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Curtido, the spicy slaw from El Salvador, is simple to make and a perfect accompaniment for homemade pupusas

curtido served in a gray ceramic bowl

Think of Salvadoran Curtido cabbage slaw as the skinny, vivacious cousin of creamy American coleslaw. Tangy vinegar, Mexican oregano, and spicy crushed red pepper (or thinly sliced jalapeno or serrano chili) coat crunchy shreds of cabbage and carrot to create a refreshing slaw without any fat at all. (I’ve strayed a bit from tradition with this curtido recipe, swapping in crushed red pepper for the heat and scallion for white onion). 

Ingredients You Need to Make Curtido

  • Water: ideally filtered water
  • Vinegar: white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Dried Oregano: ideally dried Mexican oregano
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: or fresh jalapeño chili
  • Green Cabbage: look for a firm head of cabbage that’s heavy for its size
  • Fresh Carrot: no limp carrots here, they need to be fresh and firm enough to shred
  • Green Onions: or white onion

For Even More Flavor, Do This

Serve this as a fresh slaw just 30 minutes after you make it. Or, even better, let it sit overnight in a mason jar at room temperature for a light fermenting (like a crunchy, pickled cabbage slaw or raw sauerkraut). 

curtido in a bowl photographed from the top

Recipe Tip

When you make this, there is no need to make the dressing separately. Just whisk dressing ingredients together in the bottom of a large bowl, add the slaw, and toss to coat.

Pair With

You can serve this slaw alongside any dish you would serve traditional coleslaw or even kimchi with – its tart acidity and spicy kick are particularly excellent with rich foods.

Aside of being the perfect condiment partner to cheese stuffed Pupusas (the Central American masa discs stuffed with cheese), it’s also great piled onto Shrimp Tacos and would compliment fried chicken or fish. Or just serve it as a side dish! It’s also vegan and naturally gluten free.

How to Make Curtido

Whisk dressing ingredients (water, vinegar, kosher salt, Mexican oregano and crushed red pepper) in the bottom of a large salad bowl.

whisking curtido dressing

Add cabbage, carrot and onions to dressing and toss to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes and toss again.

tossing curtido slaw

Serve as a fresh slaw or pile into a canning jar, pressing down to ensure that liquid is equal or higher to the slaw. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Serve or refrigerate and enjoy within one week.

packing curtido slaw into a mason jar

Recipe Video

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Curtido (Salvadoran Spicy Slaw)

5 from 18 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Central American, Salvadoran
Calories: 27
Servings: 4 people
Curtido, the spicy slaw from El Salvador, is simple to make and a perfect accompaniment for homemade pupusas!


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 1 jalapeño chili, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 head green cabbage finely chopped or shredded
  • 1 medium carrot shredded and peeled (optional)
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced, or white onion


  • Whisk together water, vinegar, salt, oregano, and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Add cabbage, carrot and green onions; toss to combine and coat evenly. Let stand 30 minutes.
  • Toss curtido again and serve as a fresh slaw or pile into a clean canning jar. Pack down in jar with a muddler or other blunt tool so that liquid is even or above the slaw. Cover and let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Serve or refrigerate for up to one week.


  1. You can slice all of the vegetables by hand, but a food processor makes quick work of it. I use a slicing blade for the cabbage and onion and a shredding blade for the carrot. No need to wash the bowl out in between. (See video for a visual tutorial.)


Calories: 27kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1188mg | Potassium: 162mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2700IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Kay says:

    5 stars
    Loved this! I’ve been craving curtido from a pupusaria that’s 3 hours away, so I decided I’d try on my own. I doubled the recipe and used jalapeño. Craving solved!! It tastes just like the restaurant. I ate a LOT with a tamal then had a 16oz can and 4oz can to snack on the rest of the week. Thanks for sharing <3

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      This is so great to hear, Kay! I’m glad you’re enjoying the recipe/

  2. Michael Souther says:

    5 stars
    Came out great. Used regular onion. Dried chili flakes. Great snack. I will have some, next to spaghetti tonight

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      So glad you enjoyed this, Michael!