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What Is Sweet Relish?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sweet pickle relish is a condiment or topping comprised of pickles, salt, sugar, and vinegar. It is commonly used as a topping for hot dogs or as a side dish to mix with vegetables and other savory foods. Sweet relish provides a nice contrast to a wide variety of meals, along with a crunchy texture.

While the main ingredient in virtually all sweet relish is pickles, there are some recipes which call for a wide range of vegetables. These may include everything from peppers and onions to cauliflower and celery. Each ingredient adds a subtle hint of texture and flavor to the mix without being overpowering. Some forms also have added spices added for even more kick.

Sweet relish also provides a contrast of flavors due to the sour notes of the vinegar and the sweetness of the added sugar. Homemade recipes usually contain real sugar, while commercial brands often substitute high fructose corn syrup. Some brands use both sweeteners. Those who want to avoid anything but real cane sugar might consider buying an organic option or making their relish homemade.

Unlike other sweet pickle options, sweet relish usually involves chopping or dicing the pickles into very small pieces. This leaves a little texture to the mix, but it loses some of the crunch. Relish can be made with larger-cut pickles, although sometimes this variation is called sweet salad cubes or something similar.

Many like to serve sweet relish with hot dogs, on the side of meats or vegetables, or mixed with dishes like potato salad. It works best when combined with other, contrasting, flavors. The food a relish goes best with may depend on its exact ingredients and flavorings.

To make sweet relish at home, one only needs pickling cucumbers, sugar, white vinegar, and pickling salt. Other ingredients can be added as desired. The cucumbers must be finely chopped and placed in a pot of water with the salt for four hours. Then, the pot should be drained and the cucumbers rinsed. The vinegar and sugar is then brought to a boil, and the cucumbers are added for ten minutes. If large quantities are made, the mixture will need to be properly canned for storage.

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Discussion Comments

By Rotergirl — On Jun 23, 2014

My mom swears by sweet relish in her potato salad. I'm not fond of sweet pickles, or sweet relish, so it's not my favorite, but she loves it. Her potato salad is popular, so I guess everyone else likes it, too.

I don't care for potato salad either, since I'm not a fan of mayonnaise. It's just never been something I really liked.

I've helped mom make her potato salad, and seeing that sweet relish and mayonnaise all mixed together just sort of makes me kind of oogy feeling. Add the hard boiled eggs and -- eeeewww. Just not my kind of dish.

By Pippinwhite — On Jun 23, 2014

Anything that's not a hot relish or a dill relish is usually considered a sweet relish, which means it's anything goes where ingredients and seasonings are concerned.

A lady ay my church makes a sweet salsa sort of relish that uses cucumbers, onion and tomatoes. It's delicious on nearly anything, and she always makes a vat of the stuff every summer when her garden starts coming in. She usually has jars available for anyone who wants one, since she always complains she makes too much! It's popular stuff and everyone loves it.

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