Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops in this week with a recipe for sweet and spicy pepper hoagie relish (for those of you not in the Philadelphia region, hoagies are our version of a sub sandwich). I can imagine lots of delicious ways to serve up this spread! -Marisa

Egg sandwich with hoagie relish

As a kid, I was weird about sandwiches. I didn’t like mayo, and I didn’t like tomatoes. My sandwich of choice in middle school was wheat bread, yellow mustard, and Tofurky slices, with nothing else.

Fast forward 20 years and my tastes have changed — partially, I suspect, because I now live in a city with a strong sandwich culture. Hoagies, whether you get them from Wawa or the corner store, are standard fare here in Philly.

And while I’ll still pick off (or ask my sandwich artist to omit) slices of sad, pink, industrial tomato from my sandwiches, I’ve come to appreciate the components of a good hoagie: slices of tender turkey and cheddar cheese, sweet onion, a ruffle of lettuce, just the right amount of tangy mayo. And those juicy sweet and hot peppers, which add a ton of flavor and set off the other ingredients perfectly.

When a whirlwind of late summer travel meant that I had three weeks’ worth of sweet and hot peppers from my Taproot Farm vegetable CSA stashed in the fridge, I knew I wanted to make something that would help recreate my typical sandwich order without walking the 200 feet to my corner deli.

Rather than pickled peppers, I decided to make a hot pepper spread or relish for my hoagies, with the idea that a uniform paste will help keep the bread from getting soggy. I decided to roughly halve this basic hot pepper relish recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation as my guide and got to work.

I had big, red cubanelle-style sweet peppers, a few orange sweet peppers, and a mixed bag of jalapenos and fiery green long hots to work with. I donned a pair of gloves and got to chopping.

chopped peppers for hoagie relish

Out of around three pounds of peppers, about a half pound were hot, with the rest sweet. I seeded and stemmed the sweet peppers and gave them a rough chop. When I got to the hots, I chopped off the stems and cut the peppers into chunks, leaving the seeds that fell on the cutting board out of the mix but including the ones that stuck to the inside of the fruit. This gave me a pleasantly spicy mixture for my taste — hot but not overkill.

After chopping up a few onions from the CSA and grinding up the ingredients in the food processor, I had around five cups of ground veggies to work with. I decided to swap out the mustard seed in the original recipe for two full bulbs of garlic, pressure-cooked to a soft texture and mild, sweet flavor under high pressure in my Instant Pot for 10 minutes.

hoagie relish mash

I added apple cider vinegar, sugar, several grinds of black pepper, and pickling salt, then let the whole thing come to a boil in my Dutch oven and simmer for half an hour before water bath canning. I ended up with a pint jar (which skipped the water bath and went straight into the fridge for immediate use), three half pints, and a quarter pint — not bad for a few bags of peppers that would have taken me weeks to get through otherwise.

cooking down the hoagie relish

The resulting spread is very tasty, although I’d love to tweak future versions (safely!) to see how I might be able to dial back the sweetness a bit. Still, the spread is tangy, peppery, and spicy — just the thing to offset the ingredients in your favorite sandwich, mix into cream cheese for your morning bagel, or slather onto broiled cheese toast before topping the whole thing with a fried egg. I bet it would be delicious with buttermilk in a salad dressing, too.

So I want to know: How are you all preserving your hot and sweet peppers before their season slips away? What are your favorite sandwich toppings that can be preserved? Share yours in the comments!

Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish


  • 3 1/2 cups ground hot and sweet peppers, around 3 pounds before chopping (I use around 20% hot peppers, but you can tweak this according to your taste/what you have)
  • 1 1/2 cups ground sweet onion (2 medium onions)
  • 2 bulbs garlic, roasted and peeled
  • 1 1/4 cups white or apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pickling salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed (optional)


  1. Prepare a water bath canner and five half-pint canning jars, bands, and lids.
  2. Wear protective gloves to wash, stem, seed, and roughly chop the sweet peppers. Do the same for the hot peppers, leaving some or all of the seeds in depending on the heat level you want. Pulse with the chopping blade in a food processor until the peppers are finely chopped and look like a thick paste. Measure out 3 1/2 cups and put this in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  3. Peel and roughly chop the onions, then grind in the food processor as well. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and combine with the ground peppers. Mash the peeled roasted garlic with a fork or blend it up in the food processor and add to the pot. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then cook at a low boil for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. You may want to open windows or turn on your vent fan, as the air in your kitchen may get a little spicy during cooking.
  5. Fill hot jars with the mixture, wipe rims, seal with softened lids and bands, and process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars and let sit for 24 hours to cool, then check seals, remove bands, label, and store.

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8 Responses to Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

  1. 1
    Sue F says:

    Few posts actually make my mouth water. This one did!
    If I am lucky enough to have plenty of peppers that actually turned red, I will make a sweet pepper relish, with just enough hot peppers mixed in to give it some OOMPH.
    But, sadly, that doesn’t always happen, so I usually chop all the green peppers for freezing (no need to blanch), and dry any chilis I have grown that year to whirl up in a processor for shaking into and onto pizza, chili, etc.
    Wow, gotta try your recipe…

  2. 2
    Kristen says:

    I’m totally intrigued by your recipe. I love growing hot peppers but aside from pepper jelly I never know what to do with them. This sounds amazing!

  3. 3

    What a great recipe! I have an overabundance of superhots this year and while pepper jelly is one of my definite faves, this is a lovely addition. Thanks!

  4. 4
    Pat D. says:

    Perfect. I was looking for recipe for the last of the sweet and hot peppers I pickled last Saturday from my brother’s wonderful vegetable garden. A garden that he plants for the whole family. I already made salsa (red, rosa and green) and hot pepper jam (green, red and yellow). This recipe will be perfect for hoagies and eggs. See you at your event in Mullica Hill, N.J. Thank you.

  5. 5
    Nina says:

    Made this today using a bunch of the sweet and hot peppers I’ve collected from a few weeks of CSA deliveries. Holy moly it is delicious! I ended up upping the ratio of cayenne peppers slightly and used 3/4 cup of sugar and it was a great balance. Made some toast with broiled cheddar cheese and the scrapings of relish from the pot – fabulous! Thanks for the recipe! It’s a new favorite in this house!

  6. 6
    Traci says:

    I will definitely make this. But I have several jars of pickled red sweet peppers from last year that have gotten soft but still have good flavor. I am so going to drain a jar, smash them up and add a little heat. Worth a try. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. 7
    Darla says:

    would this recipe be safe for water bath canning?

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