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Grilled Cheese with Tomatillo Chow Chow Brings Comfort with a Kick

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Oversized gooey grilled cheese sandwich with spicy vegetable relish
Treat yourself with Stefani Renee's grilled cheese with spicy vegetable relish (Stefani Renee)

Want a grown-up version of a childhood favorite? Stefani Renée’s chow chow (or cha cha) grilled cheese hits the spot. Tangy vegetables bring a hint of spicy and sweet, while heaps of cheddar and gruyere on toasted sourdough delivers hot and gooey deliciousness. If self-care were a sandwich, it would be this one.

Chow Chow

Prep Time: 4 hours 20 Minutes

Cook Time: 15 Minutes


Total Time: 4 hours 35 Minutes

Servings:  2 pints

Chow Chow Grilled Cheese

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Total Time: 20 Minutes

Servings:  2 sandwiches


Chow Chow (a.k.a. Cha Cha-Vegetable Relish)

  • A quarter wedge of medium green cabbage, chopped small
    (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 2 green tomatoes or 6 tomatillos, chopped
  • ¼ cup each green, red, and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • Half red onion, diced
  • Half jalapeno seeded and diced (add more or less depending on the heat level you want. optional if you don’t want the heat)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional if you don’t want the heat)
  • ⅛ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ cup of rice vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup of water
  • ¼ cup sugar (plus more to taste if you want your relish a little sweeter)

Grilled Cheese

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (you can also use salted butter at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoon salted butter (if using mayonnaise)
  • 4 slices thick cut sourdough bread
  • 1 cup chow chow
  • 1 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste


Making the Chow Chow

  1. Chop vegetables by hand for a thicker, coarser relish, or throw the vegetables in a food processor and pulse 7-10 times for a finer relish.
  2. Toss the vegetables with the salt in a large non-reactive bowl until all of the vegetables are coated.  Cover and chill at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Drain vegetables in a colander set over a bowl, and reserve the excess liquid.
  3. Add both vinegars, sugar, the vegetable mixture and spices to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. The mixture should still have a bit of a crunch. Let cool about 1 hour.
  4. With a slotted spoon, divide chow chow mixture between 2 pint-sized glass jars, and spoon pickling liquid over until chow chow is submerged. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Chow Chow will last 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator.

Grilled Cheese

  1. Spread the outside of each slice of bread with mayonnaise.
  2. Cook the sandwiches one at a time. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot skillet. Once melted, add 1 piece of bread, mayonnaise side facing down then evenly layer the cheeses, chow chow, more cheese (of course), cracked pepper and top slice of bread, mayonnaise side facing up.
  3. Cook until golden on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side. Repeat the process for the second sandwich.

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