Giardiniera is a condiment I was introduced to fairly late in live. I quickly found that giardiniera comes in many different types. Some I like more than others. One of my family’s favorite is the Potbelly Sandwich Giardiniera. With some experimenting I think I have done a reasonable facsimile of Potbelly Giardiniera.
Giardiniera is a condiment widely found in Chicago where it is a traditional topping for Chicago Italian Beef and hot dogs. I have developed my own recipe for Chicago Italian Beef which is perfect for this giardiniera.
Potbelly Sandwich is a chain of sandwich shops started in the Chicago suburbs in the 1970s. Unfortunately, Potbelly has no locations in California. We became familiar with Potbelly via visits home to our family in Washington, DC. There are several Potbelly locations in the DC area, both in the suburbs and near the key tourist attractions in the heart of town.
What really made Potbelly standout for us was the giardiniera. This spicy condiment consists of chopped vegetables in an oily mixture. I have found some versions to be overwhelming, but the Potbelly version hits all the right notes. Others seem to agree. Bon Appetit magazine claimed it was the best giardiniera ever in an article titled “Potbelly’s giardiniera is the most underrated condiment of all-time.” In a Serious Eats taste test Potbelly giardiniera came in third place.
The problem is we can’t get this giardiniera in California. Ordering it online costs a whopping $35 for two jars. So, I had to make my own. After several attempts, I have something that may not be an exact copy, but I think is pretty close.
I started by reading the ingredient label. Potbelly giardiniera is made with 100% soybean oil, serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, red bell peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, green olives, celery salt, water, vinegar, salt, herbs and spices.
Right off the bat I noted that the oil far outweighs the vinegar. This is in contrast to many giardiniera recipes that call for an equal measure oil and vinegar. I think this is what makes many giardiniera’s too harsh. I settled on a mixture of 4 parts oil to one.
From there everything else came together fairly easily. I think the amount of vegetables is a fairly personal matter. The main issue is the number of hot peppers. I went for 4 each of serranos and jalapenos. I carefully seeded these peppers so that they don’t overwhelm the giardiniera. I cut the vegetables in fairly large chunks to allow people to pick out ones they didn’t like. Next time I may try cutting them smaller. I find many people don’t like giardiniera, but generally not because of a specific vegetable.
One thing I found was to go light on the salt. You brine the vegetables for 12 hours in a salt water bath. You definitely don’t want to go longer and you want to really wash the vegetables when taking them out of the bath. Having batches that were too salty was my biggest problem.
One thing I didn’t use was soybean oil. Instead I used a combination of canola oil and olive oil. I am pretty sure that doesn’t make a big difference.
Overall, I think this giardiniera does a fairly good job. Of course, I am working off memory. I plan to test it against the real thing on my next trip to Washington D.C.
This is an easy recipe to make, it just requires slicing vegetables and patience. You need to let the giardiniera sit for at least two days. I am not sure how long it lasts. We make a batch jar it up and give some away to friends and family. Personally I would us it within 30 days.
This is our version of the Giardiniera found at PotBelly Sandwich restaurants
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- ½ head cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 4 serrano peppers seeded and diced
- 4 jalapeno peppers seeded and diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup green olives diced
- 2 cups canola or olive oil
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a non-reactive bowl dissolve salt in 2 cups water. Add carrots, celery, cauliflower and peppers. Add more water to cover vegetables. Cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
After 12 hours drain and rinse vegetables. In a bowl combine garlic, oregano, celery salt and black pepper. Add oil and vinegar and whisk to blend. Add vegetables and chopped olives. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 days.