish, I can just pop out to the garden and harvest a pepper or two. 

But I still like to have access to that flavor in the off-season. That’s where this fermented hot pepper relish comes in! 

With just three ingredients, it’s easy to make and it keeps in the fridge for months. 

How to ferment hot pepper relish

The easiest way to do the chopping is with a food processor. Just wash the peppers, remove the stem end, and put the whole peppers in the bowl of the food processor. 

green and red peppers in a food processor bowl

You can see that I’ve used a variety of hot peppers; pretty much whatever I had on the plants in the garden. 

Add the garlic cloves, too. No sense fiddling around with crushing those. The food processor will do the work! 

Using a pulsing method, chop peppers (and garlic) until they’re about a quarter of an inch across. 

chopped peppers in a food processor bowl

If you do not have a food processor, get out a knife and start chopping. Again, aim for a quarter-inch dice. Hand chopping means you’ll have more opportunity to burn yourself with the juice of the peppers, so use caution and avoid touching your face. 

Transfer chopped vegetables to a quart-size jar and add the salt. Screw the lid on and shake to combine. 

Fermenting the hot pepper relish

The next step is setting the relish up to ferment. That means pressing the hot pepper mix tightly into the jar, so there are no air pockets. We use the end of a large dowel to pound the vegetables down into the jar. You could also use a wooden pounder made specially for this task. 

Smash the peppers with repeated downstrokes. The peppers will begin to release their juices; be mindful of the possibility of splashing hot pepper juice into your eyes. 

The volume of the peppers will be reduced to nearly half. Press the veggies down until they’re submerged in their own liquid. Place a weight on top of the relish, holding it below the surface of the liquid. You’re trying to prevent any exposure to air. 

hot pepper relish in 3 different stages: Chopped, smashed, and fermented

Set the jar on the counter at room temperature for several days. Loosen the lid daily to allow any built up pressure to release. 

I’ve found that this isn’t a very active ferment. While sauerkraut will bubble like crazy and often overflow, this relish just quietly did its thing. After several days, check the odor and flavor of the hot pepper relish. It should be a bit tangy. If you don’t feel that it’s ready, let it sit on the counter for a couple more days. 

Refrigerate the fermented hot pepper relish. It should last in the fridge for 6 months or more.

hot peppers in a white bowl, top; chopped peppers in a bowl, bottom

★ Did you make this hot pepper relish? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

hot pepper relish in a jar from above

Fermented Hot Pepper Relish

Yield: One pint
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Fermentation Time: 4 days
Total Time: 4 days 20 minutes

Make up a batch of this easy fermented hot pepper relish so you'll always have your favorite spicy flavor on hand.


  • 1 pound mixed hot peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Wash and dry peppers. Remove stems
  2. Chop peppers and garlic into a quarter-inch dice by hand or use a food processor. 
  3. Transfer chopped peppers to a quart sized jar. hot pepper relish in a jar from above
  4. Add salt to jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake to combine. 
  5. Use dowel or wooden pounder to smash peppers until softened and juicy. 
  6. Press peppers down into the jar and use a weight to hold the mixture down. The liquid should rise above the solids so that they are completely submerged. 
  7. Cover with a fermenting lid or a regular lid, screwed on loosely.
  8. Sit at room temperature for 4-5 days. 


Use about 2 teaspoons of this hot pepper sauce to replace one hot pepper in recipes.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 96 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 2Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 89mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

4 comments… add one
  • Karen Oct 1, 2020, 10:48 pm

    Can you suggest what to use as a weight to weigh the relish down below the liquid? One time I was making pickled hot peppers and used a clean rock to keep the peppers submerged. This wasn’t good.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 6, 2020, 7:48 am

      A rock shouldn’t be a problem as long as it’s very, very clean. I use glass fermenting weights.

  • Erica Simonson Oct 16, 2020, 8:20 am


    I am trying to replicate this recipe but also would love to ferment it. Would adding the ingredients to the fermented chiles once they are done affect the good microbes at all, do you think?

    Thank you!

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 26, 2020, 12:31 pm

      I’m unclear on the question — this is a recipe for fermenting the relish.

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