Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

October 4, 2017(updated on August 30, 2021)

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!

5 from 4 votes

Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish

Author: Alex Jones


  • 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


  • Prepare a water bath canner and five half-pint canning jars, bands, and lids.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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20 thoughts on "Hot Pepper Hoagie Relish"

  • 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…

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • I recently had a dream about the Italian hoagies the mom & pop deli I worked at in high school in Central PA served. And then a few days later, went to visit a hs friend who made this epic sandwich his dad served at his pizza shop that also featured a pepper relish. So I definitely am going to try this and look forward to your tweaks!

  • Hi Alex!

    I just finished cleaning up the kitchen after making a batch of this gorgeous hoagie relish. There was just enough sauce left over after filling the jars for a cook’s taste 🙂 and it is was outstanding. I used rawit peppers (and maybe only 6 since these guys were spicy) and then a mix of sweet red peppers. As you suggested, I went with the twists of black pepper and left out the mustard seeds.

    I had forgotten to roast the garlic ahead of time so used the microwave method from ‘In Jennies Kitchen’ which worked really well. I also cooked down the sauce about 10 minutes longer than the recipe as the peppers and onions I had gave off a fair amount of liquid and I wanted a slightly thicker sauce than what was sitting in my pot.

    Thank you so very much for posting this recipe. It’s on my list of keepers!

  • This looks great and I am going to try it but I do have a question regarding the quantity of onions in the recipe. You cited that this recipe was roughly half of NCHFP’s recipe. I checked out its recipe and you are using the same quantity of onions (1-1/2 cups) that it does for double the amount of peppers. In addition, you are adding garlic. I am concerned that the amount of onions and garlic may be too much in the recipe. I thought the onions would be reduced in regard to their PH. I am assuming the vinegar and sugar will be adequate to ensure the recipe is safe.

    1. Hi Renee, thanks for checking in about this. The total quantity of veggies in the NCHFP hot pepper relish recipe ( that I used as my base is 11.5 cups. With my combination of veggies, I ended up with around 5 cups of onion and peppers, .75 cups less than half of the quantity in the original recipe. I added 2 bulbs of roasted garlic, which totaled around .25 cups, giving me a total of 5.25 cups of veggies (.5 cups less than half in the original recipe). I still used the full half amount of sugar and vinegar as in the original recipe despite having a little less veggies, so based on my (and Marisa’s) knowledge and logic, the recipe should still be safe to can.

  • I made this today with 2 pounds of sweet peppers (2 red, 1 Yellow, 1 green) and 1 pound ripe red jalapenos. I used only 1/2 cup sugar but added 2 more tsp salt. Not too salty and not too sweet. Will be great on sandwiches or cream cheese.

  • Recently made a half recipe with a mix of shepherd, red hot Portugal and scotch bonnet. I don’t like onions, so I probably used a little less than called for in the recipe. Oh my goodness this is good!! We had it on homemade chicken burgers (I grind my own chicken too :D). It was fabulous.

  • The Philadelphian in Sandy, UT has some wonderful hot pepper relish on it’s subs that I can’t seem to find locally. This recipe looks great. One question I have is the difference between bulbs and cloves of garlic. I’ve only heard of adding cloves of garlic. Is a bulb a bunch of cloves as seen in the market?